AEB and Bongers Expeditie partnership. From customer to partner and broker excellence


From customer to partner and broker excellence

What started out as a necessity to prepare for Brexit has turned into an AEB-Bongers partnership and has set the Dutch clearing agent on a whole new trajectory of success and growth.

The Challenge

Bongers Expeditie, Customs Import- and Export Services, the Dutch customs broker with a strong background in clearing perishables like plants and flowers, fruit and vegetables as well as meat,dairy and general products, started using AEB customs solutions about 8 years ago and was, in fact, AEB’s first ever Dutch customer.

A real challenge for Bongers’ business arose with the Brexit vote in the UK and the hard customs border on the horizon. With the UK a hugely important market, and a business that is time-sensitive and focused on seasonal peaks like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, it was clear to René Wijnants, Process and Application Manager, and Ralph van de Grijp, General Manager, that Bongers needed to upgrade its customs resources inhouse to ensure trade could continue beyond January 2021.

At the time, they were handling about 8,000 to 10,000 declarations to third countries like Switzerland and Norway. Their large shipments to the UK would significantly increase that number.

The Solution

“A reliable end-to-end solution that takes care of the entire import and export process, that is what we wanted to offer our customers”, explains René. Weighing their options, he and Ralph quickly arrived at the realization that clearing goods through a UK clearing agent would work most smoothly, especially given the sensitive nature of most goods. That is why AEB set Bongers up with its Customs Broker Integration software, connecting them to an excellent clearing agent in the UK handling import declarations, and an integrated invoicing solution.

Customs Broker Integration receives data from its customers through an API and files the export declaration in the Netherlands using the AEB direct-filing solution, then transfers the data with AEB’s Customs Broker Integration to the UK clearing agent, who in turn files the UK import declaration. The entire process is handled within one system. Since exact same data set is used for all the transmissions, there is no risk of data being lost or accidentally changed, as can happen easily when it is copied manually. The digital integration allows Bongers to follow the progress of the clearing process, giving them full transparency of where their goods are at any given time and, of course, informing them as soon as it is complete.

It took some time for all the necessary cogs of a complex customs process to fit together. Any system relying heavily on automation can only ever be as good as the data fed to it. “We managed to improve data quality significantly by reevaluating and changing existing processes to fit the new setup”, explains Ralph. Another helpful improvement was the implementation of AEB’s Logistics Cost Management that allows Bongers to automatically fill in the data from Customs Brokers Integration (number of declarations, content of shipments etc.) into invoices, removing a good amount of time-consuming manual work.

The Result

In early 2022, all systems were up and running as desired, allowing Bongers to file about 50,000 to 55,000 declarations annually, depending on the season. That is five times the number they cleared pre-Brexit. With data quality now excellent and all processes streamlined for maximum speed and accuracy, Bongers clears large volumes reliably and without any hold-ups. With several new customs experts on the payroll, they are in a strong position in the Dutch market and beyond. All the while, the customer-supplier-relationship with AEB became a true partnership, putting Bongers in the unique position of acting as broker and customer using broker services.

“With Brexit in the rearview mirror, we are now in a great position after all the adjustments”, states René, “and the next steps will be to provide customs clearance services to AEB customers as a partner in the AEB Customs Broker Network.” One example of Bongers providing export services for an AEB customer is a British online plant and flower retailer importing plants from the Netherlands to the UK.

At the same time, as customer of AEB Customs Broker Integration, Bongers is able to offer its customers multi-country customs services. One such setup sees them handling export declarations from Germany to Norway for one of their key clients.

What started out as a necessity to prepare for Brexit has turned into an AEB-Bongers partnership and has set the Dutch clearing agent on a whole new trajectory of success and growth.