Taking advantage of the U.S. Customs Service's Automated Air Manifest System is a challenging task for any business. AAMS fundamentally changes the way the trade and transport industries do business.
Instead of relying on traditional paper documents, airlines, freight deconsolidators, freight forwarders and container freight stations send information on air freight cargoes through computers instead.Users should beware that installing software that establishes electronic links with Customs is far different from simply switching on a spreadsheet. Such ties must pass a lengthy Customs certification process. Companies should be sure they're up to the task - and that their software provider is ready and willing to provide any support needed.
Three of the companies providing users with an AAMS capability are LTS Data Communications Inc., Merrick, N.Y.; Micro Software Services Inc. of Miami; and Computer Software Systems and Consulting Inc., Nutley, N.J.
LTS Data Connects With CHRIS
LTS produces a software package it calls Cargo Handling Record Information Service, or CHRIS.
CHRIS is a turnkey service designed to tap into AAMS by transmitting air waybill data directly to Customs' computers, provide the status of the air waybill data, identify holds and track in-bond procedures.
The system consists of a microcomputer, printer, dial-up modem, telecommunications software, applications software and word-processing software.
In operation, CHRIS allows the user to exchange air cargo-formatted messages with AAMS and track the status of each shipment up to the point of its release.
The CHRIS system allows users to access the worldwide airline switching network and exchange plain language messages with airlines, travel-related businesses and other CHRIS users.
The system's software creates a permanent database file of each transaction that can be searched by various keywords and fields for future retrieval.
According to LTS, the use of a single-source vendor permits the collection and payment of communications charges in one consolidated monthly invoice that includes CHRIS' monthly service charge.
CHRIS charges a $1,250 installation fee plus $625 a month on a 24-month lease.
Micro Software's Electronic Assistant
Micro Software Services provides a software package it calls Air Manifest Assistant. The program features "fill-in-the-blank" data entry.
It is designed to run on any IBM or IBM-compatible PC that incorporates an 80286, 80386 or 80486 microchip operating at 12 megahertz or faster. The software requires a Hayes-compatible modem, MS or PC DOS 3.0 or higher, an 80- megabyte hard drive, 640K of random access memory and at least one 5.25" or 3.5" floppy disk drive. An 80- or 132-column printer also is required.
Air Manifest Assistant is menu-driven and displays the entire waybill on a single screen. It features pop-up windows and the ability to scan automatically and notify users of messages from U.S. Customs that require a four-hour response. The program allows an unattended computer to automatically receive updated cargo status messages.
Micro Software says Air Manifest Assistant was the first vendor software to pass Customs testing for use in conjunction with AAMS.
The company charges a licensing fee of $4,000 a site, which includes on- site training, toll-free technical assistance and free future upgrades of the software.
CATS Software Anything But Finicky
CSSC's Cargo Automation and Tracking System, or CATS, software is designed to run on micro- and minicomputers as well as networks.
CATS permits the entry and retrieval of all required Customs audit information and the capability of incorporating related business software into the basic package.
It also provides an interface to airline CRS systems via FFM and FWB IATA format messages.
CAT charges a per-character fee based on the total number of characters transmitted plus a $200 a month connect charge per PC and a $1,000 annual subscription fee.
CSSC also writes customized AAMS software for clients with special requirements. The company says custom software prices are negotiable.