Ensuring Export Compliance by Simplifying Denied Party Screening with Descartes Visual Compliance™

As a high-tech manufacturer that ships cutting-edge technologies like sensors, microcontrollers, and circuit boards around the world, Adafruit Industries screens people it conducts business with to comply with international export regulations. To accelerate screening practices for rising shipment volumes, the rapidly growing company turned to Descartes Visual Compliance™, a cloud-based solution that was easily integrated with Adafruit’s existing business systems and everyday operations.

The Challenge: Manual Screening Impeding Growth

When Adafruit began in 2005, the company was manually screening every order to ensure that receiving parties were cleared to accept and use the technologies being shipped. Over the company’s first few years in business, this manual process was used to screen, on average, a few dozen orders each day.

As the business grew, it became apparent that manual screening was too time-consuming and inefficient for Adafruit to keep pace with shipment volumes of 500-1,000 orders per day. The company needed an automated screening solution that was easy, efficient and reliable to support higher fulfillment volumes and ensure strict export compliance.

“You can’t grow your business if you keep doing manual screening. Descartes Visual Compliance was very easy to integrate into our existing ERP and sales platform. Now we have an automated way to check every order as it comes in. There’s no manual screening and we only have to go in to check when there is a flag.”

--Limor Fried, Founder & Lead Engineer. Adafruit Industries

The Solution: Automated Screening Integrated with Business Systems

With customers worldwide and a large portfolio of technologies, some of which are export controlled, having a robust compliance program is a focus for Adafruit. As part of its compliance strategy, Adafruit turned to Descartes Visual Compliance to automate its denied party screening practice. Limor Fried, Founder & Lead Engineer at Adafruit Industries explains, “We do high tech manufacturing, so we’re using the latest technologies and shipping them around the world. It’s really important that we make sure that whatever we ship goes only to people who are cleared to get that technology and use it.”

Because the company has its own web storefront and ERP system to receive and track all orders, Adafruit elected to use the integrated API solution, which easily plugs into existing business systems to ensure consistent and reliable screening, regardless of the number of daily transactions. Fried elaborates, “Integrating Descartes Visual Compliance with Adafruit’s front and back-end webstore was very easy and took only a couple of weeks, which included testing and staging. Likewise, training employees was a simple process.”

Descartes Visual Compliance offers an up-to-date global database of hundreds of watch lists and provides a full range of audit recording and due diligence capabilities that automatically record screening details. Using the solution, Adafruit is automatically screening every order as soon as it comes into the organization and then again just before it ships. Fried expands, “If a shipment is flagged, results are sent to special email queue indicating it should be checked manually to verify if the order should be cancelled.” This helps escalate possible matches and stop potential compliance issues before they become a problem.

Having the solution as part of its compliance program allows Adafruit to easily demonstrate compliance activities and exemplary standards to regulatory authorities. “In fact, we’ve even had a government subpoena as they were looking for customer information based upon a specific order. After we went through that process, they came back to us and said that Adafruit does an excellent job of compliance—and part of that was having Descartes Visual Compliance in place.”


Elevated Compliance: Using the advanced technology to screen every shipment, Adafruit generates accurate, easy-to-interpret results and a full audit trail for 30,000+ orders per month.

Greater Efficiency: Automating denied party screening enabled Adafruit to address growing customer demand and increase the number of orders screened daily. Real-time alerts allow employees to address potential compliance issues before they become a problem.

Easy Integration: The Descartes solution seamlessly plugged into Adafruit’s online sales and ERP platforms, offered flexible configuration options, and was easily adapted to fit the company’s existing order processing workflows.

Rapid Deployment: Adafruit quickly implemented the cloud-based screening solution in approximately two weeks with minimal user training, which meant negligible downtime for the organization.

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