Best Practices of Trade Compliance
A recent article over on the ISM site entitled A Steel Thread, which discussed how import/export compliance management is part of the fabric of today's global business world and how ignoring it could result in your shipment being flagged for intensive investigation, seized, or destroyed, did a good job of pointing out how federal trade compliance regulations have increased dramatically over the past several years. But this is not why SI liked it. It also did a good job of pointing out the roadblocks to compliance for an average Supply Management organization, starting from the fact that the sourcing and compliance teams often have different definitions of supply chain security. But this isn't why SI liked it either. The reason SI likes it is because it summarizes six best practices of trade compliance that will significantly help an average Supply Management organization get its global trade processes and policies under control.
The six best practices it focusses on are:
- Education and Training
Let's face it. The average supply management professional is probably not aware of the myriad of compliance and security legislations that an average category could be subject to when sourcing internationally. Training, which overviews the major legislations, the common sourced categories that might be covered under those legislations, and best practices to maximize the chances of compliance is a great place to start.
- Senior Management Commitment
We all know nothing takes root without senior management sponsorship, so making sure senior management understands the importance of a good trade compliance initiative and supports it is a great place to start. If you're having trouble getting support, SI recommends that you start by pointing out the 88 Million Dollar Fine JP Morgan got for failing to comply with trade compliance legislation.
- Written Policies and Procedures
Once you've identified your best practice processes that minimize the chance of non-compliance, you need to write them down, create checklists, and make sure they are followed. The reality is that if you are found in non-compliance, you will be fined, even if it was 100% unintentional and you did everything you could to be in compliance, but if you can show you did your best, the severity of the fine and punishments levied will likely be minimal. The government agencies responsible for monitoring compliance aren't out to shut businesses down or make trade unduly difficult, they are just trying to do their job and enforce the law. However, most of the acts only define maximum fines, not minimum ones, and it's not common practice for them to severely punish good corporate citizens who have a process, follow the process, and do their best to ensure compliance for a small slip-up.
- Connectivity with Business Units
Not only is it impossible to do compliance in a vacuum, as the article points out, but it is the business units who often have the detailed data on products and services that you need to make proper compliance assessments. Working with them can eliminate issues before a shipment is even made.
- Internal Assessment
As the article points out, an internal self-assessment of compliance practices should be performed to gauge how well regulations are being met and how compliance is connecting with logistics, supply management, sales, shipping and receiving -- and it should be done as soon as possible if you haven't done one, and reviewed annually to see if all bases are still being covered. And it should be very well documented. This will help you if you are ever investigated for possibly running afoul of trade legislation.
- Third Party Assessment
In addition, as the article points out, once or twice a year, a "second set of eyes" should evaluate how trade compliance is being handled throughout the company to make sure you didn't miss anything. This can turn the tide in your favour if non-compliance occurred someone along the supply chain as you not only did your best to make sure you were in compliance, but had a third party that has expertise in supply chain audits do their best to verify that you are in compliance as well.
About the only critical best practice that they missed is:
- Implement a Trade Compliance Platform
The reality is that you can't do all of this manually, or even attempt to track all of the relevant data manually. You need a technology solution to help you -- one that centralizes all of the data and makes it all available to all of the people in your organization that need it, as well as to trusted partners that need, and are authorized to use, it.
There are other best practices, but if you start with this list, you will get most of the way there in short order.