The Air Cargo Industry has to Embrace the Digital Age

If the air cargo industry wants to consolidate its role as a valuable part of the logistics chain, it must speed up its digital programme. This message was delivered at the Freight Forwarders’ Day of the European forwarders umbrella Clecat in Brussels.

From left to right: Kester Meijer, Lothar Moehle, Uwe Glaser and Markus Flacke  -  photo: Alexander Louvet, Powershoot.
From left to right: Kester Meijer, Lothar Moehle, Uwe Glaser and Markus Flacke - photo: Alexander Louvet, Powershoot.

Economist Alain Lumbroso of the International Transport Forum said that air cargo is an important contributor to the EU’s economy, as it carries high value goods mainly. “These are very important industries for the EU and then air cargo starts playing a role. For example, Alain mentioned fresh fish flown to Japan and lobsters sent from Nova Scotia to Brussels.

Kester Meijer, Director Operational Integrity and Division Safety & Quality Manager, KLM Cargo, said that it is imperative for the industry to speed up on its digital programme. He advocated the evolution ‘from e-freight to e-flight’, which would bring an entirely paperless process.

At Amsterdam Schiphol, this process is supported by e-link, connecting the data world and the physical world. “At AMS we have a seamless connection between handlers and forwarders. It allows the physical transfer of goods even if there is no document available.”

Traditional business models are being disrupted
Markus Flacke, Managing Director of CHAMP Cargosystems GmbH said that by 2020 more people will have access to internet than to water. “We are facing a disruption of the traditional business models. The traditional air cargo industry shows characteristics of a target market for a disruptive approach. B2C has grown 3 times the rate of traditional air cargo and the average shipment weight has risen from 2.2 to 6.6 kilo’s.”
In the opinion of Lothar Moehle, Director Security Standardisation, DB Schenker, embracing the e-business means that you have to evaluate what’s in it for the users. Lothar drew the audience’s attention to the growing interest of authorities to undertake risk assessment before cargo is loaded onto an aircraft.
“Our industry is struggling to change to this new thing. We are still suing too many paper AWB’s and too many paper documents are still needed for archive, truck movements, security declarations etc.” As for replacing the documents used in the industry all over, Lothar said that the amount of work this would cost was underestimated. “We have to start working as one industry including all  stakeholders,” he concluded.

Get rid of CargoIMP
Even today the airlines are still using proprietary networks like SITA and ARINC , said Uwe Glaser, President, of the Austrian company Cargomind . “Most airlines use CargoIMP messages, whereas the forwarders require CargoXML messages. The cargo community systems have to convert between our message versions and the airline capabilities. CargoIMP messages put limitations on address fields and handling instructions.”
Uwe reminded the participants of the introduction of Cargo XML in 2014. “It will do away with all the limitations. Qatar Airways is the first airline to accept this one-to-one communication system. The forwarders would also like to switch to data communication supported by AS4-software, which uses the internet and is cost-free. He advocated consistent status updates from booking to delivery and invited the airlines to share electronic AWBs timely with their GSAs. “And, on top of this, collect information about last mile delivery electronically and store against central tracking.”

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Prepare for the digital tornado
Ariaen Zimmerman, Executive Director of CargoIQ, explained the aims of the IATA Quality monitoring programme as based on commonly agreed performance commitments. “What we offer the industry is a unique route map and clear milestones for each shipment. Our 82 members act as a standard certification data process reporting community.”
Steven Polmans, Head of Cargo of Brussels Airport Company was given the floor to testify on the first achievements of the airport’s BRUcloud platform that is currently being rolled out.
For Markus Muecke, Global Head Air Freight Procurement and product management, Panalpina, quality is in proving the value of air cargo to the customer. “Where is the value proposition for air cargo?”, he asked. Markus thinks that the lack of technology and adaption is disrupting the industry. “The digital tornado is knocking at the door, so we need collaboration and innovation,” he concluded.
A shipper’s point of view was brought by Rob Dekkers, Global Logistics and Distribution Leader, GE Healthcare in Eindhoven, Netherlands. He elaborated on the logistics process of pharmaceuticals for diagnosing. These are radioactive and thus subjected to a wide range of regulations. Apart from complying with these, there is the short life cycle to consider: 24 hours between the end of manufacturing to the patient. “What I need is speed of delivery and reliability. I want fast processes, the electronic management of docs and short lead times. This calls for consistent communication.”

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

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