As the spectre of Brexit looms over Europe, we were inspired by this article to showcase how RPA can be used to solve some of the problems Brexit creates.

In the article Jef Hermans discusses how, as a specialist in customs declarations for logistics & large industrial companies, he perceives Brexit:

“For us, Brexit is a step back”

Portmade, the company he works for, has discovered some sobering numbers as a result of an internal Brexit impact-analysis: 40% more customs declarations will need to be made by 18000 SME’s who have no notion of how to handle them. On top of this, an estimated 100 extra employees will be required to process the additional work.

The political aspect aside, one thing is certain: the impact will be enormous.

Jef is quick to point out that the extra work (and revenue) is not what he’s looking for:

“our people didn’t study for 3 years to do manual work. We prefer working with robot- and self learning software, so we can focus on control, offering solutions, contacting clients & customs, and optimizing import- and exportstreams”.

What we have here, is a crystal-clear use case for RPA. Customs declarations are a relatively standardised, digitalised process, with very high volumes. Additionally, the sudden spike in volumes creates another advantage, due to the scaling potential of an RPA solution.

So what are the main advantages for Portmade?

Cost Effectiveness

As mentioned, they would require 100 extra employees to process all the extra declarations. Beyond the initial development & testing, an RPA solution’s price scales at a fraction of the cost compared to hiring additional employees. The main costs will be licenses and IT infrastructure. If the volume should drop in the future, the licenses and infrastructure can be scaled back, which you don’t do as easily with employees.

Data Quality

Customs are no easy subject. Employees in this domain are trained and it takes time to get up to speed. Having to hire 100 new employees to deal with this influx of work will inevitably lead to errors when handling the declarations, which puts further pressure on veteran employees.

A well-built RPA solution takes care of this: when the rules are clearly defined and the logic implemented correctly, a robot can handle the vast majority of cases. An additional advantages is that robots don’t get tired, nor do they quit or retire.

Employee Satisfaction

As Jef rightfully points out, his employees are part of a higher-educated workforce. Having them perform mundane and monotonous activities for days on end will certainly negatively impact their motivation and performance.

RPA solutions free them up to focus on value-added tasks, like contacting clients and optimalising import- and exportstreams.

In the long run, this reduces employee churn and increases custom satisfaction.


Another benefit is reducing the time needed to treat each case which can translate into a competitive advantage compared to other companies, as the backlog is smaller or non-existent. This prevents a bottleneck and allows Portmade to satisfy their client’s demands in a timely manner.


The scope of an RPA solution can be much broader than just taking on extra Brexit work, and the foundations will have been laid to scale up the amount of processes that can be handled in an automatic fashion.


While Brexit presents an imposing set of challenges, it also sets up opportunities for innovative solutions, enabled by technology.

Do you see potential in your company for RPA solutions? Get in touch with us at and let’s chat!

Written by Nico Esposito for BrightKnight