CFG talks to James Wyatt from aeroconcept, about the opportunities and challenges companies face when it comes to finding unbiased, fresh solutions for a myriad of business problems, about the field of aviation consulting and the overall issue of change management.
“Coming from the outside, with an inside view!”, is what James Wyatt spontaneously answers when CFG asks him to come up with a tag line for what his company is all about. Given his career background, the inside view James Wyatt brings with him is certainly very widespread, from a concrete founding in air freight logistics at Lufthansa Cargo in the UK and Germany, through AeroLogic in Leipzig, Germany to Qatar Airways in Doha, Qatar, then on to DHL Express in Brussels, Belgium, with closer interfaces to ICAO and IATA before joining IATA completely in Geneva, Switzerland for a couple of years, and then going almost full-circle back to Germany, where his individual aviation consulting company, aeroconcept, was founded in 2019.
An individualized aviation consulting portfolio
aeroconcept is all about providing “a concept-driven framework for any sector in the aviation industry,” Wyatt explains as he outlines a number of projects he has been involved in, running from aircraft handling, cargo handling, airmail, dangerous goods, product management, all the way through to complete cargo management level training programs for over 180 managers of a single airline. His current clients are airports, airlines and handling agents… “It all comes down to the specific request of the individual customer. No two customers are the same, no two contracts are the same, no two frameworks are the same,” he points out, underlining that the underlying factors to any project, however, always boil down to safety and compliance.
The outside view – an in-depth, lean approach
Whatever the client’s topic, Wyatt takes a grass-roots approach to mapping the current process during a facility walk, perhaps also running dummy shipments through the system, or shadowing the existing service. Sometimes, it is even about setting up a new process for an upcoming service, such as freighter handling at an airport previously not having to deal with a certain aircraft type. Wyatt is on the lookout for the hot spots in the process – identifying where the issues are and backing these up with evidence in the form of paperwork, photographs, and/or IT examples. The next steps are constructive solution suggestions, coming up with corrective actions, defining responsible people to implement those corrective actions, and then following up on implementation a few weeks later – possibly running more than one loop in the process.
A growing requirement - Energy in Process
“Real cargo aviation specialists are hard to come by in the consulting world. The larger, well-known consulting firms tend to focus mainly on the financial and digital sectors, and yet have an increasing number of aviation requests. Though they might have the odd aviation responsible in-house, those employees have a general understanding of the industry, but not necessarily in the same detail and background that specialists like myself and my partners at Energy in Process have, having all worked within the industry in our relevant fields for a significant period of time.” Wyatt has an ongoing contract with one of these larger, traditional consulting firms, and acts as their go-to aviation specialist in relevant projects.
Aware of this growing niche, Wyatt and a network of similar aviation consultants have recently banded together to create the aviation consulting platform “Energy in Process”. “If you’re working on a project, you can never be in a position where you can offer everything yourself. We have consultants with a wide range of experience, and we collaborate on certain projects to provide a complete package to the client. For example, I’m very experienced in cargo & aircraft handling, my partner, Franz van Hessen’s expertise is cargo process improvement, another specializes in transformation, and so on. Ultimately our objective is to create ‘the’ industry consulting platform.”
“In-depth aviation knowledge, and an unbiased company implant”
Asked about the USP of contracting a consultant to the company to tackle a specific problem, Wyatt points out “attitude and expertise” are the main reasons clients choose to work with him. The projects are very varied – sometimes the simplest solutions can lead to excellent results and efficiencies – and unbiased input from the outside which offers constructive support rather than criticizing current structures, is a quicker, more effective approach than trying to solve problems inhouse. In his experience, while company employees have excellent, creative ideas, they often fall victim to tunnel vision, internal rejection due to politics or historical reasons, and find it more difficult to think beyond their own airline and responsibilities. He urges companies to see the global cargo industry as a whole, and that each player is responsible for the network, not just its own operations.
Change Management starts at the top
“Sell the benefits of change, if you want people to adapt!” Corrective actions are very often linked with change management and necessary training. Change has to come from the top, and managers need to live and promote new processes and change. For this reason, too, Wyatt finds management training to be most effective when it is carried out in a classroom as opposed to online – since the dynamics face to face are best for promoting the right attitude, compliance and responsibility. Peers can discuss each other’s problems and approaches to dealing with change in their respective teams. “The biggest challenge is the ability to change. Change management in cargo is more difficult than in other sectors.” Why? Because many cargo processes have remained stagnant for decades, and often cargo staff have been in their job for a number of years, although he recognizes that a significant amount of work is being done at present with digital transformation.
The cargo industry is becoming disrupted and existing processes need to be questioned.
Are they still relevant?
Can they be done more efficiently?
Are new regulations driving operational change?
The benefit of inviting an external player with experience along the entire air cargo logistics chain, an in-depth understanding of your company’s part in it, and with an excellent network of aviation authority contacts, speaks for itself.
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