The digitization of air cargo processes has been painstakingly slow, compared to the passenger side of the aviation industry. Yet, the pandemic has allowed for it to speed up. Air Cargo Europe 2021’s debate “Is the digital twin the new beauty of the skies? How digitization can be beneficial for the air cargo industry,” focused on the progress and pitfalls.
Participants in this session, moderated by STAT Media Group’s Editor Reji John, were Turhan Özen, Chief Cargo Officer, Turkish Airlines; Dirk Goovaerts, CEO, Asia Pacific, dnata; Suraj Nair,
Founder, Speedcargo Technologies; Pramod Rao, CEO, Nexshore; Moritz Claussen, Co-Founder and MD, cargo.one; and Luca Graf, Head of Digital Innovation, DSV.
In other words, three ‘active’ participants in air cargo processes (airline, handler, forwarder), and three ‘supporting’ ones (Artificial Intelligence & Robotics with Speedcargo, communication through Application Programming Interface (API) with Nexshore, and booking with cargo.one.
They all agreed on the fact that the air cargo industry has been slow to implement digitization due to the fragmentation of the industry. On the other hand, the impact of the pandemic has forced the same industry to speed the process up.
Digitization is one of the pillars on which Turkish Airlines Cargo is building its strategy to become one of the top 3 airlines in the world, said Mr. Özen. The company is currently moving into its state-of-the art warehouse on Istanbul’s brand-new airport.
He demonstrated that digitization is a kaleidoscopic concept, for it is not only in this warehouse that the newest technology will prevail. On the low-value side of the process, pricing and quotations, the company has implemented four software robots named Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. This has freed the ‘physical’ staff to focus more on the higher-value side of the business.
Technology allows companies to analyze their operations, enables resources planning and the production of models to enhance the process, and identifies obstacles and peaks, said Mr. Goovaerts. The physical cargo is certainly not overlooked as dnata uses drones for dimension measuring in the US.
Luca Graf remarked that, since so many different stakeholders are involved, everybody has to do their homework in setting up the digital supply chain. He admitted that, given the expensive technology involved, this may be more difficult for smaller players in an environment with low margins.
He was countered by Pramod Rao, who argued that cloud computing is a way to solve this problem. “After training and understanding, people can handle it,” he said.
“The SaaS model allows you to plug in and connect.” According to Mr. Rao, “it allows you to connect to the Internet of Logistics, eventually putting the client, the shipper, into the driver’s seat.”
Creating standards in this fragmented industry is the right way forward, said Mr. Claussen, yet one should not hide behind them. “After 1.5 years of Covid-19, we have seen what can be done. Implementing progress is the key, but each party in the digital supply chain must take incremental steps. Share your APIs so that the other parties can take from it while developing their own.”
It was Surai Najir who elaborated on the theme of the debate, Digital Twin. The concept, creating a digital clone of the operations, has been around for a while in the automotive industry and in nuclear surroundings.
“It is the new buzz word referring to complex and expensive technology. It is a combination of Big Data, AI, and robotics.” Mr. Nair, too, gave the advice of integrating physical cargo, of which as much information as possible is to be given.
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