Digital transformation: Swiss Customs presents its mid-term review

By the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS)

The Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS) is constantly evolving. Its objective is to simplify and digitize all processes and to increase the organization’s flexibility. DaziT is the name given to the programme that brings together the various activities undertaken to achieve that objective. “Dazi” means “Customs” in Romansh, one of the four official languages of Switzerland, and the final “T” stands for “transformation”. The DaziT programme was officially launched on 1 January 2018 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2026. We have therefore reached the halfway point, which is the perfect time to take stock of the results achieved thus far.

33 million datasets

One of the tasks undertaken by the FOCBS has been to standardize and centralize the master datasets using a master data management solution. The data model used thus far has been simplified, enhanced and expanded. Over 30,000 business partner datasets and some 33 million sets of specific Customs master data have gone on to be collected, such as tariff codes or Customs duty rates. “That’s a world record,” explains project leader Thomas Eggimann. “A million datasets are managed actively and updated daily. We are now able to harness them more easily.”

And, possibly even more importantly, strict data management workflows have been implemented to improve the management quality of these datasets. The new solution also allows FOCBS customers to modify their own data in self-care mode – from any location and at any time. As Mr. Eggimann sums up, “With the new centralized management solution, we can ensure the quality and reliability of the data. It provides a solid foundation for further projects in the DaziT programme and for the many initiatives undertaken by the Federal Administration.”

Automatic activation

Automatic activation is a key component of the new end-to-end digitized Customs process which is gradually being introduced as part of the DaziT programme. At this juncture, two applications, Periodic and Activ, have been developed to manage periodic declarations (facilities granted for the regional transportation of uniform consignments imported regularly and through the same Customs office) and international transit declarations more effectively. The apps operate on the following principle: the Customs declaration for the goods and the associated transport declaration are connected via one of the two applications. However, the goods declaration is not activated, and hence does not become legally binding, until the means of transport transporting the goods in question is geographically tracked in one of the designated zones close to a border crossing point by one of the 64 geofences installed there. At that point, a risk analysis is undertaken. At the end of the analysis process, the driver is notified whether he may continue his journey or whether a Customs check is necessary.

Since the Activ and Periodic smartphone apps went live in 2019, over 100,000 journeys into and through Switzerland have been automatically activated. The trend is upwards and the growth potential is huge: every day, over 20,000 lorries cross the Swiss border.



Under existing arrangements, lorry drivers must have a smartphone that is turned on and connected to a telephone network; they also have to launch the process manually. One form of technology would facilitate full automation: telematics.

A large proportion of transport companies already use telematics technology on board their lorries to optimize oversight of their fleet. The technology enables them to gather, via telematics operators, data such as the location and speed of the vehicles, or even their drivers’ break times.

Customs would need only a tiny proportion of such data to facilitate the automatic activation of Customs declarations. They would just need to be able to determine, using geo-tracking technology, when a vehicle transporting the declared goods enters the designated border zone. In technical terms, a simple interface with the telematics operators’ software would facilitate this sharing of data. Swiss Customs is also working towards additional solutions, for example, for indicating to drivers that they may continue their journey or must undergo Customs checks. A practical test carried out in autumn 2021 confirmed the potential of the tools developed.

Automatic activation using telematics technology is not restricted to road transport. Studies into technical solutions for other means of transport are ongoing. As regards water transport, activation is expected to be set up using the RPIS (Rhine Ports Information System), a river transport management system which also relies on telematics. For transport by rail, automatic activation is envisaged via ZIS (Train Information System), the telematics platform rolled out by the Swiss Federal Railway. And, finally, activation for air transport could be linked to the air freight management systems.


A multitude of digital services

Over the first four years of the DaziT programme, the FOCBS has brought some 30 IT applications and services into operation. Their use is growing steadily, as demonstrated by the following examples:

  • 33%: the rate of increase in the payment of the performance-related heavy vehicle charge (HVC) collected from foreign lorries via the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS). Since January 2020, more than half a million journeys through Switzerland have been processed using EETS, although there are only two FOCBS-certified providers offering this new service.
  • 65%: the percentage of bus and camper van drivers now choosing to pay the lump-sum heavy vehicle charge (PSVA) digitally using the smartphone app Via. Winner of the “Best of Swiss Apps” award, the application has been used more than 60,000 times since its launch in early 2019.
  • 99%: the percentage of beer tax in Switzerland and Liechtenstein which is collected digitally. Following the example of the large and medium-sized breweries, virtually all small breweries are now also declaring their beer production for tax electronically using the Biera app. The tax is calculated automatically. The refund process is also digital.
  • 100,000: the number of goods declarations made by tourist traffic using the QuickZoll app has passed this symbolic threshold. In 2021, around 10% of all revenues from tourist traffic were collected via this smartphone app.

Mobility and flexibility

The transformation is not limited to digitization; that is just the tip of the iceberg. As an organization, the FOCBS will be undergoing a radical transformation to become more agile and more flexible. The reorganization is focused on a single professional profile replacing the current professions of border guard and Customs specialist. All new colleagues will be trained in the control of goods, persons and means of transport and will go on to specialize in one of those areas. Corresponding training will be offered to existing colleagues, who will be required to build on the skills acquired in a targeted manner, focusing on the practical aspects.

Automation of some tasks will, moreover, allow staff to focus on the checks and services providing added value for the customers. Work resources and engagement methods will also be modernized. Staff are equipped with mobile communication devices (smartphones, laptops). Patrol vehicles will be kitted out in line with the new fleet strategy, namely with mobile control instruments and a mobile IT infrastructure, so as to offer multifunctional positions.


IT services aimed at boosting staff mobility and work flexibility include:

  • the EneXs Mobile app, by which various investigative databases can be searched on a smartphone for details of people or objects;
  • telematics and digital logbooks, already fitted in and used by 93% of patrol vehicles.


The transformation of the FOCBS is taking place alongside regular exchanges with numerous partner organizations and stakeholders. Discussions with the Customs administrations of the neighbouring countries and the European authorities are under way with a view to simplifying and speeding up border crossings. Discussions with business undertakings and associations are taking place in the business advisory group and in the various working groups. The cantons and security organizations are also regularly informed.

Here are some figures to give an idea of the volume of these discussions since the launch of the DaziT programme: 90 information events for managers and employees; 13 meetings with the business advisory group; 50 meetings with staff associations; and 40 official harmonization meetings with neighbouring countries and the Taxation and Customs Union Directorate‑General.

Second half of the programme

The second half of the DaziT programme looked forward to two important milestones which are to be reached in the coming months: the Federal Council’s (Government’s) approval of the “dispatch on the total revision of the Customs Act” and the introduction of the Entry/Exit System (EES) developed by the European Commission for capturing electronically the entry and exit of third‑country nationals in the Schengen Area.

The next milestone after that will be reached in Summer 2023, when the first release of the new Passar goods traffic system will be rolled out. In DaziT’s early years, several very specific applications were placed on the market which improved certain stages in the Customs declaration system for those sectors directly affected; however, they could not quite realize the full potential of simplifying and speeding up the cross-border movement of goods. Passar, which will gradually replace the existing NCTS (transit and export) and e-dec (import and export) systems, contributes significantly to progress in this direction. The two systems will be merged and all general Customs declaration processes will be simplified, harmonized and digitized. The transition will be prepared in close consultation with the business community and software providers. A software development working group has been set up to assist their work.

Other important projects, such as the introduction of a standardized case processing and reporting solution for the entire FOCBS, the introduction of the e-vignette, the implementation of real estate projects, and the continued drive towards cultural transformation, will also be the focus of FOCBS attention in the coming months.

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