The e-Commerce industry in the UK is booming. However, a rise in e-Commerce can create challenges for new and small consigners as they navigate the, sometimes complicated, processes of customs. Peter MacSwiney, chairman, ASM talks to ACW about how the software can be used to manage these processes.
ACW: Can you explain how ASM’s Sequoia system works?
Peter MacSwiney: The Agency Sector Management (ASM) Sequoia Customs Clearance software has been developed to provide declarants, merchants, and their agents with the complete range of automated and integrated tools to cost effectively manage e-Commerce stock at both shipment and item level.
ACW: How does it benefit small/medium/large UK e-Commerce players?
MacSwiney: The intelligent software ensures efficiencies by eliminating keyboard input wherever possible, utilising original data, automating processes, and maximising systems integration. Errors are minimised and productivity maximised with readily scalable modules operated in an industry standard environment.
The Sequoia Worksheets module accesses and utilises manifest and commercial invoice data to auto-generate multiple line-item declarations without manual input. The Sequoia Customs Warehouse and Duty Management module maximises compliance and cash flow by managing combined guarantees and Duty and VAT payments at the point of sale.
ACW: How does Sequoia compare to other platforms available?
MacSwiney: Sequoia is the product of ASM, a Mutual Trading Company owned by the users of the software. ASM is tasked to act in the interests of its users and its board of directors are unpaid volunteers drawn from the user-base.
Additionally, ASM holds the remit from the British International Freight Association (BIFA) to represent the IT related interests of air forwarders in the UK. In these two unique roles, ASM has the advantage of being able to focus the functionality of the software exclusively on the specific needs of the industry.
ACW: What’s your opinion on the government’s recent announcement that it will be closing CHIEF on March 31 2023 to be replaced by CDS?
MacSwiney: ASM is pleased that HMRC recognises that the published CDS schedule is “challenging”. ASM will guarantee users’ business continuity by providing the necessary software tools in line with the HMRC CDS schedule.
ACW: What will this mean for e-Commerce stakeholders?
MacSwiney: There are very significant requirements to be fulfilled by the e-Commerce traders and all those making CDS declarations before they can operate under the new processes including registrations, training, guarantees, and payment systems.
These requirements may well prove to be more challenging than the new declaration software.
ACW: What has Brexit meant for UK-EU e-Commerce trade? Have the changes in regulations had negative effects on trade?
MacSwiney: Increased declarations. Increased bureaucracy. Increased costs.
ACW: In your opinion, were e-Commerce stakeholders that trade with the EU prepared for Brexit?
MacSwiney: Some were fully prepared; some underestimated the scale of the change. A very significant number of GB/European traders had no prior experience of customs processes.
ACW: What challenges arose from this and how were they resolved?
MacSwiney: They underestimated the complexities and overestimated the amount of help available. The learning process has been slow because of the poor education resource and agent capacity. Whilst still below requirement, both are slowly improving. With a rise in e-Commerce, comes a rise in e-Commerce shippers.
ACW: How is ASM helping educate new e-Commerce consignors/consignees?
MacSwiney: ASM provide user-friendly declaration, transit, and e-Commerce specific software tools that enable the community to better manage their logistics chain. The software license fees include unlimited access to the 24/7 IT Support Helpdesk.
ACW: What is next for ASM?
MacSwiney: For more than 27 years ASM has continuously provided a portfolio of current, compliant, and cost-efficient software in an ever-changing environment as well as a voice for the industry. ASM will perform both these roles throughout this period of unprecedented change and continue to serve the users of their software, who own the company. We are driven by the ethos that the best service is not just provided today but ensured for tomorrow and the day after that.