Start-ups get the air cargo industry on their toes
The House of Mobility and Logistics (HOLM), near Rhine-Main Airport was the place to be last Wednesday and Thursday. There, scholars, high ranking managers of the cargo industry or from ground handling agents presented the 220 attendees of the event new concepts and findings, affecting the industry. However, also deficits thwarting the cargo business were major points of discussion during the meeting organized by Frankfurt’s Air Cargo Community. So was the devastating reputation of aviation in climate protection, including initiatives for a greener supply chain.
Particularly appealing was the remarkable number of “innovators” introducing fresh ideas and stunning solutions to efficiently improve contemporary air cargo processes. The overall impression was that particularly small, innovative companies will catapult the industry to the next level. It’s them that have an enviable entrepreneurial spirit, and unbridled appetite for innovation, bringing their products to market maturity.
Stocktaking by drones
One of these high-flying start-ups is digital pioneer Docs.Innovation. The “drone boys”, as they are dubbed, equip self-developed aerial vehicles with smart multi-sensors. This way, enabling automated stocktaking and inventory within warehouses around pallet rack areas. Capturing data in flight is smarter, more accurate, and is accomplished much faster than traditional and time-consuming stocktaking by men, was their much-applauded key message at the Frankfurt meet.
Another innovation was presented by Anzar Kamdar, Chief Data Scientist at U.S.-based Throughput Inc. His company’s business case is to eliminate bottlenecks in production and transportation, by automatically cleansing data through their fully automated ELI platform. According to Mr. Kamdar, an alarming 95% of unresolved production issues are triggered by bottlenecks. He went on to say that despite the advent of the IoT and the increasing accessibility of data science-backed, AI-powered solutions, a large number of organizations still follow obsolete, manual, and reactive approaches to identifying and prioritizing resolutions – which leads to a further loss of precious time. An outdated and flawed practice, costing money and time. Once data are cleansed and bottlenecks within the supply chain eliminated, ELI provides customers operational recommendations based on priorities, Mr Kamdar assured.
Smart Air Cargo Trailer
However, not only start-ups but also established air freight players drive innovations forward. Such as Sovereign Speed, Dachser, Fraport Cargo, the ground handlers LUG and Swissport and some others. In cooperation with Fraunhofer Institute they presented a driverless Smart Air Cargo Trailer standing right outside the conference building, able to transport shipments autonomously between warehouses and ground handlers doing business in Frankfurt’s CargoCity South. A beneficial innovation upping the operational accuracy and decreasing the workload of people responsible for these rather boring transports up to now.
Another promising product, illustrated by Markus Flacke, Head of Product Management and Solution Development at ULD manager Unilode were non-obstructive tags, based on Bluetooth wireless technology that can be integrated in pallets or containers, allowing the end-to-end-monitoring of cargo consignments. By 2020, 2/3rds of Unilode’s ULD fleet of 135,000 units will be equipped with these tags, the manager predicted, sensing and recording temperature deviations or shocks the containers were exposed to during transportation.
eDGD breakthrough and ramp allocation scheme
Last but not least the Dakosy-developed electronic goods declaration (eDGD), the first of its kind worldwide, was a hot topic at the Frankfurt meet.
eDGD enables shippers, forwarders, ground handlers and airlines the paperless transport of dangerous goods. "This tool speeds up processes, eliminates errors and makes the transport of hazardous materials extremely transparent and also reliable,” stated Simon Linder, sales chief at IT provider Dakosy.
His company has also a second string on its bow: a ramp steering app, utilized by truckers being allocated a slot for unloading or loading air freight shipments at warehouses in Frankfurt’s CargoCity South. “Since we introduced the scheme, trucks queuing up in front of our cargo terminal are a thing of the past,” confirmed Managing Director Patrik Tschirch of LUG aircargo handling GmbH.
The sad truth is, however, that LUG is the only ground handler at FRA using Dakosy’s FAIRLink system to this date.
Climate comes first
Due to mounting political pressure and criticism coming from the general public, green aviation and sustainability was a major topic at the Frankfurt event.
“After we lost a major battle, we can’t afford to lose another one.” Weighty words spoken by Professor Karl-Rudolph Rupprecht, former member of the Lufthansa Cargo executive board and meanwhile scholar at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.
The “defeat" of which he spoke refers to the closure of the large Rhine-Main Airport at night, which keeps hurting cargo carriers and the entire German freight community extremely ever since its introduction in 2012, causing business losses to neighboring and operationally more flexible airports such as Liege or Brussels.
The next “battle” the entire European cargo industry is facing has already assumed dimensions of an avalanche: to become more sustainable and greener – immediately!
How best to deal with these demands was a major topic emphasized by various speakers at the 4th Air Cargo Conference in FRA.
Passenger and cargo airlines, ground handlers, airports, forwarders and aircraft manufacturers should not lose sight of this fact.
Instead, they’d better act together to spearhead the “Climate-Comes-First” movement, presenting convincing concepts and solutions.