Every year on January 26th, Customs Officials worldwide celebrate International Customs Day. Their job is often a thankless one, but with two years of trade disruptions caused by the pandemic, it’s one that’s received renewed attention. Though the recent supply chain crunch has faded from the headlines, as the economy finds its footing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, such bottlenecks will continue to be a vexing problem. Unfortunately, many countries still require merchants to file the same information with multiple agencies to get their goods into port. This bureaucratic inefficiency makes it hard for customs workers to do their jobs and quickly get goods into port. 

Thankfully, a growing number of countries are turning to technology like Single Window Systems, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and industrial computers to streamline the process and make customs officials’ jobs easier.

The Old Way 

For most of history, customs enforcement has been a byzantine process that causes merchants, shippers, importers, and exporters countless headaches. Depending on the country, a merchant may have to file paperwork with over a dozen agencies, which often do not communicate with each other, to acquire the licenses and certifications they need for their goods to be allowed into the country. For instance, those seeking to ship goods to Kenya need to deal with 22 separate agencies, often filing duplicate information with each one.

Once goods are at their port of entry, physical paperwork held by the shipper, such as bills of lading and cargo manifests, must be reconciled with what the customs agency has on file. Then, the importer must file even more paperwork for the goods to be released from customs. The process is so inefficient that many importers resort to hiring customs brokers to handle the process for them. Faced with ongoing pandemic restrictions and a labor shortage in the logistics industry, such excessive red tape impedes international trade.

Single Window Systems are Remaking Customs as We Know It

Single Window Systems streamline the whole process by creating a single portal that importers and exporters can use to handle all of their filing needs. On the portal, merchants can pull up the import/export requirements for nearly any kind of goods using internationally recognized Harmonized Commodity Description and Codes (HSC). Then, instead of filling out multiple forms with multiple agencies, merchants can input all necessary information into the portal. The system then automatically files the relevant paperwork with the proper agencies.

The system also allows different agencies to communicate with each other more efficiently. Everyone from an on-the-ground customs inspector equipped with a rugged industrial tablet to an agency functionary sitting at a desk across the country would all have access to the same portal, the same information, and the same forms. In the event of a discrepancy, people across disparate agencies will seamlessly work together to resolve the issue right from the portal. 

With the massive increase in efficiency Single Window Systems promise, it’s easy to see why more and more countries are adopting them. For example, the United States began migrating to its Automated Customs Environment system in 2015, China adopted a Single Window System in 2017, and single window systems have been proposed in both the EU and the UK.

Rugged Industrial Tablets, IIoT, and Smart Customs

Single Window Systems can be combined with IIoT technology to further streamline customs enforcement by automating much of the intake and inspection process. Instead of wasting time scanning barcodes or manually inputting each shipment’s information into the database, customs officials can know precisely what’s in each shipment before it even makes it to port, thanks to IIoT technology. 

Smart sensors installed on each shipping container, and even in individual boxes, can receive and transmit data on a shipment’s contents, location, and condition over the internet. This allows customs officials to track thousands of shipments through their entire journey to the port. When shipments do arrive, a customs official with a rugged industrial tablet outfitted with 4G connectivity can pull up all the relevant forms for each shipment without any manual input. 

Industrial Panel PCs Won’t Crash Under Pressure

As the supply bottleneck was reaching its peak last fall, and container ships were piling up at the Port of Los Angeles, the Biden administration ordered the ports to operate 24/7 to deal with the backup. With the pandemic still driving a labor shortage in the shipping and logistics industries, such demanding schedules will likely be a part of customs operations across the world for the foreseeable future. 

Like any other machine, computers wear down faster when used constantly without being turned off. On top of that, many ports of entry present environmental conditions, like saltwater spray and extreme outdoor temperatures, that can cause computer components to deteriorate rapidly. No customs official wants to see unnecessary delays caused by fried computers. Thanks to industrial touch panel PCs, which are built to withstand the harshest environmental conditions, they don’t have to. 

Industrial PCs can handle extreme cold and extreme heat and are IP-65 certified against dust and water ingress, meaning that they’re perfect for outdoor use in places like ports and airports. Additionally, they have only a 2% fail rate after 3-5 years of near-constant use. These machines are practically purpose-built for the kind of intense 24/7 workloads pandemic bottlenecks will demand of them.

The Bottom Line

If you’re interested in learning about how technology is at the forefront of a revolution in customs enforcement, contact the experts at Cybernet today!