Automating customs clearance for all AliExpress parcels arriving into Russia
CY.express is a Moscow-based company that secured an exclusive contract with AliExpress to facilitate customs clearance for all eCommerce parcels arriving into Russia. Customs clearance is traditionally a very manual process that involves paper-based customs declarations, back-and-forth with the customs, and no tracking status updates for the end-customers.
levels.digital worked alongside the CY.express customs brokers, Russian customs digital transformation team and the AliExpress technology team to build a state-of-the-art automated system to receive parcel information, submit customs declarations, streamline the warehouse operations and send tracking status updates to the AliExpress tracking portal.
WHAT WE DID
Design and development of the fully automated customs clearance system
Integration with customs and AliExpress systems
Integration with the call-centre software
AI-based product naming technology
Custom-built warehouse software
Administration panel for the human operators
of parcels clearing customs without human involvement
from plane landing to handover to the Last Mile operator
parcels per day processed
levels.digital was approached by CY.express with a challenge to automate their labour-intensive customs clearance process and increase the parcel processing throughput from 5,000 to 40,000 parcels per day. We first mapped out their manual processes and identified the key integration points that would be necessary to remove the bottlenecks in this system and fully automate the process. These were: retrieval of the parcels data from AliExpress via an API, automated submission of the customs declarations to the customs, retrieval of customs decisions, uploading these onto the warehouse scanners, and loading the customs clearance exceptions into the call-centre CRM.
As we were dealing with a live process, it was evident that every improvement to the system will provide an instant ROI to CY.express in the form of labour and time savings. We then built, tested and shipped each automation step in such a way that it would have an instant positive impact on the overall process. In just 10 weeks we’ve developed and shipped a fully-automated customs clearance process, and installed analytics to monitor potential bottlenecks in the system.
This analytics data demonstrated that there was a delay between the parcel being cleared by the customs, and the warehouse locating it and handing it over to the last mile operator. Interviews with the warehouse operators showed that it was taking them longer to find each parcel as the volume increased. We then devised a warehouse automation system that integrated directly with the customs decisions to enable the operators to locate the cleared parcels within a day.
Next issue that came to our attention was that the AliExpress product naming was inadequate to pass customs clearance in a large percentage of cases. We resolved this issue for 80% of incoming parcels by developing a Natural Language Processing model that would transform these product names into succinct product categories used by the customs.
Finally, we worked on streamlining the outstanding 20% of the parcels that required further clarifications from the end-customers for the customs. We achieved this by categorising these clarifications and uploading them into the call-centre CRM system, which allowed the operators to efficiently contact the receivers and obtain the necessary clarifications.
At the time of writing, CY.express was able to reduce the parcel processing time from 84 hours to 36 hours, and increase the throughput to upwards of 40,000 parcels per day. levels.digital is continuing its partnership with CY.express to further streamline and automate this process.
Automated customs clearance