Automatic Interface to the ELAN-K2 Export System – Upload BAFA Reports Quickly and Automatically

From Janine Lampprecht | 27. April 2021 | Reading time: 4 Minutes

Exports subject to licensing for which general licences are used by the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA) must be reported semi-annually via the ELAN-K2 portal. This takes time because many each process involves a lot of details. It is particularly tedious and time-consuming when the required data must first be collected centrally by various departments – time that could be saved, especially when many reports are involved.

If you think you can just upload the XLS and be done with it, you will be disappointed. That is because automatic data transfer is not that simple after all. Do XML and API sound like foreign words to you? Not for long.

In this article, you will learn how to upload the data automatically into the ELAN-K2 with the “push of a button” and how to use your time for more important things than manually entering transactions.

This is how it has worked so far, i.e. the “conservative way” – manual BAFA reports

Companies that want to export goods subject to declaration to certain countries require an export licence. This licence must be applied for at BAFA; it can also be done individually before each export (individual export licence). However, in order to ensure a smooth and fast process with daily exports, there is also the option to apply for a General Licence (GL) at BAFA. GLs are a special form of export licence and authorise the exporter to directly carry out all exports that meet the requirements of the respective General Licence. GLs offer the advantage of immediate delivery options.

It is important to note that each company itself is responsible for checking the applicability of the GL. However, every company has to submit a semi-annual report to BAFA on whether and which goods were exported under the GL number. There are different types of GL, depending on the country of destination and the goods list item. This means that companies may have to apply for several GLs. If nothing has been exported, a so-called zero declaration must be submitted. You can find out whether you can use a GL for your export process in the GL Finder.

Depending on the volume of exports under such licences, many documents have to be uploaded manually and details of the delivery date, consignee and exported good and its quantity have to be provided. This can take a staff member several days.

You are not alone if you are asking yourself: Can’t this be done more efficiently?

Imagine a group of companies with several companies and many General Licences in use, which then have to be reported to BAFA. That quickly adds up to a few hours of work. That is why BAFA offers an interface to automatically import the data into ELAN-K2. Under this link you can find all the information that BAFA provides on this – it’s really practical if you know your way around IT.

XML and API interfaces as upload? Can’t that also be done via Excel?

I’m sure you are also wondering: What do these terms actually mean, and why can’t you just upload an Excel file? Here is our short tutorial on the topic:

First we need to clarify what XML and an API actually are in the context of this interface:

XML

In order to automatically transmit the data for the BAFA report to the ELAN-K2 system, the data must first be converted into the so-called XML format. XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. It is a hierarchically structured text-based data format. The XML format offers a universal way to exchange information and data between programmes or platforms.

API

An API (Application Programming Interface) is an interface that allows two software programmes to communicate with each other. This technology is particularly useful for large amounts of data. With the help of an API, an interface can be created between a company-internal software system (ERP system) such as SAP and ELAN-K2. The report can then be transmitted directly to BAFA via the API interface.

So far, so good. But how does this work with the automated BAFA notification?

An example process could look like this: The data required for the BAFA report is stored in the ERP system, in Excel files or in comparable systems. Then a so-called “XML converter” can be programmed. In concrete terms, this means that the data is brought into the correct XML structure specified by BAFA. The finished XML document is then automatically loaded into the ELAN-K2 export system via an interface (API). And the reporting data is transmitted to BAFA “with the push of a button”.

 

The advantage of the automated process is clearly that manual and possibly multiple data entry can be avoided, making the entire process less prone to errors. Ideally, field validations can be stored in the source system itself, thereby avoiding incorrect entries. When creating the XML files, it is also important to validate the files for correctness according to a scheme specified by BAFA. Once the requirements are met, an efficient solution can be created for all future GL reporting. A prerequisite for automating this process is the proper maintenance of all relevant data. We therefore recommend a central data system to avoid manual data transfers, which are both time-consuming and error-prone.

Conclusion:

The preparation of BAFA reports and especially GLs is a labour-intensive job, depending on the size of the company. The automation of processes therefore offers many companies an efficient solution. Companies may find all of the technical terms off-putting at the beginning. However, the whole process is simpler than you might think, once the relevant data is collected and the technical arrangements are in place.

 

 

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