5 Essential Questions to Ask Before Selecting ABI Software

by | Industry

As a logistics professional, you know all too well that all of the activities related to customs compliance are extremely important to get right… and that often means that they can also be terribly time-consuming. So many forms to fill, boxes to check. The smallest mistakes can cost you a fortune. That’s where customs compliance software, often referred to as ABI (Automated Broker Interface) software, can help.

While specific business needs and Importer of Record (IOR) requirements will dictate the ideal technology solution for individual importers, there are general guidelines that apply across IOR operations — from freight forwarders to third-party logistics firms to customs brokers, warehouses, NVOCCs, and even self-fliers.

To find ABI software that both meets current needs and delivers on emerging requirements, you should start with these five questions:

How are the current customs processes handled?

Handling current customs processes effectively is crucial for any business involved in importing goods. Smaller firms with low-volume, low-complexity imports often manage customs compliance in-house, leveraging basic tools and manual processes to meet regulatory requirements. However, as order volumes increase or the complexity of imports grows, this approach can quickly become inefficient and prone to errors. In-house teams may struggle to keep up with the evolving landscape of trade regulations, leading to potential compliance risks and delays in the supply chain.

To address these challenges, businesses should evaluate their current customs processes and anticipate future needs. This includes considering the certification and compliance requirements of Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) relevant to their imports. As trade regulations and requirements can vary significantly across different PGAs, having a system that supports multi-agency compliance is essential.

Additionally, businesses should plan for scalability, ensuring that their customs processes can adapt to increased volumes and complexity over time. Investing in robust ABI software or partnering with experienced customs brokers can provide the necessary infrastructure and expertise to handle these demands, ensuring efficient and compliant customs operations as the business grows.

What features are essential for key processes?

Does your organization handle reconciliations? De minimis shipments? In-bonds? Do you handle eManifests as the IOR for multiple third parties? By identifying where current processes are working as intended and where existing frameworks can’t keep up, it’s possible to narrow your search for ABI software. There simply is no one-size-fits-all solution: the best ABI software is going to be the one that meets your unique requirements.

Much like the move to the cloud, the goal here isn’t finding a broad solution that offers more than you need and has a cost to match — instead, companies need to find ABI software that can be tailored to both meet your current needs and improve ongoing operations.

ecommerce warehouse shipmentWhat are the current — and expected — volumes of customs transactions across the organization?

How many import orders is your firm currently processing? What’s the outlook for next month? Next year? While global markets are subject to ongoing fluctuation, reliable importers are never out of work; those able to navigate regulatory complexity are sought after by enterprises looking to move goods into the United States, but that don’t have the time or budget to handle complex compliance processes on their own.

Evaluating current and expected transaction volumes can help identify the best-fit ABI software for your organization. Ideally, look for a provider that can both handle current customs compliance concerns and scale up on-demand as volumes increase.

What level of support is required to ensure streamlined operations?

When it comes to support for customs compliance, companies must consider two broad areas: system and staff. System support is necessary when existing infrastructure or new software updates cause processes problems — as a result, it’s critical to look for an ABI software vendor that provides both detailed documentation and ongoing technical support for its products.

For staff, meanwhile, it’s essential to select a solution that’s easy and intuitive to learn. Here’s why: Front-line employees are familiar with current systems and processes and have a natural preference for what they’ve always done since it fits into their everyday workflow. Adding a new system can speed processes and reduce complexity — but only if staff can easily make the transition. If not, expect your ABI software to go largely unused.

The user experience for ABI software is a critical factor in its overall effectiveness and adoption within an organization. An intuitive and user-friendly interface is essential, enabling users to navigate the system with ease and perform tasks efficiently. Features like customizable dashboards, real-time alerts, and comprehensive reporting tools enhance usability by providing users with the information they need in a clear and accessible format.

How well does the ABI software integrate with existing systems?

When evaluating how well an ABI software integrates with existing systems, it’s crucial to consider both the ease of integration and the compatibility with current IT infrastructure. A robust ABI software should seamlessly integrate with key systems such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), TMS (Transportation Management Systems), and WMS (Warehouse Management Systems).

Look for software that offers comprehensive API support and standard data exchange formats like EDI and XML, ensuring smooth and efficient data flow between platforms. Compatibility with your existing technology stack minimizes disruption and enhances operational efficiency, allowing for real-time data synchronization and streamlined customs compliance processes.

Additionally, the software should come with detailed documentation and support from the vendor to facilitate a smooth integration process, ensuring that it aligns with your organization’s specific needs and workflows.

Ultimately, selecting the right ABI software is a pivotal decision for any logistics professional. By asking the right questions, businesses can ensure they choose a solution that not only meets their current needs but also scales with their growth.

Understanding how current customs processes are handled, identifying essential features, evaluating transaction volumes, assessing support requirements, and ensuring seamless integration with existing systems are all critical steps in this process.

The right ABI software will streamline customs compliance, reduce errors, and enhance operational efficiency, positioning businesses for long-term success in an increasingly complex regulatory environment. With the right tools and support, companies can navigate the intricacies of customs compliance with confidence and precision.

Ready to digitize and modernize your import operations?

See how Magaya can help.