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Checklist: What it takes to be a real hero in global trade today 

By Iqubal Singh Pannu, Senior Solutions Consultant, AEB (International) Ltd

Pharma is global, pharma is digital. Right? But are you a hero yet? And are you really ready for 31st October and the next US Twitter post that may shake up global trade yet again?

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The global trade environment has become completely unpredictable. Political uncertainty, market tensions across the globe, and the pace of change have become alarming. Deal or no-deal Brexit under a new Prime Minister, latest JCPoA developments on Iran, ongoing trade wars between the US and China, WTO anti-dumping or safeguarding disputes, new customs systems by European governments such as the UK and the Netherlands, China’s new sanction list for unreliable entities – you name it.

Pharma supply chains across UK borders are significantly affected by all of this. Operating smooth, well-performing and profitable supply chains in this dynamic environment of constant change is a great challenge. Especially when considering that pharma supply chains are under much pressure and subject to quite enough red tape as it is.

So, what’s the best strategy for success? Digitisation, of course. That’s because a digital global trade landscape delivers the foundations to act and react successfully in today’s tough markets. It allows for flexible changes without impacting on operations and customer satisfaction while generating transactional savings.

Don’t assume too quickly that you’ve got it all covered; it truly pays to double-check. Here is what to look for.

 The digital race is on.

It’s not always clear where to start digitising existing processes. This may, for example, be due to the complex structure of an organisation, its systems or processes. Or to the low digital status quo of a company. But there is a straightforward way to identify the right area and project to start with in any scenario.

Digital transformation projects can be judged by their impact on finances, customers, processes, and overall potential for the business. A strategy map should be drawn up featuring defined objectives, KPIs and measures for each area of impact. This in turn delivers clear clues telling companies where to start.

Clear winner in global trade. 

Setting priorities by areas of highest economic impact, pharma traders should focus on digitising customs management first. This is based on a combination of impacts deriving from:

  • High transactional volumes
  • Number of involved supply chain partners and systems
  • Average level of integration and resulting redundant manual data efforts and error-rates
  • Complexity of trade agreements, duties and taxes, and customs procedures with economic impact

Any strategy map will confirm this - even without factoring in Brexit developments, latest global trade risk assessments, or additional external factors.

What makes a real hero.

You think you got it covered? You are sure that your customs management is keeping up with current technology advances and tapping its full economic potential? Managing import and export customs declarations electronically, for example, is a good start, but no more than that. It’s far from heroic.

If that’s all you got, take a look in the mirror: Are there any manual steps as part of any customs-related process both within and outside your organisation?

This also refers to, for example, origin and preferences, product classifications, special procedures and export controls. And to the degree of flexibility that your current customs management IT infrastructure offers. Successfully navigating changes in global trade requires adapting to new requirements quickly and efficiently.

Next to check is the collaboration strategy throughout your supply chain with customs-relevant partners. This refers especially to your suppliers, transport partners, service providers, partners, and customers - and your customs brokers. If your current customs broker collaboration is based on exchanging emails and PDF-attachments – a very common procedure today – it’s antiquated, labour-intensive, error-prone, slow and costly.

The level of integrated collaboration with your different supply chain partners should align with the respective level of associated economic impact. Customs broker collaboration stands out in this area because automated and integrated collaboration can reduce broker fees by up to 50 percent.

Considering the complexity of customs processes at all points of the supply chain - from procurement to distribution and the number of systems involved - the importance of integration across partners and systems for efficient collaboration quickly becomes quite clear as well.

The key focus when checking your integration levels across global trade systems should be on using one single set of customs-relevant data consistently throughout your supply chain and across relevant internal and external systems.

This delivers immediate and significant transactional savings in all areas of your customs management. And once automated data enrichment for the various customs processes along the way comes into play and a real-time status of required customs data across all relevant systems is established, then true value can be delivered through your digital customs management programme.

Are you up to speed on all that? If there are any gaps, contact the real Customs Heroes. The first digital customs platform from AEB. We’re the only partner you need in global trade.

Iqubal Singh Pannu, Senior Solutions Consultant, AEB (International)

Please contact us for more details about our business services:

+44 1926 679750

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