A customs control tower is a digital tool that tracks, measures, and analyzes the flow of goods across international borders. The control tower integrates with multiple systems to gather and consolidate customs information, and then presents these findings through a centralized, real-time dashboard that supports data-driven decision-making. Importers and supply chain partners use customs control towers to comply with customs rules, optimize the flow of goods, minimize risks, and resolve problems.
Customs control towers are provided by licensed customs brokers and are typically accessed via a web portal. Stakeholders can log in, view the latest information, upload documentation, get status updates, and use the tool to manage products. Depending on the type of customs brokerage you’re working with, a customs control tower may integrate with other control towers. Other types of control towers may track the onward movement of goods—from customs, to transport, warehousing, ordering, and distribution.
A customs control tower is a central hub of information that helps supply chain stakeholders comply with regulations, minimize disruptions, and get their goods into the marketplace.
- A customs control tower is a centralized, digital tool provided by a licensed customs broker and is typically accessed via a web portal.
- It connects with and consolidates real-time customs information from multiple sources including data silos, logistics systems, supply chain partners, and government agencies.
- The tool provides at-a-glance and in-depth tracking, reporting, and other information on the flow of goods through the customs process.
- Stakeholders can upload information, check customs progress, receive alerts, get reports, and resolve issues.
- A customs control tower helps ensure compliance with customs regulations, including the calculation of duties, tariffs, and other fees.
The customs control tower process
Here’s how importers and other supply chain stakeholders might use a customs control tower:
- You work with a licensed customs brokerage that provides a customs control tower service.
- You connect your systems to the customs control tower and decide to import goods from another country into the US.
- Your customs broker assists you in connecting with the systems and data from carriers, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), other federal agencies, and other parties.
- You upload documents to support the customs process, typically those shown in our foreign trade documents guide. <link>
- Your products move through the international shipping and customs process.
- You track the progress of your goods into the country and through customs via the customs control tower.
- You get alerts on the status of your documents and goods as they move through customs.
- You make data-driven decisions based on the customs process.
- Your goods clear through customs and are available for onward distribution and sale in the US.
GEODIS provides a complete customs control tower as part of our end-to-end licensed customs brokerage services. Get in touch with us to find out how our control tower solutions help you reduce costs and eliminate delays.
The benefits of a customs control tower
- Get real-time visibility of the entire, end-to-end customs process, allowing you proactively to manage the flow of goods and respond quickly to any potential issues.
- Reduce operational costs and delays by gathering and validating all of your vital information and documents ahead of time.
- Calculate and understand exactly how much you will need to pay in tariffs, duties, and other fees.
- Maximize efficiency throughout your transport, import, clearance, and onward distribution processes.
- Act as a single point of contact to minimize the friction of interacting with customs processes.
- Comply with all regulations from customs and other US agencies, minimizing the risk of penalties, audits, or inspections.
Customs control towers track the movement of goods
Supply chain stakeholders need to track goods throughout the customs process. A control tower provides constant updates on the location and status of your products.
Track the end-to-end movement of goods
Importers want to know exactly where their products are at all times. A control tower offers real-time visibility on the location and status of all goods as they move across the transportation network, through customs, and into the destination country. Control tower reports are updated as goods hit certain milestones, like pickup, delivery, acceptance into customs, clearance, and warehousing.
These powerful tools can track both internal and external events—from document and product information to transportation times and the customs clearance process.
Track the status of worldwide, cross-border movements
Export and import between countries will generate tariffs, duties, and other requirements, so accurate tracking between countries helps control costs, account for demand, and resolve delays or other issues. A customs control tower provides insight into cross-border movements anywhere in the world, allowing you to plan accordingly.
GEODIS offers complete product tracking throughout the international shipping and customs clearance process.
Customs control towers consolidate and centralize important information
Data capture across international supply chain networks can be complex. A customs control tower consolidates all of that information into a centralized dashboard.
Integrate with multiple systems across supply chain partners
A centralized tool needs to gather information from multiple sources. A customs control tower will connect with data streams across the supply chain ecosystem. This allows the tool to integrate with separate silos of information, process the data, and present it in a unified way.
Centralize information and provide a single point of contact
Customs information can come from many different sources and stakeholders, including:
- Government agencies like US Customs and Border Protection
- The exporter in the origin country
- Freight forwarders and carriers
- The importer in the destination country
- Customs brokerage firms
- Logistics providers
A customs control tower will query, consolidate, update, and centralize all of this data in one place. Importers, exporters, and others can view the latest information without having to access multiple systems and apps. This provides a single point of contact, allowing stakeholders to understand the status and flow of goods at a glance.
Help stakeholders check and validate information
Centralizing information in one place allows importers, customs brokers, and others to review and validate data. Centralization can identify issues early, and allow for proactive risk mitigation or troubleshooting. Resolving problems before formal inspections and audits significantly reduces the likelihood of extra payments or penalties.
Provide document authentication, traceability, and archiving
Many customs processes require robust authentication and tracking of foreign trade documents. A control tower captures important document information in one place, making it much faster and easier to clear goods through customs, calculate fees, provide details for inspections, and support duty drawback claims. Documents are archived after clearance to create clear reference materials to support follow-up queries or audits.
Integrate with third-party logistics services
Customs control towers often operate as part of a licensed customs brokerage service. Third-party logistics (3PL) providers that offer customs brokerage may also provide a variety of other services including freight forwarding, transport, warehousing, distribution, and supply chain management. End-to-end 3PLs may integrate a customs control tower with other services, providing clients with an easy way to analyze, understand, manage, and use services for all of their import and logistics needs.
GEODIS provides complete project management and implementation services for our customs control tower tool and other 3PL services.
Customs control towers allow stakeholders to make better business decisions
Tracking, analyzing, and understanding information is helpful, but it’s most powerful when it supports smart business actions. Supply chain stakeholders can analyze the latest data from the control tower and use it to make informed and insightful decisions. This allows for effective risk mitigation, proactive inventory management, prioritization, and troubleshooting.
Report on performance, trends, baselines, and thresholds
Control towers are useful both for visibility into immediate information and for reports that can:
- Track performance against KPIs, SLAs, and baselines.
- Show trends and patterns that allow stakeholders to plan better.
- Use data to identify potential customs issues.
- Assist with root cause analysis and prevent customs problems from recurring.
- Measure how changes to customs processes influence results.
- Drive continual improvement and customs optimization.
- Alert stakeholders if performance breaches certain thresholds or falls below expected service levels.
Notify importers when goods clear customs
Importers want to clear customs as quickly as possible so they can get goods into the marketplace. A customs control tower will integrate with CBP and customs brokerage systems and alert importers about the status of their products. Stakeholders can then deal with any delays and ensure the smooth flow of products through the customs clearance process.
Drive better demand management and improve product availability
Retailers rely on accurate forecasting, demand, and capacity management to ensure the availability of goods in their target markets. A control tower provides in-depth visibility into product flows and allows importers to adjust orders and ensure products are available when required.
Speeding up product clearance through customs also reduces lead times, providing closer alignment between demand and supply. This transparency optimizes the flow of goods between countries to maximize availability.
GEODIS combines a customs control tower with an expert, licensed team for complete, end-to-end support.
Customs control towers help importers deal with problems
The complexity of international supply chains means that it’s important to have contingencies in place to deal with issues quickly. A customs control tower provides early insight into problems and helps with risk mitigation, troubleshooting, and problem analysis.
Provide easier communications between supply chain partners
Sharing information in a complex customs and logistics environment can be difficult. A control tower provides easy access to the latest data, making it easier to work with upstream and downstream partners. This prompts better relationships and communications based on “one view of the truth” from within the control tower environment.
Allow stakeholders to resolve issues in real-time
Supply chains are unpredictable, and moving goods through customs is an involved process. The real-time data provided by a customs control tower makes it easier to identify problems early and take corrective action. Importers can then track the impact of their decisions and make further adjustments as needed for more effective prioritization and issue resolution.
Following incident resolution, control towers also provide helpful data to investigate and identify the root cause of problems. Supply chain stakeholders can then take preventive actions to reduce risks and stop problems from recurring.
Track and reroute goods to avoid delays or issues
Strong tracking capabilities mean it’s easy to identify when goods are being delayed so you can get contingencies in place to avoid bottlenecks. Carriers and importers use this information to reroute goods or activate disaster recovery and business continuity plans. This helps move goods into the country more quickly and speeds up their time to market. Supply chain stakeholders can make operational, tactical, or strategic decisions to minimize disruptions and optimize the flow of goods throughout the network.
The GEODIS customs control tower notifies you every step of the way, and we’re ready to step in to help you troubleshoot and resolve issues.
Customs control towers help importers comply with customs regulations
One of the most important functions of a customs control tower is complying with customs regulations.
Control towers assist with regulations and customs compliance
Imported goods must meet strict regulatory standards. A control tower helps importers be compliant with customs processes, tariffs, permits, licenses, and other areas. The tool can analyze documents and information, and flag inconsistent or missing information. The importer, customs broker, or other stakeholders can then resolve any errors so every part of the import process meets compliance requirements.
Customs control towers update requirements in line with the latest legal rulings
Updates to national and international laws and regulations can have a significant impact on cross-border trade. The introduction of free trade agreements, changes to tariff levels, and new regulatory requirements all affect how supply chain stakeholders transport, manage, and import products. A modern customs control tower takes account of all of these changes, ensuring compliance with the latest regulations.
Our customs control tower is fully compliant with the regulations from CPB and other federal agencies.
GEODIS customs control tower services
GEODIS provides a complete customs control tower as part of our end-to-end licensed customs brokerage services. We combine our digital control tower tools with expert support, so we’re with you every step of the way. Here’s what you can expect from the control tower itself and our licensed customs brokers:
- Implementing a customs control tower to manage all of your international product flows.
- Connecting with multiple systems from importers, exporters, carriers, US agencies, and other supply chain stakeholders.
- Analyzing documents and submissions for completeness and alerting users to missing or incorrect information.
- Reporting on every aspect of the customs process via real-time dashboards and in-depth reports.
- Tracking products at every stage of the export, import, transportation, and customs process.
- Notifying you of the progress of your products as they arrive in the US and clear through customs.
- Acting as a single point of contact for all customs processes and communicating with customs agencies on your behalf.
- Standardizing customs processes and clearance in the US and other countries.
- Providing control towers across multiple regions, including the Americas, EMEA, and APAC.
- Monitoring the flow of goods and alerting stakeholders to potential issues.
- Ensuring full compliance with US and international customs regulations and frameworks.
- Deploying best practices to ensure goods clear customs as quickly as possible.
- Optimizing import and customs processes to minimize duties and taxes.
- Carrying out troubleshooting, root cause analysis, and remediation for ongoing issues and problems.
- Integrating into all GEODIS 3PL tools and services for complete, end-to-end tracking and management of orders, products, documents, and supply chain information.
Get in touch with GEODIS today and discover how we can optimize customs clearance.
GEODIS customs insights
The GEODIS Customs Control Tower coordinates your customs flows in countries across the globe, based on our customs clearance procedures in each country. A single point of contact and a dedicated web portal gives you a complete overview of all your products, managed under our close supervision.
Frequently asked questions about customs control towers
How do I access a customs control tower?
Most licensed customs brokers, including GEODIS, provide access via a web portal, so you can log in and review the progress of your goods from anywhere.
Will a customs control tower integrate with my or my partners’ systems?
Customs control towers use APIs and other data connectors to link with client, partner, agency, and other third-party systems. A project team will implement and configure the customs control tower and ensure it integrates with any necessary data sources.
How can I input data into the customs control tower tool?
You have several options. You can integrate it directly into your in-house systems, export and import data using various formats, or input data manually.
How easy is it to use a customs control tower?
International customs processes are complex, and control towers query and analyze a significant amount of information. This means you may need some training to make the most of a customs control tower. GEODIS works extensively with our clients to make the tool as intuitive and easy to use as possible.
When is a customs control tower updated?
Efficient customs control towers update in real-time. Whenever the status of your goods changes in a connected system, the control tower will query that data and show you the latest information. This means you’re always acting on the most timely and relevant data.
How does a customs control tower help me comply with customs regulations?
A control tower collects all of the documents you need to clear your products through the customs process. The tool will review the information you enter and alert you to incomplete, missing, or erroneous entries. Our expert staff will also review the details of your shipments and alert you to any concerns. This all helps your goods to meet customs requirements, so they clear through quickly and efficiently.