Saudi Customs books impressive efficiency gains with lean

09 April 2021 3 min. read

Saudi Customs has made some truly impressive gains in operational efficiency over the past year following a lean transformation project with regional experts Four Principles.

As the Kingdom continues to position itself as a global logistics hub, Saudi Customs last year embarked on a major transformation project with leading Middle East lean management firm Four Principles to enhance the agency’s operational efficiencies and improve customer experience. A significant component of the consulting project was to create a unified customs declarations processing centre in a bid to shorten clearance times.

“The first step for Saudi Customs is to become the best regional customs service, contributing to the Kingdom’s vision of becoming a global platform for logistical services,” the Governor of Saudi Customs, Ahmed Al-Haqbani, said at the time. “By partnering with Four Principles to transform major operational processes, we are confident that we will achieve our Vision for Saudi Customs, starting with the 24-hour customs clearance goal.”

Saudi Customs books impressive efficiency gains with lean

Less than a year later and the early results are in: the establishment of the central Customs Operations Centre, which in addition to standardising procedures can now receive and attend to customs’ declarations from all of Saudi Arabia’s ports in the one location, has seen direct customs clearance times reduced by a massive 93 percent from over 29 hours to less than two. Meanwhile, employee productivity has jumped by 87 percent.

Along with turbo-charging the data flow stream, Four Principles and Saudi Customs also sought to improve the flow of containers, first conducting an analysis of former operational processes to identify any obstacles and bottlenecks. Next they designed a new operating model, which after an initial pilot in Riyadh was rolled-out to other major ports. Here, operational lead times were slashed by 66 percent, down from 48 hours to 16 hours.

Such drastic improvements are not unfamiliar to Four Principles, with the consultancy drawing on a Lean methodology which stresses the elimination of waste as one of its central tenets, in turn boosting efficiency and performance. The firm states that its core objective is in reducing lead times, improving quality, cutting costs and enhancing employee motivation, areas which according to Kaizen philosophy are addressed with the end customer in mind.

An operational excellence department was also established as part of the project, as well as other initiatives geared toward obtaining international recognition for operational excellence, with those efforts coming to fruition with ISO 9001 certification granted to all Saudi Customs’ ports in what the parties say was a record eight months. EFQM recognition was also received at the end of last year, as the first Middle East entity under a new standard.

“Congratulations to Saudi Customs for receiving their Qualified by EFQM recognition and leading the way in the Middle East, in meeting European Quality Management standards with the new 2020 model,” the Four Principles team stated in a post on LinkedIn. “We are thrilled to have been a part of this journey and we look forward to continuing to support Saudi Customs in their future successes and achievements.”