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back to index backEUROtalk June,  2005

How are Export Managers automating processes to enhance operations?

Managing Exports magazine's recent survey on automation of export processes contains a wealth of data on how U.S. exporters coast-to-coast are utilizing software programs to gain a competitive edge. Our survey reveals which export software products are most popular, what export processes these managers are automating, and how they are using the Internet for a wide variety of functions. For example, some 33.1% of our respondents currently use an export software product (see Table 1), up from 27.9% in last year's ME survey. At larger exporters (those with over 500 employees), 48.4% are using an export software program.

However, demonstrating that stand-alone export software is not the only way to automate export functions, fully 89.3% of our respondents report using the Internet to automate a wide variety of functions, from compliance to shipment tracking to international sales and marketing. When it comes to Internet use, smaller exporters (those with under 500 employees) even edge out the larger ones—89.6% to 88.9%. Access to the Internet to automate various export-related processes is often free through the Web sites of carriers, forwarders, and various U.S. government departments—making this an especially attractive alternative for smaller shippers.

Shipping Solutions Tops Survey
For the second survey in a row, when respondents were asked which export software product they are using, Shipping Solutions' Shipping Solutions software came out on top, upholding this provider's claim to being America's Number One Export Documentation Software.”

In evaluating this result, it's important to note that this software is primarily for export documentation, not for a full range of processes. At a cost starting at $499, Shipping Solutions allows export managers to quickly produce a dozen standard export forms, file the Shipper's Export Declaration (SED) electronically through the Automated Export System (AES), and monitor all shipping expenses. It's no wonder that this software, used by 24.4% of respondents, is popular at both larger and smaller exporters (see Table 2).

In second place, with 12% of respondents, is Vastera's TradeSphere (www. MSR's Visual Exporter finished third, at 9.8%. Given the significant cost of these multifaceted trade management solutions, it's no surprise that only respondents at large companies report using them. The Vastera system, for example, depending on how many modules are installed, can run from $65,000 to $130,000.

There was a tie for fourth place—between Exits Inc.'s Global Wizard for Export Documentation ( and MK Data Services' (202-463-0904)—each used by 4.9% of our survey respondents. Garnering 2.4% in our survey are 11 other export software programs. Also worthy of note is the fact that 13.5% of respondents report using proprietary home-built” export software, both at smaller (8.1%) and larger (5.4%) exporters.

What Functions Are Automated Most?
Table 3 shows that ME's survey respondents are using automation to gain efficiencies and cut costs in four key areas of exports: documentation, compliance, logistics, and payment/credit/collections. Among these export managers, export documentation is far and away the most common function being automated (by 47.9% overall), and almost equally among export pros at larger and smaller companies. About a quarter (23.4%) are using export software to help them comply with U.S. export laws, including screening denied-party lists. A solid 19.1% have installed software programs that allow them to automate various aspects of shipping and logistics, such as checking carrier rates and schedules and tracking shipments. Among ME survey respondents, 9.1% also report using export software to automate key credit checking functions and enable electronic payments and collections. In all cases, export pros at both larger and smaller companies report quite similar results for all four areas.

Once again, it should be noted that these figures do not take into account the large number of respondents using the Internet to automate these and other functions.

Web-Based Export Automation
Our survey respondents report accessing Webbased export software to automate no fewer than 14 key export processes. Following the pattern of respondents using stand-alone export software, the function most often accessed is export compliance, by 21% of our respondents. Given the high costs— in bad publicity, fines, and lost sales—of noncompliance with U.S. export laws, this is not a surprising result. Shipment tracking and tracing of export cargo is the second-most-utilized Web-based automation function (17% of respondents). In today's competitive environment, knowing exactly where your cargo is and being able to reassure your customer of the delivery date is a crucial competitive advantage.

The third place result, international sales and marketing (15% of respondents), is an indicator of the growing number of Web-based resources serving this function, both on U.S. government and other Web sites. In many cases, such sites allow export pros to not only research promising markets, but also to actually link up with potential buyers and even complete deals—all online. Some 10% of responding export pros go online to speed up the all-important shipping functions, from researching and comparing carrier rates to booking transport and warehousing services.

Source: Managing Exports magazine- GAI

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