The cargo employee of the future is as much an IT specialist as a logistician, ground handling agent Cargogate’s Managing Director, Claudia Weidenbusch, argues in this guest contribution.
The freight business is becoming more and more demanding, and it continues to evolve. This requires competent staff members, she knows from experience.
Munich Airport subsidiary Cargogate is the largest ground handling agent at the Bavarian Airport, accounting for 25% of the total throughput of 332,000 tons processed there in 2019, consisting of 55% exports, 40% imports, and 5% transits. However, since 02/2020, volumes went drastically south.
I believe in air cargo. I really do. Despite the decline of air traffic due to Covid-19 and the resulting downturn of freight volumes and tonnage during the last 4 months, I see a future for air
cargo as one of the most important areas in the transport business.
Cargogate has been hit hard during the past months. As we are only operating stationary at Munich Airport, which is traditionally driven by belly cargo, we could have chosen the easy way and shut down the whole operation during this crisis. Instead, we decided to continue to maintain the operational infrastructure for cargo warehouse handling in Munich, in spite of all economic challenges.
At of the beginning of the lockdown our tonnage declined by almost 80%.
Great team spirit helped to master the challenges
We were very conscious of our role in the fight against Covid-19. That is why we took on the challenge of supporting the handling of full charters and ghost flights with the much-needed medical disposables and personal protection equipment. We made sure to react on short notice and even fulfilled our customers’ special requirements during this situation.
We are incredibly grateful to our amazing team for showing so much flexibility. That is the main reason why securing jobs for our staff is our highest priority. However, due to the fact that almost all of our customer airlines stopped their flights to Munich, we were forced to drastically reduce our opening hours and adapt to the needs of our customers. We decided very early on to make use of the government´s offer to non-bureaucratically acquire “Kurzarbeitergeld” (short-time allowance). Thus, we were able to avoid laying off highly qualified employees who we will definitely need after the crisis.
Keeping people aboard
Since 2019 already showed a drastic reduction in air cargo volume, Cargogate took the time to slim-line its cost structure, reaching a healthy scope long before it started into the crisis. That is why we are very sure that we won´t have to dismiss our current staff.
The air cargo industry all over Germany is currently concentrating on delivering cargo by truck to airports with full freighter connections. That is a fine solution in the short term, but in the long term this will not be a successful model. After the end of the current shutdown, the already congested roads will not be able to cope with more cargo traffic. Alternatives urgently need to be found to maintain the supply chains by air and rail.
There is a need for change in mindset
The world surely will not have the same amount and variety of passenger flights as we had before the crisis. Passenger-focused hubs and spokes will be reduced or terminated completely. Yet, in this intermeshed world, these flights also will be used to transport cargo. These reduced belly capacities will have to be compensated by full freighter flights in the future. It is a gap that cannot be filled by B747 or B777 freighters exclusively. To operate and serve the short and middle-haul routes, smaller aircraft will be needed. The entire supply chain will need to rethink and adapt itself to these changes.
The solution will not be to start with a destructive competition by dumping the rates. It is more important to put efforts in quality campaigns, to create an awareness of this quality and the value of our services and actors.
Targeting a paperless environment
We have a saying in our company. “Look forward, because the past is done.” That is why we try to think ahead and want to be ready for what the future brings. We need to drive the digitalization with all the parties on the worldwide “cargo campus” to stay connected with our customers and partners. Sharing information digitally instead of data capturing in every station helps to create a paperless working environment.
We need to drive digitalization to ensure the continuous training of staff, while adapting to the ever changing trends that are now leading us to a more digitized work environment, thus enhancing the future image of the air cargo handling industry. It is with that mindset that Cargogate is exploring options on how to integrate augmented and virtual reality in cargo handling processes. We clearly see that the cargo employee of the future is as much an IT specialist as a logistician.
The industry must believe in its future and not degrade itself. We are making sure that we will be ready for this future.
We thank Claudia Weidenbusch for her contribution, illustrating the ground handling processes and challenges in Covid-19 times from Cargogate’s angle. HS
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