The air freight industry is not known for being particularly stingy with calls and appeals to improve processes in the short and also long term. “We ought to take action now,” is just one, perhaps the most common, of many incantations that can be heard constantly and repeatedly from panelists at conventions or trade shows. At some point, however, these invocations create an attrition effect, because in principle they say that little or nothing has been done to decisively advance the industry. Otherwise, they would have disappeared into oblivion long ago.
Last week, TIACA has launched a new call, with hopefully more sustainable results compared to the sad fate many precursors have suffered in the past. TIACA's new initiative is obviously inspired by soccer and its motto: “united we stand, divided we fall.”
Simultaneously, the IATA interest group Cargo iQ presented a Master Operating Plan aimed at improving audit and reporting to enhance the data quality in air freight transports.
Two different initiatives with similar goals: this raises the question whether a joint and coordinated approach wouldn’t be more useful in order to provide the industry with a guideline for improving processes. After all, a polyphonic choir has never produced good tunes as history shows.
It will be interesting to see if and how both organizations will respond to the above.
Back to TIACA; the starting point of the organization’s latest appeal is the experience made since the outbreak of the corona virus a year ago which resulted in incredible logistical efforts by the industry to keep supply chains running. (By the way, this is also what CargoiQ refers to in their advance). Despite the grave capacity scarcity, there was a constant flow of medical goods, hygiene items, and, more recently, vaccines to contain the virus, to all places requiring them.
This collaborative approach is a very encouraging sign, states Glyn Hughes, TIACA Director General: “The industry has demonstrated over the last 12 months, how effective it can be when all the supply chain partners unite around a common objective: supporting the global community through the Covid pandemic. Our industry came together initially by transporting PPE and other life essentials and then mobilized to provide the only effective transport mode to support global vaccine distribution.” This positive experience is something to build on, he stresses. But this needs a coordinator to set the direction and define the priorities: TIACA.
Five key topics stand on TIACA’s priority list
This claim to leadership is made clear by his appeal: “TIACA has identified key industry priorities that will need to be embraced by the entire supply chain in order to modernize and continue to provide enhanced solutions addressing shipper and other customer demands.”
On closer examination, the priorities or challenges as Mr. Hughes says, have the character of commandments, calling for immediate action.
TIACA speaks of five priorities: digitalization, sustainability, safety + security, liberalization of trade policies, partnerships + collaboration.
These key topics are not really new on the agenda, but when coordinated, bundled, and implemented in a targeted manner on a global scale, represent an extremely demanding working program for the next decade.
Unfortunately, TIACA does not say in its action appeal how the implementation of the aforementioned five priorities will take place in detail, whether through projects, best demonstrated practices, or on the basis of the chaos theory by which the best solution prevails in the end.
Many open issues still need clarification
The time frame for implementation also remains unclear, along with which interim goals are targeted until when. Clarifying these open issues as soon as possible would be desirable, giving the reform project additional momentum coupled with broader participation.
One thing is clear: TIACA has launched a wake-up call that is likely to reverberate. But, in case other industry associations don’t jump on the bandwagon, the coordinated implementation of the specified goals is likely to fail: TIACA chief Steven Polmans also sees it that way. He categorically rules out his association going it alone. The manager, a soccer enthusiast himself (“united we stand…”), is counting on close cooperation with other industry associations to take air freight to the next level, as indicated through the 5 priorities. Sounds like a lot of work ahead for his organization in the near future.
We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender name is authentic.