Integration Point: Another Way to Get Your Trade Data in Order

I know I risk sounding like a broken record when I continually repeat myself on a topic, but some topics just can’t be ignored – and at least this time I’m introducing you to another company with a solution that I believe could help you with your trade data management efforts.

I recently had the opportunity to review Integration Point‘s solution, and I believe that they are definitely one of the few providers with a chance to approach a solution that could theoretically be extended to tackle your global trade data management problems 100% in the future through a single, integrated, web-based platform. Right now, they’re probably a good two-thirds of the way there, and that’s currently further than any other solution I’ve had the opportunity to review so far.

Before we dive into their capabilities, let’s step back and define the problem again. If you review the Introduction to Global Trade wiki-paper over on the e-Sourcing Wiki, you quickly realize that Global Trade is quite involved, with the basic import and export cycles taking (at least) 14 steps each in the average case. Furthermore, in order to execute global trade, you need to effectively tackle ( 1 ) customs, security, and classification, ( 2 ) free trade / secure trade zones and agreements, and ( 3 ) regulatory compliance. Effectively tackling each of these challenges requires the ability to track and instantly access large amounts of data to create the forms and documents that different regulatory bodies require for the purposes of import / export, security verification, and regulatory compliance. Add extra emphasis to the “instantly” – the information needs to be accessible in real time – and this includes the ability to query up-to-date classification codes, tax laws, regulatory requirements, and denied party lists in real time.

As far as I can tell, with respect to the key supply chain destinations that compose most global supply chains (mainly, North America, the European Union, China, and India), Integration Point, with their extensible modularized web-based platform, has effectively solved the core customs, security, and classification challenge as well as the free trade / secure trade zone challenge. With solutions that address import and export classification (HTS codes), import documentation requirements, export documentation requirements, C-TPAT, AEO, denied party screening, FTA qualification, duty deferral, customs warehousing, customs control processing, and advance security filing – they have most of what your average multinational based in the US or the EU needs. Furthermore, they’ve built their platform to be extensible so that if you have additional classification or security needs, they can extend the solution to meet your needs. Maybe that’s why they already have over 80 multinationals as clients, including 11 of the Fortune 100.

The solution also integrates with a wide range of ERP and competitor trade platform software – including SAP, Oracle, JD Edwards, MAPIS, BPCS, MFG/PRO, American Software, EXE, Manhattan Associates, PKMS, and Infor – and they can usually integrate with additional software in reasonable timeframes since everything was built in house on a single, .NET-based, platform.

This only leaves regulatory compliance – which is a difficult challenge for any vendor because most of the major acts, like REACH, RoHS, WEE, etc. in the EU, require significant amounts of low-level manufacturing and product design details that are only found in, often archaic, PLM systems. However, their platform can track any product-specific data you like, can store any regulatory-specific requirements you like, and they can build custom searches and custom-matches as required by their customers – often in just a few hours – so if you know what the concerns are, you can track them and make sure they are checked before each award is made or each shipment approved, so if your needs are elementary, with some effort, you can extend it to serve as a basic regulatory requirements tracking system. However, it won’t be a full solution until they build in basic PLM data integration, tracking, and matching capabilities as well as the requirements of the major regulatory acts in North American, the EU, China, and India.

Integration Point also has the right viewpoint when it comes to global trade management – it should be proactive and not reactive. You don’t want to know about exceptions after a shipment has been approved, you want to prevent shipments with known problems from occurring in the first place. You want to make sure that the customer is not on the denied party list, that the distributor or 3PL has the proper transport licenses, and that you have the right export licenses before you even approve the order. You want checks to occur automatically as soon as each relevant piece of information is entered, every time something changes, and again just before the shipment is loaded – since denied party lists can change daily.

It’s definitely worth checking out – as they have more integration than Global Data Mining. However, that’s not to say that Global Data Mining isn’t a valuable solution too – as they are particularly good at mining your transaction data to find inaccuracies in classification or tariff & tax overpayments that a transaction-based compliance system like Integration Point isn’t customized for. The reality is that global trade is so complex that one solution probably isn’t going to cut it for a long time, if ever, but I do believe that starting with a web-based platform, like Integration Point’s, is a good start. For your reference, other players in the space are TradeBeam, QuestaWeb, Kewill Systems, and Management Dynamics.