December 16th, 2020 | 3PL, Couriers, eCommerce

Brexit preparations for e-tailers and 3PLs shipping to the EU

British retailers shipping to the EU will need to adjust the way they handle shipments from 1st January 2021, as the Brexit transition period comes to an end. Discover what data and documentation changes you need to put in place and how we’re helping our WMS customers to smooth out the bumps in switching to new post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Whatever the outcome of Brexit trade deal negotiations, British retailers shipping into the European Union (EU) will need to change the way they handle shipments going to the rest of Europe from 1 January 2021.

How Brexit will impact shipping requirements from 1 January 2021

For merchants already familiar with shipping outside of the EU, the process shouldn’t be daunting at all. This is because the changes that need to be applied for EU countries will be very similar to those already in place for other non-EU countries

For retailers already shipping to the EU but not elsewhere, there are a few hurdles that need to be overcome.

Fundamentally, retailers will need to add extra documentation to go with shipments. Where third-party courier integrations are involved, they will also need to provide the correct additional information to support their document generation

Preparing for Brexit – changes to customs documents

Post-Brexit – additional documentation for postal services

Shipments sent via postal services will require a CN22 or CN23 document.

CN22 and CN23 are both required when sending parcels using postal services such as Royal Mail. CN22 is a shorter form document, often presented on a thermal label, that can be used for lower value items (typically under £270).

CN23 is typically an A4-sized that contains sender and recipient address information, as well as product-level detail on the items being despatched.

Post Brexit – additional documentation for courier shipments

Shipments sent via couriers will require a commercial invoice rather than a CN22 or CN23. A commercial invoice is an export document that includes sender and receiver information, product level detail on despatched items.

In all cases, the documents need to be prepared with the correct information. This will include:

  • The value and value of items being sent
  • The country of origin of the the items
  • The Harmonized System (HS) code of the time

The HS code is based on a World Customs Organization (WCO) product classification, used by customs authorities in applying tariffs to imported items.

A commercial invoice will also need to include additional export-related information, such as:

  • The shipper’s Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) Number.
  • The commercial terms for the export, covered using the Incoterms identifier, which are used, for example, to indicate who’s responsible for paying customs duties on shipped items.

Courier integration

Producing the correct documentation can be challenging, especially in high volume environments. Fortunately, many courier companies will often facilitate the process by including customs document generation as a part of the systems integration service they offer.

The idea is that as long as the correct information is supplied to the carrier, the necessary documentation is generated by the courier and made available to the retailer.

From a system setup point of view, this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the retailer gains peace of mind from the knowledge that – as long as the information provided to the carrier is correct – the document will be produced in the correct format.

Configuring your WMS for Brexit changes

The flip side, however, is that the system driving the courier integration; typically the warehouse management system (WMS), needs to be configured to provide the correct integration with each shipment notification or label generation request.

For retailers that use multiple carriers, this can be a significant undertaking, especially when different integrations are used for the different carriers.

The information that needs to be sent correctly to couriers includes that necessary to generate CN22/23 or commercial invoice documents. For example:

  • Product weight, country of origin, customs description and HS code information need to be in place for all products shipped abroad.
  • Order line pricing information needs to be correctly recorded against the individual lines being despatched.

How we can help with your Brexit preparations

Our OrderFlow WMS provides a number of built-in reports that make it easy to check that the necessary product information is present. OrderFlow is also able to generate documents directly where these are not provided through the courier integrations. For example, the commercial invoice is typically generated on OrderFlow and either printed or sent electronically to couriers directly, where needed.

Realtime Despatch’s Brexit preparations

For the last few months our team has been working hard to finalise our preparations for Brexit and ensure a smooth transition for customers using our OrderFlow warehouse management system.

We’ve updated our main courier integrations to ensure compliance with data requirements for shipments going in or out of the EU. This typically involved liaising with the relevant technical departments, studying technical Brexit notes, and where necessary, demonstrating our readiness for a switchover in January 2020.

We’ve also made it as simple as possible to perform any switchover steps at the point when Britain leaves the EU Customs Union. For users of our OrderFlow service the act of switchover will be a single change that removes Britain from the EU country group listing.

Ensure you get ongoing Brexit support from your WMS provider

We’ve liaised with our customers with the aim of helping them to ensure their readiness, both for anticipated changes as well as for any unanticipated situations that may arise.

This preparation has involved, for example, upgrading to a recent version of OrderFlow against which support can be provided on an expedited basis.

Deal, no deal or no big deal?

As long as the current EU transition arrangement isn’t pushed back, Brexit will involve changes that will affect merchants shipping in and out of the EU from 1 January 2020.

Whether a deal is reached or not probably won’t have any significant impact on the data retailers will need to share and the documentation that must be produced. However, with no deal, there will be tariffs to be applied which will obviously create additional barriers to trade.

Our OrderFlow WMS’s exceptional configurability will allow us to respond extremely quickly to any issues that arise, and we’re geared up to do so in January. We’re confident however that as long as a deal is reached, we’re well placed as we can be for a Brexit transition that is as smooth as circumstances allow!

Have any questions regarding changes you need to make regarding the end of the Brexit transition period? Feel free to contact our team to discuss how we can help you ensure a smooth transition…

Image by Elionas2 from Pixabay.