Document automation speeds trade flow
Thousands of Hong Kong companies can transmit documents by Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) instead of sending the paper equivalent, as a result of Tradelink Electronic Document Services.
Tradelink was established in 1988 with shareholders who are all key players in the international trade cycle. They include the Hong Kong SAR Government, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and leading banks and companies.
The firm's mission, said chief executive Justin Yue, was 'to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of Hong Kong's 70,000-strong import-export trading community by making available a range of value-added electronic services'.
'The whole purpose of EDI is to enable traffic between computers without human intervention and, more importantly, EDI allows traffic between different applications,' Mr Yue said.
Tradelink's first service, an electronic submission facility for quota licence applications, began in January. A further service, allowing electronic lodgement of import and export declarations, was introduced in April. Over the next two years, more trade transactions will be made available.
EDI allows trade documentation process to be automated. For example, the receipt for a purchase order from an overseas customer can automatically generate all manufacturing instructions, shipping documents and licence applications.
EDI is acknowledged as the key to the quick-response supply chain and 'just-in-time' manufacturing.
'Many large companies in Hong Kong are already using EDI, notably banks, cargo terminals and air-sea carriers,' Mr Yue said. 'It was recognised at an early stage, though, that government participation is crucial to encourage a wider use of the system.' The Tradelink system is more than a go-between the Government and user companies. Messages are subjected to checks and validations and the system has a comprehensive security solution. Each customer is given a set of security keys which are used to sign all government documents. Using Tradelink can work out cheaper for companies.
'Every time someone uses our system, Tradelink has to pay the Government the next day. A statement is issued electronically at the end of the month and paid by autopay.' Since the beginning of the year, more than 5,000 customers have been recruited.
'This fulfills our expectations for this year. But the bulk of our work remains; we have to cater for the remaining 90 per cent within the next two years.' Those already using the software include garment manufacturer Milo's, Motorola, China Light & Power and Samsung.
Tradelink's main role was to facilitate government-related transactions, Mr Yue said.
Tradelink has formed an alliance with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to promote the benefits of EDI.
Catherine Lo, manager of trade enquiries for the TDC, said: 'Part of our job is to promote electronic commerce. We have, in conjunction with Tradelink, organised seminars and exhibitions to do this.'