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Data Processing and B3 Form Building Services for a Canadian Customs Broker: A Case Study

The Background

CSCBLicensed customs brokerage companies and agents operating in the Canadian market undertake the responsibilities of preparing and submitting shipment-related documentation on behalf of their customers who send goods and materials from across the world to Canada. Delays in submitting such documentation or any inaccuracies therein result in the broker(s) and customers being penalized with substantial amounts of fines.

The Client

A Canadian freight forwarding company with global operations which provides customs brokerage services to its freight movements customers as a 'full-package' offering.

The Requirements

Canadian revenue and customs regulations require all shipments passing through their borders to submit, in paper or electronic format, a comprehensive and complex set of documents, to receive customs clearance for their consignments. The Canada Customs Coding or B3 form (as it is known in customs parlance) is a detailed document with multiple attachments and checklists, which must be submitted to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The B3 form building services is most often handled by licensed customs brokerage companies, on behalf of their clients, given the complexity and strict requirements which need to be followed. These customs brokers are fully conversant with the mandatory requirements set by Canadian authorities and have the required expert knowledge to clear shipments through customs.

The B3 form and other specified documents need to be submitted to the CBSA at the point of time when the shipment arrives in Canada or within a short, specified timeline of the shipment being cleared through customs. Non-compliance with submission deadlines and/or inaccurate details in the forms attract heavy fines and/or seizure of shipments.

The Challenge

The client's main concerns with respect to the outsourcing of the B3 form building process were threefold:

  1. Meeting short timelines for B3 form preparation and submission.
  2. Reducing processing errors in coding critical shipment information.
  3. Data security, privacy and confidentiality of shipment documentation being handled by an external third party service provider.

At O2I, our challenge was to not only alleviate the client's concerns, but also understand the complexity of the activity, which went beyond mere data processing and required specialist knowledge and training for the data processing team.

Project Execution and Management

A structured and well-planned project execution and management strategy helped O2I in understanding and meeting the client's requirements on several fronts, as described below.

  1. We picked 5 of our most experienced and skilled people to handle the data processing activities.
  2. A client representative visited O2I's offices to conduct a detailed training program, covering both classroom and 'hands-on' practical instructions. The focus was on bringing the data processing team up the learning curve with customs regulations in general, and Canadian regulations and B3 form terminology, processes and regulations, in particular.
  3. After a comprehensive orientation and training program conducted in the first few weeks of the project, the O2I team took over the full B3 form generation and submission process, with close monitoring of all activities by the assigned project manager.
  4. Additional resources – project leads for each stage of the process and QA experts – were assigned, while the entire process was continuously tracked and improvements made. Individual and team targets for transaction processing volumes and quality of output were finalized, along with query resolution and escalation procedures.

The Results

In the first month of full-fledged processing operations, the O2I team was able to complete the full B3 form building process within the targeted deadlines and with a high degree of accuracy. This was well beyond the client's expectations and led to the increase of data processing activities being outsourced to O2I. Over time, O2I has also been able to add significant value to the process, using its own expertise in providing data processing services across multiple industries, and the experience gained from handling the full B3 form generation process.

At present, O2I continues to handle the B3 form building processing for the client, with an expanded team of 50 dedicated resources. The focus is now on bringing error rates down to zero, improving workflows for better turnarounds and managing large volumes, apart from reducing client involvement in ensuring a smooth flow of work.

Reasons for Success

Bespoke Training: Complete focus on the type and quality of training imparted in the initial stages of the process, with the use of advanced training facilities and equipment, led the way in preparing the dedicated data processing team to deliver process outputs in excess of client's expectations.

Data Security, Privacy and Confidentiality: O2I was able to successfully address the client's concerns on data accessibility and security, by setting up facilities which used secure networks and systems, adequate firewall protection to prevent security breaches, a strict policy of limited access to our work premises and systems and continuous monitoring of employee activities.

Adding Value: Our methodology of using dual monitors – for viewing scanned document images and using the second to update data – ensures that correct information is input at all times. Our quality assurance process also ensures that all output is checked against the original documentation and rectified, prior to the electronic submission of B3 forms.

A comprehensive strategy for transition management, a policy of maintaining an up-to-date repository of knowledge and expertise, and continued focus on training (with a dedicated in-house resource) are some of the other critical factors that contributed to the successful provision of data processing services for Canadian customs brokerage clients.

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