25 years of Customs software

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The UK's longest-established Customs software supplier is celebrating 25 years in business. From a one-man, one-customer business in 1980, Impatex Computer Systems now employs 25 staff and provides software for nearly 300 customers at nearly 700 sites in the UK. Today, Impatex counts most of the UK's largest multi-modal freight forwarders among its clients, and more UK imports and exports are processed through Impatex systems than through all other systems put together.

Impatex's original customer, Abbey Forwarding, still uses Impatex's software today. And Impatex founder Peter Day is still the company's Managing Director. But almost everything else has changed, says Day: "The biggest difference is the hardware: our first systems were supplied pre-loaded onto standalone micro-computers costing thousands of pounds, but today you can buy a PC which is thousands of times more powerful, for around one tenth of the cost. Advancing technology and falling costs have opened up so many opportunities to develop faster and more sophisticated systems."

Impatex pioneered the adoption of intelligent entry processing over 20 years ago, replacing the early "dumb-terminal" systems with software that has many more features, and will run on off-the-shelf, low-cost hardware alongside other business applications. The use of the Customs Tariff for automatic data validation, first introduced by Impatex over 10 years ago, has only recently been adopted by other Customs software suppliers. The comprehensive scope of Impatex's Customs Manager software and its ability to run efficiently on a Wide Area Network (WAN) have been major factors in its popularity among large agents, permitting greater efficiency through work-sharing across all their branches. But the modular Customs Manager system is equally suited to the needs of the small- and medium-sized agent requiring comprehensive software at an affordable cost. With its unique direct links to all the port and airport DTI Communities, Customs Manager is now the only software an agent needs to handle all their Customs processing by any transport mode.

Since 1980, Customs procedures themselves have changed beyond all recognition, with old-style over-the-counter, paper-based customs entries being replaced by electronic "DTI" (Direct Trader Input) progressively since the early 1980's. Continues Day: "DTI was initially seen as a real threat to customs brokerage; agents thought that their customers would take all their customs processing in house. In reality, the growing complexity of customs procedures and tariffs has meant the agent now has a more clearly-defined role to play. Many now use our system to offer successful and lucrative bureau services for those customers who do not have the skills or resources to perform their own clearances."

Another change is the speed with which most shipments are customs cleared, thanks to the combined effects of new technologies and new procedures. Says Day:" People forget that, in the early 80s, clearances at port could often take 3 days. Nowadays, the same clearance is done almost immediately. Communities like MCP, CNS, Dover and CCS-UK grew out of the need to speed up the clearance of goods, in order to free up the huge volumes of freight which were starting to choke ports and airports."

Despite 25 years of pioneering growth for Impatex, Peter Day has no intention of resting on his laurels: "If you don't evolve, you become extinct. If you're not going forwards, you're going backwards. By continuing our philosophy of innovation and responsiveness, we intend to maintain Impatex's role as the leader in its field."

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