Leveraging Robotic Process Automation to Transform How US CBP Does Business

On March 11, 2020, President Joe Biden signed a Presidential Proclamation that limited the entry of persons into the U.S. who posed a risk of transmitting the coronavirus. With 26 countries affected by the proclamation, CBP quickly faced a daunting challenge to screen a surge of incoming passengers. The National Counterterrorism Center (NTC) collaborated with the Office of Information and Technology’s (OIT) Robotic Process Automation (RPA) team to create a bot that helped expedite the screening processes. Three days after the proclamation, the RPA team built four automations that enabled CBP to get ahead of the rush of incoming travelers. Using the bot, CBP was able to review 39,419 flights, off-board 370,000 passengers, and clear 10,539 passengers. This tool saved CBP time and resources and helped CBP and the airlines avoid approximately $927 million in costs.

What exactly is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation is a low-code software that is transforming the way that industry and the federal government work. The tool automates repetitive, rule-based tasks typically performed by humans and manipulates data and applications just as a human would. Since September 2019, RPA has transformed over 158 processes across CBP, automating manually intensive procedures and saving CBP over $10 million and 197,000 human resource hours.

In 2021, OIT, the Office of Trade, the Trade Policy & Programs office and the Agricultural and Prepared Products Center collaborated on three bots developed to support manually intensive processes. The most complicated of these bots, the Tuna Proration Bot, performed the edit functions associated with entries that qualify for reduced duty rates. This automation expedited duty rebates to importers, eliminated human error, reduced interest fees, and lowered costs to consumers. The bot also provided duty refunds in three to four months instead of nine to 10 months. The result was a 60% reduction in interest-based expenses to the U.S. government.

This success was made possible due to a platform where RPA is thriving and gaining momentum as it enabled developers the chance to learn RPA at their pace at virtually no cost. Innovative processes such as crowdsourcing of ideas and idea campaigns have helped develop a rich pipeline of automation use cases. Measuring the cost avoidance and time savings as part of the engineering lifecycle helps ensure leadership buy-in and sustains the culture shift to automation first. Having an enterprise platform that is authorized to operate with development, test and production environments reduces both the time to develop and to deploy automations. Without a doubt, CBP is one of the leading federal agencies with respect to the value created to the organization and the government via RPA.