When it comes to export compliance, creating export documents, or, really, anything in the exporting realm, it’s definitely possible to do the work manually.
If you’re conscientious, thorough and pay attention to the universe surrounding what you’re trying to do—including changes in export regulations and general news—you certainly can do it all manually.
If you have some way to automate your processes by using a system you trust that has proven itself to be effective, it can make your work more accurate, precise, consistent and reproducible—no matter who is carrying out the tasks. This is particularly true during times when export control regulations are rapidly changing, sparked by events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Here are five standout reasons why export compliance software is a big deal.
1. Make More Informed Decisions
Most export compliance decisions are not black-and-white. When you run restricted party screenings, for instance, you rarely get a 100% match to a name or address on one of the 140+ government bad-guy lists. More likely, you get a partial match.
Export compliance software helps you quickly find those partial matches and gives you enough information to make an informed decision about doing business with a potential partner—whether it’s a 100%, 80% or 60% match. Being able to review related information about potential matches is incredibly important when complying with the new lists of Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) published by the Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) that are connected to Russian oligarchs.
Our article How Does Restricted Party Screening Software Work? gives you an in-depth look at how the restricted party screening process works and why export compliance software is a better alternative to manually checking hundreds of lists for every export.
This isn’t just true for restricted party screenings. It’s also true when trying to find the correct HS, HTS or Schedule B classification for your products; when trying to determine if your products have an Export ECCN or USML classification; and when trying to determine if a license is required for your products.
2. Establish Compliance Consistency Among Staff
Preparation is the key to export compliance. Specifically, once you've identified the steps you need to take to ensure compliance at your company, the next step is establishing a formal compliance process so you have a system in place for every single export transaction. Practically, that means creating a system every person in your company can use for every transaction and allows them to document what they do. We call this an Export Compliance Program (ECP), and it is a crucial component of your exporting business.
Why? Because if you haven’t written down your company’s export procedures and you’re not documenting that they’re being followed, chances are something is slipping through the cracks. Those slips could lead to unauthorized exports that cost your company money and make it liable for stiff fines and harsh penalties.
Once you’ve created your ECP, your company has to actually do the work. If you’re the person who normally handles compliance, this may be a fairly straightforward proposition. You know what’s expected and what you need to provide, so you simply get it done. But what happens when you’re out of the office and one of your colleagues does the work?
When you have an ECP and export compliance software working together, you don’t have to worry that your process will break down. Anyone in the company can follow the process you’ve put into place and use your company’s export compliance software. You can rest assured that the results will be the same.
3. Run Multiple Export Compliance Screenings
Screening should not be a once-and-done activity. Exporters should screen potential customers and their trading partners several times throughout the process, specifically during the inquiry stage and the shipping stage. (If the time between order inquiry and product shipment is particularly long, you may want to add even more checkpoints.)
Why so frequently? Because lists can be updated daily, and regulations can change at any time. (We’ve seen this in the last year with the SDN lists published by OFAC.) Just because someone isn’t on a list when you get an inquiry doesn’t mean things won’t change.
If you’re going to spend a lot of money on parts to build or to acquire inventory, it makes sense to screen potential customers before spending all that money!
4. Improve Efficiency
With export compliance software, gone are the days of creating export documents by entering your export shipment information over and over again. Software only requires you to enter your information once, after which it is automatically formatted and placed on the right spot on the right forms—with no additional effort from you! Instead of wasting all that time filling out forms, you can get back to the tasks that are core to your company’s growth.
Not only does software save you time, it improves the accuracy of your export paperwork by reducing typos and inconsistencies that can slow shipments and delay payments.
5. Centralize and Document Your Compliance Efforts
Using export compliance software gives you an audit trail: Your whole team is able to document every aspect of every transaction, for all team members to see.
Such a trail is useful for internal and external audits and, should the situation ever arise, for enforcement agencies who may want to stop by for an “educational” visit. If you are visited or audited by the Office of Export Enforcement, the FBI, or another federal agency that has jurisdiction over exporting, software with an audit trail helps you document that your company is doing its due diligence and, if any violations are found, is a strong mitigating factor against penalties.
Export compliance software gives you a complete, unified look at your entire company’s compliance procedures from beginning to end and presents it so everyone sees the same thing. It captures the effort you’re putting into your export compliance and shows that you’re serious about staying on the right side of regulations.
Put It All Together with Export Compliance Software
Export compliance software like Shipping Solutions helps you make more informed decisions about everyone in your export supply chain, gives your team a repeatable process everyone can follow, and allows you to document your efforts so that you have an audit trail that shows you’re doing your due diligence.
It’s not only the easier way to be a successful exporter, it’s the best way.
Let us show you how software can help your company’s export compliance procedures. Schedule your free demo of Shipping Solutions software export documentation and compliance software today. There’s absolutely no obligation!
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This article was originally published in May 2017. It has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.