ATLAS System Set to Introduce Paperless Customs Processing in July 2009

January 13, 2009 by Dr. Rita Dillmann, itelligence consultant

SAP GRC Global Trade Services and it.x-atlas provide comprehensive coverage of every process step involved in exporting goods – from SAP ERP to communications with customs authorities. These solutions are suited for companies with high export volumes and for those that carry out fewer than 1,000 exports each year. For submitting information to the authorities, it.x-atlas supports both the X.400 (for Deutsche Telekom’s Telebox / BusinessMail software) and FTAM protocols (through ISDN routers).

Automated flow of data

Take the delivery of goods to China, for instance. During the export process, SAP ERP first creates an invoice (or pro forma invoice) in IDOC format. The software then automatically sends the invoice on to SAP GRC Global Trade Services. To enable SAP ERP to send the information required by the customs authorities automatically to SAP GRC Global Trade Services, specific settings are necessary, among them an up-to-date procedure for defaulting data, for example, because the authorities require a binding departure location for every shipment of exported goods. The company in question must also map packaging of the goods in SAP ERP – another customs requirement.

SAP GRC Global Trade Services then generates a customs document in IDOC format for the scheduled delivery. The document also contains additional information, such as how many crates or palettes are to be loaded and whether the delivery will be made by sea or air.

Two-way data exchange

UN/EDIFACT is an international, cross-industry standard format for electronic data. The name stands for United Nations Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport.

Under the control of SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (SAP NetWeaver PI), the functional and technical successor of SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure (SAP NetWeaver XI), the customs document is entered directly into the it.x-atlas solution for conversion into an EDIFACT message. At the same time, the communications adapter integrated into the converter software automatically connects to the ATLAS software and sends the message to the customs authorities.

The it.x-atlas solution receives the authorities’ EDIFACT messages along with the corresponding export clearance and converts them to IDOCs, which the software then transfers back to SAP GRC Global Trade Services for further processing. This procedure requires no manual input.

Meanwhile, the monitoring component of SAP NetWeaver PI (or SAP NetWeaver XI) manages and oversees communications with the customs authorities. It logs every processing step for incoming and outgoing messages, which fulfills applicable documentation requirements. Companies must archive such logs and files for 10 years.

Custom-fit business processes

Software implementation is not the only important aspect of the transition to exporting with ATLAS. The IT-supported system also places much more emphasis on export approval in the logistics process. Internal company processes, for example, might undergo changes and require adjustment. A company might transfer internal responsibilities for export processes from its shipping to its export department, for example. This department would then handle all communications with the customs authorities and prepare the supplementary documentation at the time of export.

In the future, companies will have to specify in advance which goods they intend to export, along with the type of packaging and means of transport. If they need to make follow-up changes to an already approved export order, they will have to cancel the order and reapply for export approval from the customs authorities. In some cases, this may also involve adjusting documents in SAP ERP.

Early transition recommended

The technical and organizational transition to the ATLAS system typically takes at least two to three months, but the duration and scope also depends on internal employee resources, the state of the material and customer master data required, and other factors. ID numbers for goods, which indicate an item’s material classification, are particularly critical. These numbers require checking and, in some instances, correction.

Companies are encouraged to make the transition to ATLAS now to try out the electronic system in test mode for four weeks. This can help prevent problems in data exchange later on. There is also still enough time to convert and implement complex export processes smoothly by July 1, 2009. Up until this key date, parallel operations with both the electronic and paper-based versions will be possible. Companies that postpone their transition projects for much longer, however, run the risk of being unprepared for the ATLAS system.

Comprehensive support

SAP partner itelligence has extensive knowledge of the processes involved in foreign trade. As a full SAP service provider, it supports companies in implementing SAP GRC Global Trade Services and it.x-atlas. During such projects, itelligence consultants configure the necessary settings in SAP ERP, adjust workflows to the resulting modified processes, and aid in registering for the ATLAS system with customs authorities.

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