Turning Global Trade Compliance Into a Competitive Advantage

When you operate in more then 140 countries around the world, global trade compliance is bound to get complicated. But Tyco Fire & Security is turning that complexity into a competitive edge.


When you operate in more then 140 countries around the world, global trade compliance is bound to get complicated. But Tyco Fire & Security is turning that complexity into a competitive edge.

[From Supply & Demand Chain Executive, October/November 2004] Jan Philbrook, who is director of global trade compliance with Tyco Fire & Security, says she often hears talk about all the new restrictions and regulations that the U.S. government has put in place since the September 11 terrorist attacks. "And I have to say, 'No, many of these rules have been around since 1939; it's just that everybody, including the government, is really much more focused on these issues,'" she points out.

Tyco Fire & Security, based in Boca Raton, Fla., is one of five Tyco segments, although with $11 billion in annual sales, 35 manufacturing locations around the world, 90,000 employees and 1,200 offices in more than 140 countries, Fire & Security would easily rank in the upper half of the Fortune 500 were it a separate company. The segment's product lines include electronic security systems; fire protection, detection and suppression systems; sprinklers and fire extinguishers.

Naturally, as a veteran player in the global marketplace, Tyco Fire & Security has long had in place comprehensive processes to ensure trade compliance throughout its worldwide operations, says Philbrook. But she notes that even as trade regulations and market conditions have been changing continuously, so, too, has Fire & Security been working continuously to improve its trade compliance processes.

Moving Up the Learning Curve

Philbrook joined the business about 15 years ago when it was still Sensormatic (Tyco acquired Sensormatic in late 2001) and became distribution and transportation manager in 1995; it was then that she began to work on trade compliance issues. "I realized that we needed to do a lot of work on trade compliance within the company," she says.

The sheer size and reach of the company was part of Tyco Fire & Security's challenge in ensuring trade compliance. The company has major distribution operations globally, including separate operations that handle Canada, the United States and Latin America, Europe and Middle East/Africa and the Asia/Pacific Basin. Philbrook started attending seminars and reading everything she could get her hands on to learn more about the issues involved in trade compliance. In time, she started doing presentations to executive management, advocating that the company have additional resources to cover these issues.

A Solution to Support the Process

Eventually the company assigned a few staff to Philbrook, and together she and her team started strengthening procedures within the Sensormatic organization for trade compliance, such as standardized forms and training for the shipping areas and sales. Initially they didn't have any software solution supporting the new processes they were putting in place, although Philbrook began pushing for that, too.

Why did she see a need for a software solution? Several reasons: "Being a huge, global organization, consistency can be difficult," Philbrook explains, "and training to the level of the person on the shipping dock or in the shipping area that's preparing documentation can be a difficult task for a global company to handle. I'm in this position to make sure that we do follow all global and U.S. trade compliance requirements, and we found that a good software tool can be very helpful in accomplishing that."

In addition, because of the extreme complexity and changing nature of trade regulations, Philbrook and her small team estimated that, lacking any sort of supporting software solution, she would need a staff of at least 30 people, ranging from trade content experts to legal counsel, to be able to globally keep up with all the requirements and Tyco Fire & Security's broad product offering. "The trade content changes daily, especially on a global scale," Philbrook states. "Countries come in and out of sanctions. Our technology changes, too. For a business our size, just keeping track of that is significantly easier when we partner with someone who not only has a software solution but also has a global trade content engine."

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