A few years ago, Eddie Galantzan, CEO of the Israeli company AiDock had a realization. He thought that he could revolutionize the way that work gets done. Galantzan says "I saw a customs clerk working in his office with a mountain of paperwork on his desk, and I asked him why there was so much paper. He said, 'Every folder is a shipment that I have to take care of,' and explained that he receives documents bye mail, prints them out, fills them out, and then another clerk inputs the information back into the computer. It seemed like a huge waste of time to me and I saw how the burden of paperwork and bureaucracy impacts business.”
"It's true that over thousands of years we have progressed - from stone slabs to parchment and quills, to typewriters, to document processing on computers, but the work remains the same. Word processors can help us organize and search through documents for information that can lead to action. At that moment, I realized that computer systems should be utilized for so much more than filing paperwork - they can play a key role in significant decision-making processes."
In the course of changing the way we are used to getting work done, AiDockhas developed an artificial intelligence-based system that dramatically shortens paperwork processing time and effort. "The system receives all of the information that the clerk receives" Galantzan explains. “Suppose a clerk receives an email with several documents attached. The system reads through the email and documents, understands the main points, and recommends a solution. For example, the system alerts you if a document is missing, if there are issues in the files, or if other problems exist.”
"When it comes to customs clearance, which is our main focus, the system extracts all relevant information from emails and files. It determines the shipping content, the weight, and dimensions of each package, the manufacturer, the importer, etc. Once the system determines these parameters, it assigns each package the appropriate customs code, calculates customs fees, and alerts the user if special permits are required. It inputs all of this information into the ERP system instead of having to be entered by the customs clerk. In the end, we work in parallel with human workers, and help them do their jobs more efficiently."
The question of why AiDock chooses to focus its artificial intelligence technology on the customs clearing process can be easily answered when you look at the transaction volume in this field. The giant company Pitney Bowes, a leader in the field of mail and parcels, estimates that by 2025 international shipments will reach 200 billion parcels a year. In 2018 alone, the volume of global shipments climbed to 87 billion parcels, compared to 74 billion parcels in 2017. Pitney Bowes predicts that within six years, the volume of shipments will double and even exceed that number. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the direction is clear - international shipments are growing year after year in an industry where there is a lot of money to be made
According to Galantzan, the model developed by the company has the ability to change the entire world and modify the way we see today’s professions. "If you look at the big picture, not just at customs, nearly half of the world’s population ultimately deals with paper work. To this day, big companies like Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft have set up paperwork systems, but they deal mostly with filing and organization. The work itself hasn’t changed. Even though we have Business Intelligence systems that process data and extract insights, a clerk still gets information or documents in a certain way, reads them, draws conclusions, and then decides what to do next.
"Every clerk has a limited capacity. A mortgage bank clerk can approve or reject a certain number of cases a day, regardless of whether he or she is using ERP or real paper. The same applies to a clerk at an insurance company or one dealing with customs clearance. With our artificial intelligence systems, the real paperwork is taken care of and the clerk is presented with the conclusions. While a customs clerk is currently handling ten customs clearance cases, he or she could instead process 1,000cases. Instead of going through all of the paperwork, a clerk only needs to confirm the computer's recommendation."
"Suppose there is a company that needs to receive a shipment from the United States," says Galantzan. "A clerk in the United States sends an email to the company in Israel with all of the product details. The documents could be incorrect. The person from Israel sends back an email with a request for correction and clarification.”
However, due to a different time zone in the United States, everyone is asleep now, and it might be another two days before the clerk gets to handle this email. By then, it could take a while for the clerk to even remember what the issue was. ”This creates a back and forth of correspondence and requests for modifications that can go on for days until the shipment can finally be released from customs. "Sometimes a factory loses millions of dollars because of a delayed delivery of small screws for machines, and one of the reasons could be because of poor communication."
The most complex and challenging part of the customs clearance is the knowledge and understanding of how to classify products. This classification is critical because it determines the taxation amounts, what special approvals are required, and compliance requirements. The companies can face high fines if an erroneous customs declaration is submitted.
Now, let's imagine that the same classification officer gets a virtual assistant, developed by AiDock, named Cody. This assistant is able to classify over 15 million different items and has an accuracy rate of 95%. AiDock has additional virtual assistants to support Cody in the customs clearance process, such as an assistant that makes sure that all of the data is present and another assistant that reads the information from a scanned image and types it into a database. In fact, we have created a family of virtual assistants to help clerks perform their tasks more accurately and efficiently.
You could say that next to the clerk there is a kind of robot, which reads every email as soon as it is received. As soon as it detects an email related to the opening of a customs file, it springs in to action. It automatically reads all documents and data, finds potential problems, and immediately forwards them so that the problems can be addressed in a matter of minutes, instead of a few days.
This is one of the solutions developed by AiDock. This solution is an artificial intelligence and machine learning system that analyzes all of the paperwork pertaining to shipping and customs clearance, immediately alerting customs clerks to any problem that needs to be addressed and helping them make the best decision at any given moment. In addition, the system is constantly learning and improving.
"The principle is similar to the one behind Mobileye," says Galantzan. "Their system captures what is happening on the road and decides whether to turn right or left, slow down, or accelerate. It helps the driver to drive better. Our system captures the documents the same way the clerks do, and it helps them know what to do at a given moment and how to streamline and improve their work process. There fore, the clerks can devote most of their time to the core of the company's activities instead of spending time typing and classifying customs issues."
"It's a waste of quality people who could be doing much more efficient things with their time. Today there are myriad workers dealing with customs issues and they are a very expensive labor force. They spend long hours on a huge number of documents and then decide what to do with them next. We do not intend to replace them, but rather give them a tool that will make their work easier so that they can deal with what is important: talking to customers and bringing in more business.”
"The topic of customs may not sound very interesting, but the process is complex and requires specialized knowledge. We realized that if we could solve it, we could solve any paperwork problem. The customs issue is the most vulnerable point in the logistics industry. A company that is engaged in shipping can buy another ship or plane but will have great difficulty doubling its customs clearance manpower. This makes it difficult for them to adjust their growth to that of the market."
"We have proven that it is possible."
Galantzan, a software and development engineer by training, has previously served as CTO in several ventures and has been consulting for 25 years, helping companies improve their business performance with the use of technology. However, as he started to work on this new venture, he too needed help. I worked on it for nearly half a year and encountered many obstacles. I realized that the reason this had not been done before was that it was not an easy task and could not have been solved with conventional thinking.
About six months later, my son, Sean, became interested in what I was doing. He was 16 then, but this is a boy who at the age of 12 had already graduated high school with a degree in mathematics, was admitted to Tel Aviv University, and started learning about artificial intelligence. He asked why I wasn’t using artificial intelligence to solve this problem, and I explained to him that when I was a student 30 years ago, there were no such tools available.
He asked me to let him try - and after three month she came back to me with a prototype that worked, that is, we had proof that it was possible. We founded the company in 2018, and then Tomer Shamir joined us. Tomer has 15 years of significant experience in the shipping and logistics industry and held several senior positions with the largest global customs clearance and brokerages in the market.
Once we had a prototype, we started meeting with investors. Most of them told us we were delusional, and that it was impossible to do what we were talking about. But there were some who saw the potential and realized that we were paving a new path. For example, the UPS franchisee in Israel agreed to be our design partner, and today they are using our product.
The corona pandemic has highlighted the benefits of our system. With many people now working from home, our product is helping them streamline the work significantly, and is reducing organizations’ dependence on people coming into the office. This is because the system does much of the work and all that is left for the employee to do is to approve or continue to monitor transactions, - which you can do from your mobile phone wherever you are.
There are more than 150 postal companies worldwide, and they are among our potential customers. There are huge courier companies, such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL, which control 80% to 90% of the market, and in addition, 400,000 companies that ship cargo and goods worldwide. Our product introduces significant innovation and efficiency to these companies as well as significant savings of manpower and resources.
We are currently signing contracts with various large companies and we have a pipeline of 350 more customers who are interested in working with us. We have already climbed several hills and now we are climbing the most challenging one - implementing the actual product with companies and working with them in greatly reducing their customs and logistics-related expenses.
After all, the cost of dealing with bureaucracy today is almost inconceivable. We are currently focused on helping customs officials, but we will continue to expand to other sectors as well. This is probably the largest market for us now, as so many people are engaged in work that is primarily clerical. We will be able to create tools that help them streamline their work. Everyone in the process will benefit from it: the employees, the companies that employ them, and even governments all over the globe.
We were approached by international companies that wanted to invest for a significant stake in the company, but we are not interested in that for the moment. We want to keep control in our hands and keep the company in Israel. I believe we have a great future, and we are no there to sell the company. We are here to make an impact and challenge the status quo in the process.
Some of our solutions are already up and running, and we are developing additional solutions in the field. We are concentrating on marketing as well as fundraising and for the moment have enough money for our immediate needs.
So far, the company has raised money from private investors, angel investors, and others. We are not ruling out large funds or investors, but the entry of such players should be under conditions that are mutually beneficial and align with the company’s vision.
Sean Galantzan, Eddie's son and AiDock's CTO, stands out in an industry where many of its employees start their careers very early. His mathematical talent was already evident in first grade and by the age of 12, he had already completed his high school education with a concentration in mathematics. In seventh grade, Sean was accepted into the undergraduate program in physics and computer science at Tel Aviv University. By 11th grade, he was considered “ultra gifted.”
Over the years Sean worked on a project in the field of artificial intelligence with Prof. Lior Wolf and has received tremendous support from his school. Today, at the age of 18, he is conducting research on the CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland and is building artificial intelligence models to predict processes in the accelerator. In January 2020, Sean was included in Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30"list, which recognizes young people with a particularly promising future.
At two-years-old, AiDock is still a fairly young startup. However, it has already won several awards and the high-tech industry has recognized the uniqueness of the product it has developed. In2020, the company was shortlisted for a World Post & Parcel Awards in the startup category. According to the description given by the awards organization, “It is a company driven by innovation, reshaping the future of the supply chain industry. Its technology uses artificial intelligence to enable shipping and cargo companies, generation services, and customs authorities to implement new business approaches that increase productivity. The company's 'virtual assistants' automatically handle all paperwork-related tasks in the world of imports and exports."
In addition, at the Virtual Plug and Play Summit held in the spring of 2020, the company won an award in the supply chain category. At the DLD festival held in Tel Aviv in September 2019, the company climbed to the top of the startup competition of 3,000 participants.
Our ultimate goal and vision for the supply chain industry is to assign a virtual assistant to each employee in this field and to reinvent the future of logistics together.