Three Ways AI Overcomes Customs Delays

Like navigating through an asteroid field in the vastness of space, transportation, shipping, and logistics processes unfold with inherent complexity. With cross-border e-commerce transactions set to soar to hyperspace with an increase of 107% by 2028, the volume of documents involved with navigating this expansion of shipments is astronomical.

Improper handling of these documents in any step of the shipping process could lead to a variety of negative consequences such as additional storage fees, product spoilage, missed delivery deadlines, and even order cancellations. Not only do these mistakes severely impact revenue cycles, but they also damage customer experiences and brand reputation.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce and World Trade Organization, an average of 36 different documents with 240 copies are exchanged per international shipment – and only one percent is fully digitized, meaning many logistics organizations are reckoning with the pressure of these processes.

The most common problems at the root of these delays are high in volume but simple in nature, meaning decision makers in the supply chain can take effective steps to prevent them if they’re proactive, strategic, and on top of the curve of AI and innovation.

By leveraging specialized AI solutions, supply chain leaders can solve three common challenges faced in transportation and logistics processes.

Reduce excessive manual data entry

The volume of waybills, invoices, customs clearance forms, and other documents entailed in international shipping is too extreme to be sustainably processed manually – over 45 million bills of lading are issued per year. If your workflows involve allocating employees to frequent and repetitive manual data entry, you’re already falling behind the curve and likely to suffer a lengthy time-to-market.

Business leaders who are well-informed on the revolutions in artificial intelligence have already realized that deploying just a foundational model is not versatile enough to fulfill business needs and can even prove a costly, inefficient, and ineffective exercise.

Instead, it’s advisable to leverage AI that is built to excel at specific tasks and business contexts. These “purpose-built” AI solutions reduce costs and risks of inaccuracy, yielding higher business value and solving real-world challenges.

This strategy was adopted by global brewery group Carlsberg, who saved over 140 hours of work per month using intelligent document processing (IDP). Powered by purpose-built AI, Carlsberg achieved a touchless order processing rate of 92%, accelerating deliveries and increasing customer satisfaction.

Previously, order entry and delivery registration processes for Carlsberg were highly manual. By automating the delivery note scanning process, the brewery giant experienced drastic efficiency gains and overcame this logistical challenge with specialized and focused AI strategy.

Ensure accuracy of documentation and compliance with regulation

Inaccurate or noncompliant paperwork can lead to major bottlenecks and incur financial penalties, leaving little margin for error.

Handling the customs documentation without AI is akin to embarking on a ‘Rick & Morty’ adventure sans portal gun: chaotic and fraught with delays. Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) is your tool to maintain control of your document multiverse, ensuring every step of documentation is in perfect compliance.

Following BREXIT, the administrative burden of moving goods across the UK/EU border increased greatly – nonetheless, Ireland-based pastry supplier Portumna Pastry was able to accelerate the customs clearance process by using AI to extract data from complex transportation and logistics documents with 100% accuracy, preserving compliance without the need for perpetual human oversight.

By leveraging  intelligent document processing (IDP) powered by specialized AI, Portumna reduced their customs clearance times at the EU/UK border from one hour to just five minutes, effectively removing the need for manual entry, reducing costly delays, and ensuring their products reached store shelves in a timely manner.

Next-generation IDP platforms incorporate pre-trained AI skills that are tailored toward specific documents, enabling them not only to identify and extract key data but also understand it within the context of the document. They are essentially reading, understanding, and reasoning what to do next with data from documents just like a human. These skills help enterprises accurately and efficiently process any document regardless of its language, content, format, or complexity. Equipped with AI-enabled natural language processing, machine learning, and optical character recognition, IDP keeps shippers accurate and in compliance with regulatory requirements to avoid costly delays.

Expedite accurate payment of taxes and fees

One major regulatory facet of international shipping is tariff codes, which can require as much precision and coordination as a ballet dancer to navigate without costly errors. Ensuring goods are accurately classified according to these codes is imperative – as you might have guessed, misclassification could mean penalties and delays for your shipped product. AI brings that level of accuracy to tariff codes, ensuring the logistics ballet proceeds without a misstep.

Deutsche Post DHL Group is the world’s leading logistics company, employing 570,000 people in over 220 countries to ship across borders. This massive scale requires efficiency and meticulous attention to detail to maintain proper adherence to varying codes around the world.

By leveraging AI-enabled capture, classification, and extraction of data from invoices and customs forms, DHL achieved a 70% efficiency increase and automated the processing of thousands of invoices from 124 different vendors.

Similarly, Milaha, a leading maritime and logistics company in the Middle East, achieved comparable success with automating the hundreds of invoices it receives each day in both paper and digital formats. By integrating IDP with its robotic process automation (RPA) platform, Milaha reduced invoice processing time by 64% to cut down on errors and boost employee productivity.

Maintain a purposeful approach to AI

There’s no avoiding complexity in transportation and logistics processes, nor is there a one-size-fits-all solution to the intricate and varying challenges inherent to shipping internationally.

Attempting to implement AI without proper attention to the variables and circumstances faced by your business is unlikely to generate real value, contrary to spurious claims made by the many AI startups that have cropped up in the past year. Goal-driven strategy and data-driven decisions are the path to success, and supply chain leaders should use the tools already at their disposal to guide automation efforts and achieve operational excellence.

To take full advantage of their business processes, decision makers can leverage AI-powered task and process mining to scrutinize their core processes and find the right opportunities for improvement, ensuring that every attempt at innovation and intelligent automation is on a purposeful path to gains in efficiency.

Advanced process intelligence platforms can leverage AI to predict the outcomes of proposed improvements to workflows, allowing decision makers to understand the implications of such investments before diving headfirst into implementation. Known as “process simulation,” this capability eases the barrier to intelligent automation by reducing the risk of failed attempts, technical debt, and wasted resources.

In the complex landscape of logistics, where precision meets the pace of a Pro Rally, embedding AI into your strategy is like finding the perfect co-pilot. It’s about making sure every part of your journey is as smooth and efficient as an expertly navigated curve on the track, ensuring not just speed but precision in every decision. In this race against time and error, purposeful AI-driven tactics keep you ahead, turning potential delays into nothing more than a fleeting shadow in your rearview mirror.

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