Airfreight Industry, Quo Vadis? - Part 1 - Disruptions

In a series of articles our author Mark Grinsted, a true industry veteran, will critically assess the state of the cargo industry. Following this introductory piece, Mark focuses on the bewildering rate structure in a subsequent report, published in this CFG issue. In the coming weeks, Mark will contribute more pieces on controversial airfreight topics, such as the weird world of the surcharge schemes or what reliability promises given by carriers and forwarding agents are worth in daily practice. In a further item, Mark will put documentation processes in airfreight under his magnifying glass.
So far this appetizer, more topics are to follow.
Users are invited to send their inputs and post comments or make suggestions for additional cargo themes worth evaluating to share with our worldwide readership.
Enjoy reading!

Disruption is the keyword of this decade. Thanks to the widespread use of smartphones – unthinkable even 10 years ago – new business models are being created which no-one could have dreamt about 10 years ago. Business models like Uber, replacing traditional taxis, AirBnB, replacing traditional travel accommodation, Ebay, Amazon, Alibaba and Zalando replacing traditional high-street shopping, Flixbus achieving a near-monopoly in bus transportation within just a few years. And, what makes these new solutions so disruptive to the traditional industries: Uber does not own any taxis, AirBNB does not own any accommodation, and the new largest German bus company Flixbus owns almost no buses. So, we see old, traditional, often encrusted, bureaucratic industries suddenly being replaced by innovative, agile organisations, based on new mobile internet technology. People who said: “We always did it this way” are suddenly finding others doing it a completely different way, better and cheaper. What all these traditional industries had in common was a set of rules and ways of doing business within which all the participants could live comfortably.

We always did it this way
Is this going to be the fate of our airfreight industry? We are all – shippers, forwarders, airlines, handling agents, general sales agents – doing our business in much the same way as we did it 50 years ago. The technology may have changed: email replacing telex, computers replacing typewriters, but the actual ways of working have not changed so much. And we all do our business within a set of rules and conventions which we just take for granted: “We have always done it that way.” Often, people in the industry no longer even know why it has always been done that way; we need to go several decades back in history to explain why. Is the traditional airfreight industry also in danger of being overtaken by totally new and unexpected developments, just like is happening to hoteliers, taxis, high-street shops or travel agents?

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Critical look
Let’s take a new and critical look at some of the areas in our airfreight industry where changes may to be overdue, where we take our conventions and ways of working so much for granted that it is difficult to set back and ask ourselves: Yes, we always did it that way, but why? And is this way still relevant in this modern age? Some things spring to mind immediately, like the e-words - e-freight, e-AWB - but also uplift reliability and transit-time, rate structures and accounting procedures, or even ecological aspects, such as the intensive use of trucking between airports.

Look at alternatives
In a loose series of articles in the coming months we want to tackle these subjects one by one. Readers are encouraged to give their input. We hope that this will result in a general discussion about the direction in which the airfreight industry should be moving. Let’s all step back a little and take a critical look at our every-day work. And let’s look at alternatives – thinking the unthinkable – before others come up with something completely new. After all, airfreight is really all about moving cargo quickly from A to B – very simple! Perhaps we are all just making it more complicated than it needs to be.

Mark Grinsted

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Norman Skelvig (Tuesday, 27 June 2017 10:31)

    Hi CargoForwarder
    Sounds like an interesting series is coming up.
    Kudos to the author and the team.
    As stated in your intro you'd welcome suggestions for topics worth to be debated in depth.
    Got two:
    - Cargo 2000 - vision and (sobering) reality
    - ULD development and management: oursorcing, in-house solution - which is the better option, what is the future trend?
    Looking forward reading more.
    Best
    Norman