Export Compliance

Achieving Export Compliance in the eBusiness Age

When I started Adafruit in 2005, one of the challenges was keeping up with the myriad of export and trade compliance procedures. My main focus is bringing all things electronic to as wide an audience as possible. In the process, Adafruit became a pioneer in the “maker movement,” and changed the face of DIY electronics forever.

Amid all the excitement, reality soon hit. We designed and manufactured our own electronic components, including robotics, hobbyist drones and gyroscopes, and sold them as well. No one can ever predict where your products may eventually end up once they leave your warehouse. While everything we offer is meant for educational and enjoyment purposes, many of these components are also considered “dual use” by various government agencies. This means that in the wrong hands, they could be used for purposes other than for which they were intended, including items with military applications. Unlikely, but that’s how it goes.

As such, we knew early on that we needed to implement some sort of formal export compliance program to help ensure our products weren’t destined for anyone U.S. government agencies had on their numerous watch lists of denied and restricted parties. Using an online solution, we manually screened every order against these lists. Back in those days, when the notion of DIY electronics had yet to fully capture the public’s interest, the process was manageable, although just. But when more and more people began to discover the ways in which DIY electronics could enrich their lives, orders started flying off the virtual shelves. With 20,000-plus online orders every month from all over the world, and 2,000 international resellers, the export compliance solution that had worked for us in the past was no longer sufficient for our needs.

So many transactions to screen—so little time
We needed a simple solution that could handle the increased volume—and we needed it fast. Having heard about other businesses’ experiences integrating a third-party technology into their business systems, we became deeply concerned about the length of time such an undertaking could entail. There was also another layer of complexity involved: our export system was custom-built, so a solution designed solely for use in the most commonly-used business systems might not fit with ours. We needed a something in place now, not weeks, months, or even years from now.

After carefully researching the various integrated export compliance solutions on the market, we quickly determined that Visual Compliance had exactly what we were looking for—a solution that was not only proven to be fast and accurate, but one that promised to integrate quickly and seamlessly into any business system, our custom-built system included.

When we factored in Visual Compliance’s deep experience implementing their solution into other prominent eCommerce businesses’ systems, it became clear that selecting them as our third-party automated export compliance solution was our best choice by a wide margin. That margin widened as soon as Visual Compliance started to work with us on the integration process.

A sound business decision
We expected a few hiccups and so predicted that it could take some time to have the solution up-and-running. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Incredibly, integration took just a few days. We started using the solution right away—and we’ve never looked back. Making changes to a business process is inherently risky, especially when technology is involved. Selecting Visual Compliance as our automated denied and restricted party screening service provider turned a potentially risky decision into one that delivered immediate results, not to mention peace-of-mind that comes from knowing every transaction is screened, and their results recorded should we ever need to prove our due diligence.

For anyone thinking of automating their denied and restricted party screening process, but are concerned it could be a long and drawn-out integration project, think again. There is a solution out there that can increase the confidence you have in your export compliance process—and it’s straightforward to implement.

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For more information about the Adafruit and Visual Compliance story, we invite you to read “Addressing the Challenge of Rapid Growth with an Integrated Solution.”