Who Needs It?
All companies engaged in global trade should have a documented operations manual for processes related to moving product or material across international borders. Yet despite that, so many don’t! Why is that? Perhaps because “manual writing” or creating new policies and procedures typically resides at the bottom of everyone’s “To Do List”. Few people that I know simply love to sit down and write a good manual, although I have met a few! Some companies try to take shortcuts by “purchasing” an in-the-box manual on the Internet or from other sources. We do not recommend that approach at all. The authorities, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Bureau of Industry Security (BIS) auditors can sniff those out in a split second. At best, manuals purchased from the Internet or other firms are generally just a regurgitation of the law and regulations. They are not functional manuals that spell out in detail how to complete a task; and cannot be relied upon as “institutional knowledge”. You cannot write an effective manual until the writer examines and experiences “the process” they are drafting for. When Trade Innovations is involved in a manual writing project we actually spend several days observing processes and interviewing stakeholders.
What Needs to Be In It?
Of course, size matters and if your company is importing or exporting 100 shipments or less annually, you won’t need a very robust document, but you should still have some “crib notes” or desk instructions for critical processes like denied party screening, classification or valuation of materials, record retention and customs broker or freight forwarder management. Written procedures should be specific and offer step-by-step instructions for completing a process. Where necessary, it should include screen shots, drawings or other diagrams to reinforce the point. When writing it, remember, a policy is different than a procedure.
What if We Don’t Have It?
We are approaching the time of year for most of us that we will be reviewing our compliance programs, budgeting and conducting annual audits. If your company is one of many that does not have their processes documented we recommend that you dedicate a period of time each week to accomplish the task. It may take a while, but if you are vigilant it should (again depending on size and complexity) take less than 52 weeks to draft a workable manual. And if you simply do not have the time or resources necessary please contact Trade Innovations. We can assist you in a variety of capacities or participate with you and your team to build a very effective manual that will withstand the test of time if maintained. Our fees are reasonable and our associates are very knowledgeable.
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