Ending a Great First UK Year

Time certainly flies when having fun – and entering new markets!

We can hardly believe that a year has passed since Mark Jamieson signed up as VP Operations and employee number 1 in Emma Systems UK Ltd. He was later joined by another Mark (after all, we are in the business of simplifying) when Mark Bellamy came on board as VP Sales in February 2022.

In the spirit of the end of the year, we took the opportunity to look back and summarise the highlights of the past year of our UK adventures.

The Brexit effect and booming e-commerce

Let’s start with the beginning: Why did we decide to enter the UK market in the first place? As a result of Brexit and booming e-commerce, the UK has become an increasingly interesting market for us over the past couple of years. Our entry into the UK was a response to the growing number of imports and exports. Particularly due to Brexit and the explosion in cross-border e-commerce shipments, the number of customs declarations are rapidly increasing.

“This also increases the administrative workload within importing and exporting companies. Every day, thousands of people are busy manually requesting and storing customs documents from freight forwarders and customs agents. Emma E-Doc offers them a tool to fully automate this process”, explains Carsten Amtrup, Head of International Business at Emma Systems. 

We were confident there was a need for E-Doc in the UK market, and also very few alternatives for companies looking to improve their compliance and analysis of customs data post-customs clearance.

“We broadly researched the market, but there is no comparable platform like Emma E-Doc anywhere. Some companies use conventional archiving systems, but these lack the functionality importing and exporting companies need. This is the functionality to check if the right tariff numbers and the right values are included in the customs declarations, for example. Or statistics and reports that provide insight into the status of and trends in customs declarations. In other words: Emma E-Doc generates valuable information from the flow of customs documents” Mark Bellamy comments.

Emma E-Doc generates valuable information from the flow of customs documents.

Mark Bellamy, VP Sales, Emma Systems

Common customs challenges faced by UK traders

So, how were we received? Over the last 12 months, we have met with numerous UK traders trying to manoeuvre in a new post-Brexit landscape, with new regulations, requirements, and upcoming audits from HMRC.

Across industries, sizes and shapes, common challenges we encountered over and over are:

Lack of knowledge, bandwidth, and manpower

Many traders lack the bandwidth and manpower to perform the numerous customs-related tasks. Especially since the hiring pool of people with customs knowledge is drained.

Additionally, many admitted that they struggled to keep up with the new requirements.

Fear of audits

Quite a number of traders we spoke to were concerned about audits from HMRC, and felt that they were not audit-ready. Many said they also lack routines for self-auditing and audit preparations.

Lack of control of the data and documents

An alarming number of UK traders acknowledge that they do not have control of their customs declarations and data. Many still rely on their customs brokers and agents for anything related to their documentation and perform zero controls or audits on their own.

In repeated conversations with our customers, we have heard them express their desire for all their customs documents to be compiled in one place. Any responsible agent would comply with this as well, Mark Jamieson comments.

The UK team together with Norwegian colleagues at the Multimodal 2022 Expo

Meeting the challenges of customs compliance

The challenges mentioned above all stem in part from customs compliance issues. This has been a key area for us to work on improving for our UK customers the past year.

In June, we attended the Multimodal Expo in Birmingham, a leading supply chain and logistics community of shippers, retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, importers and exporters and the suppliers who support them. 

At the event we met Gavin Roberts, Director of Trade Flow Customs Consultancy.  Our mutual interest and the fact that together we could offer our customers even better services quickly made us decide to team up. In November we hosted our first webinar together, as part of Department for International Trade (DIT)’s International trade week and as an offering to the Food and Drink Federation members: Keeping customs compliant (you can access the webinar recording by following the link).

Jayne James of Hurricane & Carsten Amtrup of Emma Systems met up at Multimodal

In October, we entered another strategic partnership, with Hurricane Commerce to ensure customers receive the best possible cross-border experience. Hurricane’s solutions cover the critical cross-border areas of duty and tax calculation, prohibited and restricted goods screening, denied parties screening and data enhancement.

The company’s solutions, in particular the Emma E-Doc, are widely regarded, using cutting edge software to transform the cross-border eCommerce experience.

Jayne James, Director eCommerce, Hurricane

Read more about the Hurricane and Emma partnership: Hurricane Commerce and Emma Systems partnership to provide seamless cross-border experience

Unlocking the power of analysis

Besides customs compliance, we have also had a keen focus on how to better utilise customs data. Companies of all sizes can benefit from this, but we see that large, multinational companies have a specific interest in this. Especially our customer from the retailer industry is interested in seeing how E-Doc can help them analyse customs data and detect discrepancies, unlock savings, and see how their customs brokers perform.

Our Analysis Module for customs data analysis is very powerful. With just one query, one of our customers detected significant cost savings.

Mark Bellamy, VP Sales, Emma Systems

Detecting errors and savings might be the most common use case for our Analysis Module, but it has also proved useful for customs broker performance reviews.

Many of our customers use multiple brokers and forwarders. Some as many as 60 -70. They need to know which vendors are performing and which aren’t, but it’s hard to gain an overview without utilising data.

Mark Jamieson, VP Operations, Emma Systems

Preparing for CDS

A phase-out of HMRC’s Customs Handling of Import & Export Freight (CHIEF) system was also an important topic in the UK in 2022. The transition from CHIEF to CDS (Customs Declaration Service) is divided into two phases:

  • From September 30, 2022, CHIEF was phased-out for import declarations
  • From March 31, 2023, export declarations cannot be made using CHIEF

While the transition to CDS was not as major for traders that are using a broker or freight forwarder and are not filing their own declarations, they still needed to be aware of the changes and how it affected them. We also saw traders make use of the opportunity to get more actively involved, either by evaluating their current brokers and agents or to put customs compliance higher on their agenda.

The latter was the case for one of our customers, The University of Salford:

With the imminent migration from CHIEF to CDS and the University being largely reliant on couriers to provide and retain backing import/export documentation, the University wanted to take greater control of its customs compliance.

E-Doc delivered exactly that – a cloud-based, customs document management system that collects and archives all monthly customs documentation with seamless invoice matching and reporting capability.

University of Salford

Read more about what traders should do and know regarding CDS: From CHIEF to CDS: How are traders impacted?

What does 2023 have in store?

In 2022 we welcomed more than 500 new clients to Emma E-Doc across Europe, and we handled close to 3 million declarations through the platform. In the UK we have had the pleasure of welcoming customers from a range of industries, new customers include Hydraforce, SpecSavers and Salford University. Welcome to you all!

Listening to our UK customers’ challenges, current situation and needs also led us to make additions to our product offering to better meet the needs of the UK market. That was also part of the reason why we also launched E-Doc in Ireland in 2022.

2022 has certainly proved that there is a market and a need for E-Doc in the UK. We have gained momentum, onboarded our first customers and entered exciting partnerships. In 2023 we will build on this foundation and continue to grow our customer base and offerings in the UK.

Carsten Amtrup, Head of International Business, Emma Systems

New dashboard & alerts

“We listened to the concerns of traders and identified the need to simplify the analysis of customs data for operations with little or no customs trained resources, and as a direct consequence early 2023 we will release the E-Doc dashboard and alerting module”, Mark Jamieson explains.

This means that traders will get the opportunity to upload their own tariff numbers, countries of origin, preferences etc. Upon receiving and reading the declaration into E-Doc any anomalies will be instantly highlighted to both trained and untrained eyes.

More analysis tools are on the roadmap as well as other enhancements coming in 2023. A new service for companies that want to keep their customs process compliant without having to build their own team for this in-house is also in store for 2023.

New UK team member

We also look forward to welcoming another team member to the UK team in 2023. We will give him a proper introduction when the time comes (make sure to follow us on LinkedIn), but we can say as much: His name is not Mark!

You might also enjoy:

Post-customs clearance software: A buyer’s guide

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Blog post: Improving customs compliance in 10 steps

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Blog post: Stop overpaying on import duties

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