The Association of Freight Software Suppliers was formed in 1993 and membership now stands at 31. AFSS brings together and represents the majority of leading suppliers of software to the freight and transportation industry in the UK.
The members of AFSS supply not only software but also hardware, communications and consultancy to companies of all sizes involved in freight, customs broking and international trade. They provide a wide range of systems and services using different types of technology to meet their customer’s needs.
With our industry now so reliant on technology, which ensures both efficiency and cost effective operations, the ability to use this technology without disruption is vital.
The recent Malware attacks have further demonstrated how vulnerable we are in our daily lives and how disruption to systems can have serious consequences. It is for this reason that Software Suppliers, in addition to the constant improvement and development work, also look to improve the security of their systems. This includes that provision of Disaster Recovery sites and Fallback options.
Of course, despite the improvements to the security and continuity plans provided by AFSS members, the impact of events outside their direct control cannot always be fully catered for.
The disruption to power supplies in their business premises, flood, fire and any need for employees to evacuate the premises can result in major problems for companies whose daily operation demands access to their systems. Providing an ability for remote working is another factor to consider, especially where staff may find it difficult to get to their offices. In recent years both weather and public transport disruption have increased the need for this IT requirement.
During my career in the industry these types of event, whilst uncommon, have happened and I have witnessed first-hand on several occasions the disruption and cost that result. A serious fire in a warehouse adjacent to where I was working resulted in the evacuation of our building which we could not reoccupy for several hours.
With the availability of mobile technology and the use of multiple locations from where the systems can operate, the risks to disruption can be mitigated. Both Forwarder and Transporters do need to have a contingency plan in place and utilise the different technologies now available to keep their business running in the event of disruption to their working environment.
Having an ability to continue to communicate to your staff and customers in the event of unplanned disruption is perhaps a prime requirement of any organisation. Where companies have a contingency plan it may also be beneficial for the team managing the plan to have real-time visibility of the actions and progress being taken by those delegated to perform these tasks.
Once again technology can help in providing the access to company systems and procedures remotely via mobile devices or using an alternative site from which operations can continue.
In my role as Chairman of AFSS I often get to see demonstrations of new technology and new systems being developed. I’m also frequently approached by developers wishing to demonstrate some of their new projects on which they are engaged.
At our AGM this year we were able to see a presentation from one member who has developed a system which provides an ability for any organisation to maintain their operation remotely should there be disruption of any type within their business.
A number of AFSS members have been actively engaged in providing fallback functionality for the submission of import and export declarations via the CCS-UK Community Service. Other CSPs in the Ports have also developed improved Disaster Recovery processes and enhanced reporting to both HMRC and Border Force.
Your software or system provider should be included in the development of your business continuity plans and should be able to provide you with advice and guidance on the best ways to safeguard your IT services. AFSS members will be only too happy to assist you in examining how to safeguard your business against the disruption that might result when your systems cannot be accessed for reasons beyond your control.
My advice is to prepare and plan for the unexpected disruption to your business and routinely practice your continuity plans in collaboration with your systems providers.
AFSS membership is open to any company providing software or related services to companies within the fields of freight, transportation, warehousing and international trade. Members are required to follow the guidelines contained in our Code of Conduct.
Gordon Tutt, Chairman, AFSS