Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Creating Your Import Compliance Procedures

In March, we discussed the importance of having import compliance procedures and promised that we would discuss creating and customizing these procedures in April. In order to obtain all of the benefits having import compliance procedures offer, it’s important to create procedures that will be supported by executive management and useful for employees. So, how do we get started?

We’ve provided the following suggestions to help you develop your import policies and procedures:

  • Obtain support of executive management.

  • Identify CBP-related laws and regulations, import activities, organization and products that may require procedures.

  • Draft an outline or table of contents of procedure topics.

  • Collect and review any existing procedures, making notes for necessary changes.

  • Collect information that will help you draft the policy or procedure.

  • Select a format.

  • Create drafts of procedures.

  • Review the drafts and allow functional areas affected by the procedures to review and provide feedback.

  • Review feedback and make changes.

  • Prepare final document.

  • Obtain final approval.

  • Assemble the manual and make copies and/or upload procedures for employee access when using electronic media.

  • Implement and communicate new procedures.

  • Provide training when necessary.

  • Schedule review and update.

Now that you have determined the need for the procedures and have possibly taken the first few steps to creating your own procedure manual, how are the procedures written? When writing standard operating procedures, there are a number of different ways to organize and format them. Many people fear the task of writing procedures because they do not like to write, or may not feel that their writing skills are sufficient. Generic templates can make the task more manageable because the basic information has already been created. All you have to provide is the information that pertains to your company. Your goal is to create a document that is factually and legally accurate, useful, and easy for the reader to understand. Let's look at some suggestions that may help you when writing policies and procedures.

Policies should be clear, concise, simple, understandable, factual, and logical.

You should also consider the following tips:

  • Avoid using information that may be quickly outdated, such as names of employees.

  • Spell out acronyms the first time they are used.

  • Include step-by-step instructions for completing forms.

  • Use graphs, charts, drawings, and illustrations as required.

  • Be consistent with use of headings, bold, underline etc.

  • Divide into sections that contain materials related to one topic or process.

  • Use action verbs to begin sentences and lists when possible.

  • Simplify and summarize difficult information.

Click HERE to view a generic sample of a General Order procedure.

When supported by management, your organization’s import compliance procedures can serve as an example for an overall corporate commitment to compliance. If well written, properly used and reviewed regularly, your company should experience higher levels of quality and increased employee and customer satisfaction.

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