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Jun 24, 2022
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Automating Data Extraction from Common Customs Documents

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Chief AI for Everyone Officer

Transportation and shipping are the lifeblood of the global economy. Customs forms and documents are the bureaucratic paperwork that keep everything flowing, allowing customs authorities to clear goods for entry and determine duty and taxes. Although customs clearance requirements vary by country, specific forms and other document requirements are a constant.

This blog explains how artificial intelligence can be used to automatically extract information from any customs document, as well as how this functionality can be leveraged to power advanced customs process automations.

What are customs documents and why are they important?

Customs documents are important because they provide the necessary information for customs authorities to clear goods for entry into a country. They also contain information about the taxes and duties that apply to those goods, which helps to ensure that imports are taxed fairly. In addition, customs documents can be used to help track international trade flows and understand the impact of trade policy on the economy.

Direct trader input (DTI) is widely used by customs administrations around the world to streamline the customs clearance process by transferring customs declarations electronically. Exporters or their agents often have to manually extract data from customs forms for DTI, which is time-consuming and error-prone. There are three common problems that plague traditional manual data entry:

  • Late payments
  • Increased operating costs due to higher labor costs
  • Unhappy customers (see bullet one)

Automating customs forms data extraction with AI can improve accuracy and efficiency while reducing costs. AI can read and interpret forms with greater accuracy than humans, and can do so at a much faster pace. Additionally, AI can flag errors and inconsistencies that might be overlooked by human reviewers.

How can AI be used to extract information from customs documents?

There are a number of ways that artificial intelligence can be used to automatically extract information from customs documents. One approach is to use machine learning algorithms to develop models that can identify the key information fields in a document, such as Harmonized System (HS) Codes, product descriptions, quantity, and value. Once the key information fields have been identified, the data can be extracted automatically.

Another approach is to use natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to extract information from free-text fields in customs documents. For example, NLP can be used to identify the HS code from a product description field. This approach can be used to extract other types of information as well, such as the country of origin or the mode of transport.

Regardless, the variability of customs forms between different countries, as well as the sheer volume of forms that accompany shipments, make it essential that any solution used for customs forms data extraction.

Benefits of automating customs data extraction

There are a number of potential benefits of using artificial intelligence to automatically extract information from customs documents. First, it can help to speed up the data entry process, which can save time and money. Second, it can help to ensure that the data is entered accurately, which can reduce the risk of errors and lead to better informed data-driven decision making. Third, it can allow for the development of advanced customs process automations, such as automatic classification and valuation.

Common customs documents that can be processed using AI

There are a number of common customs documents that can be processed using artificial intelligence, including:

  • Bills of lading, which are particularly important documents for customs purposes. These  documents contain essential information about the goods being shipped, such as the description, quantity, and value.
  • Invoices, which typically contain important details about the price, quantity, and description of the goods being shipped, can also be processed automatically using artificial intelligence.
  • Packing lists, which contain essential information about the contents of a shipment, including the description, quantity, and value of the goods.
  • And much more. A suitable solution for extracting data from customs forms should be capable of processing any document thrown at it. From embedded tables to images, super.AI’s unified AI platform for unstructured data processing was built with the variability and complexity of modern customs clearance in mind.

Going beyond data extraction

By automatically extracting key data from customs forms, businesses can save time and money by streamlining the customs clearance process. However, the benefits of AI-automated customs forms processing doesn’t end with data extraction. There are a number of potential applications for automatically extracted customs data including:

  • Generating statistics on imports and exports
  • Tracking the movement of goods around the world
  • Monitoring compliance with trade agreements.
  • Automatically calculate duties and taxes
  • Generating documents for customs clearance (we’ve come full circle)

Automated data extraction from customs documents is a powerful tool that can be used to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize risk. Additionally, there is potential for businesses to better leverage their existing data as well as unlock previously impossible automations.

Additional unstructured data processing resources

To learn more about unstructured data processing and gets started automating customs for data extraction, check out the following resources?

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