The Factored Quality Guide to CTPAT


In Part 8, we unpack the ins and outs of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and what it means for your brand.

Any consumer brand operator knows navigating from product development to warehouse inventory audits is a highly specific process.

At Factored Quality (FQ), we’re experts on all aspects of audits, including those that founders and ops teams don’t have the capacity to worry about. And we’re going to outline all of them in this series.

We unpack the ins and outs of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) and what it means for your brand.

Let’s dive in.

What CTPAT means for DTC brands

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism is a voluntary program led by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Since its inception in November 2001, it has served to:

  • Enhance border security inspections for imported goods
  • Support international supply chains with trade certifications
  • Safeguard the global trade environment from potential security threats

For brands, participating in CTPAT is similar to a TSA PreCheck, but for their products. Becoming a merchant partner streamlines the customs process, reducing delays and ensuring a smoother flow of goods.

For retailers and customers, CTPAT-certified suppliers are taking additional steps to mitigate risk and unnecessary efficiencies that ripple down the supply chain.

What are the benefits of CTPAT?

Participating in CTPAT provides significant advantages for all partners:

  • Expedited Customs Processing: CTPAT-certified companies enjoy faster clearance at the border, resulting in few CBP inspections and significantly less wait time.
  • Cost Savings: Shorter processing can lower operational expenses and improve supply chain efficiency.
  • Government Support: CTPAT partners are assigned CBP supply chain security specialists to stay informed about best practices and potential security threats.
  • Global Recognition: CTPAT partners set themselves apart with a commitment to high security standards, opening doors to expanded market opportunities.

How to get your CTPAT certification

Becoming CTPAT certified requires completing five steps. Here's how to initiate and sustain your CTPAT partnership successfully:

1. Determine eligibility and review security criteria

Begin by reviewing the CTPAT Minimum Security Criteria relevant to your business entity. The minimum security criteria should be reviewed with the supplier in preparation for formal CTPAT audit. GAP analysis should be completed internally or through a third party to identify cost and timing to complete appropriate corrective actions.

This step helps determine your eligibility for the program and sets the foundation for aligning your security measures with CTPAT standards.

2. Submit your online application

Submit a basic application. By voluntarily agreeing to participate, your company takes the crucial second step toward CTPAT certification.

3. Complete a supply chain security profile

Utilize the CTPAT Portal system to develop a supply chain security profile that outlines how your company meets CTPAT's minimum security criteria. This profile should reflect the results of a prior risk assessment, showcasing your commitment to robust security measures.

4. Certification review and approval

Upon submitting your application, a CTPAT Supply Chain Security Specialist is assigned to review your materials and provide ongoing program guidance, ensuring a supportive relationship throughout the certification process.

It can take up to 90 days to certify your company into the program or reject the application. Your assigned specialist will guide you through any necessary adjustments or clarifications during this time.

5. Validation after 12 months

Within a year of certification, your company will undergo a validation process to verify that your security measures align with CTPAT standards. Completing this validation will maintain your partnership.

Re-validating can reveal changes to the CTPAT checklists, which makes it vital to work with a provider that keeps brands up to date.

Factored Quality helps merchants navigate CTPAT and other certification processes

CTPAT isn’t just a regulatory checkbox; it’s a strategic investment in your brand’s reliability. Becoming a partner positions your business globally, fostering trust throughout your supply chain.

With Factored Quality, you can streamline the CTPAT compliance process with support through every step. Leverage the expertise we use to help 100+ leading consumer brands conduct comprehensive quality control. 

Book a personalized demo today. 

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