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Customs -trade Partnership Against Terrorrism Certification: Is It Worth It?

By Expert Author: Alan Russell

The value of the Customs -Trade Partnership Against Terrorrism (C-TPAT) certification for companies that hold it is a hard to calculate. Just a quick search of the internet generates thousands of links to companies selling consulting services, value surveys and guidelines assistance. It is clear that it has become the security standard for cross border trade businesses that desire to attempt to alleviate the time constraints associated with getting a product to market. The answer to the question that these companies burden to find is “where is there a return on investment?” In the highly competitive world we live in, pennies make a difference, and regional competitiveness is on every one’s mind.

The need for speed is ever apparent in the global market. Mexico manuacturing companies‘ production lines need raw materials, and finished goods need to move to follow on to their destinations in order to keep cash flow alive for the next billing cycle. This is the clear draw for those looking for an elevated and elite security protocol that holds the promise of speed. The FAST lines at the ports of entry are clearly attractive for those businesses that want a system that delivers on time and on target.

Business owners and their staff’s are human. Therefore, they make mistakes. The Customs -Trade Partnership Against Terrorrism, “C-TPAT” allows for an internal audit system and a time-line associated with it to ensure that certain benchmarks are met. An agent from the Supply Chain Security Specialist (SCSS) branch of CBP is sure to make the trek to participants’ locations to conduct a thorough audit in accordance with a refined and steady process. It is always a great thing for any company to get ready for a third-party to evaluate the process. Boxes will be checked, and policies will always be refined with a new eye and greater wisdom after so many years of operations, while always looking for greater efficiencies. These audits are one of the best values in gaining certification under the C-TPAT program.

Another great value that the certification process carries with it is the access garnered from an SCSS officer. These officers’ jobs are to evaluate varying business units in order to see what works, and what does not. This is a tremendous value-added proposition for any entity. When evaluating the process for certification this is one that is often overlooked. Consultants are an expensive hire for manufacturing and logistics companies. This is one time that the service isn’t paid for. Questions may be asked at any time, and phone calls simply take time. Has your company written a new internal policy? You can email mail it off for a full review and evaluation from your assigned officer at no charge.

A somewhat negative aspect of these certifications is the slow process of cross recognition by different government organs and agencies. Mexico clearly needs to allow FAST lanes to transgress their side of the border. It has become clear, through data analysis, that the NEEC (Mexico’s version of C-TPAT) program is providing for reduced secondary inspections but the throughput isn’t changing much without the segmentation of those that have certified themselves, and those that have not. With increased access to ports, there would be a clear draw, and inevitably a greater participation in the Customs -Trade Partnership Against Terrorrism (C-TPAT).

When weighing the options along the border for security and speed it is not an easy decision to come to as to whether or not to become certified by C-TPAT. There is time involved, and an education that comes with time spent in development. The real question is whether or not the time spent obtaining certification by the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism outweighs the benefits. For most companies of greater size and staffing, whether or not to certify appears to be an easy decision. Smaller companies, that are not so top heavy, are making it happen at a greater expense of time, money and manpower, but nonetheless are achieving the goal. The only thing that is left to find out is whether or not it’s worth it?

K. Alan Russell, President and C.E.O. of the Tecma Group of Companies. maquiladoras Mexico, industries in Mexico, Mexico industry

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