Women in Supply Chain: Setting the Tone

The supply chain industry is always in flux, with many moving parts to keep track of – both literally and figuratively. Add regulations and compliance into the mix, and one of the biggest challenges is keeping your supply chain organized. Leadership strategies are vital to making sure that companies maintain compliance with existing regulations, as well as those that lie ahead, such as the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). Read on for leadership tips and tricks in the face of preparing customers for ACE.

Leading By Example

I have never thought of myself as a “female leader.” Rather, I have always led by working closely with my team and our customers. The best way to understand where customers are coming from is to be in the weeds with them in their day-to-day pursuits. At Kewill we have been meeting once a week with a small team of about eight key customers to discuss challenges, get feedback on how the process is going, and learn more about what they may need to be able to comfortably make the transition to electronic filing.

In this industry it is important to be ready for anything, and knowing what your customer is thinking really helps. With something complex as ACE, your team is looking for someone to help guide them through the regulations and compliance issues, so it is your job to be as organized and diligent as possible in keeping up with where they are in their process of moving to the electronic system.

Ahead of the Curve

ACE is complicated, and the final date for implementation has already been pushed back multiple times from the initial date of November 1, 2015. Currently ACE is scheduled to become the primary system through which the trade community will report imports and exports for the government to determine accessibility by the end of 2016. On March 31, two acts went into effect requiring entries that fall within them to be transacted electronically: APHIS Lacey Act and NHTSA data. This means that even enterprises that have started the process of moving their records over electronically will still need to make sure they are set for the final deadlines. Staying ahead of ACE regulations may seem daunting, but reading everything that comes out on the subject – even if it does not seem to pertain to you at that particular moment – helps you to understand the bigger picture and what needs to be done to get you to the point of completion.

It is not enough to simply read about all of the upcoming regulatory events, however. It is also essential to keep lists of dates and actions needed for the future, highlighting the immediate steps that need to be taken. To help customers manage the organizational and logistical aspect of things, we have in place an internal logging system that requires specific actions from developers and is a place where they can track upcoming tasks and those that have been completed to match against each deadline. This tracking system also means that developers do not need to seek out dates on their own, they will have all necessary dates in one place, freeing up time to focus on preparing customers.

Strategies for Alignment

Having a tracking system in place is a great first step but that alone does not ensure ACE preparedness. To make sure all teams and customers are aware of and aligned on actions for preparedness, teams should send out notices to all customers when there is something coming up, regardless of where individual customers are in their ACE journeys. Even if certain updates do not apply to certain customers at the time, they may need a particular subset of an application or instructions on how to handle a specific country’s compliance rules down the road. Sending all information at all times saves you and the customer time and the headache of not knowing what is coming.

On the product and platform side, something that is helpful is to implement is a steering committee that helps with the long term planning of products to make sure they have enhancements and features that are equipped to handle the transition to ACE. Specifically, these features tend to include software for the filing of an ACE entry, automatically updating country-by-country compliance and regulation changes, and full, end-to-end visibility across all aspects of the most critical supply chain execution processes. This enables custom brokers and freight forwarders to actively manage customs and trade compliance, stay on top of changing regulations, and provide connections to different local customs applications.

Anticipate the Need

The most common question customers ask is “will we be ready?” Setting the stage up front and outlining the steps it will take to get ready for the transition helps customers feel confident in knowing they will be. Most are also concerned about whether the software they are using has all of the features needed to comply with customs, and how to implement changes that are being made. It is typical to have a lot of customers that work in highly regulated industries, like food and beverage or chemicals, so it is recommended to make sure they are set up in the system to send through information while it is still optional, rather than required. Also helpful is translating how announcements from customs will translate into the product and what it means for how customers interact with it.

What Does It Take?

My top leadership advice when helping customers prepare for ACE or other regulatory events is to stay as organized as you can in any manner that works for you. Be able to interpret the information that is coming from the government and figure out how it applies to customers, and come ready to make recommendations based on that. Finally, have a deep understanding of your customers, what they do and their requirements so you know exactly what regulations apply to them. This will lead to the customer trusting your decisions and guidance, ultimately, making them ready for ACE well ahead of the final deadline.

Celeste Catano is Senior Global Strategist at Kewill and has been with the company and its predecessor companies for 38 years.