The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, based in Dortmund, Germany, has started a scientific program aimed at increasing the efficiency and performance of the air cargo transport chain by developing cross-industry digital solutions and communication channels based on common standards. The Federal Government is providing 7 million euros to finance the project.
The names of the participants read like an excerpt from the Who's Who of the German air freight and logistics industry. They include Lufthansa Cargo, DB Schenker, and Sovereign Speed GmbH, along
with ground handling agents CHI Deutschland and LUG aircargo handling. Furthermore, the country’s four leading freight airports have stepped in: Frankfurt, Leipzig, Cologne, and Munich.
Their mutual aim, supported by the German Government, is to shape a neutral, nationwide framework that bundles air cargo-specific research activities into identifying digitalization solutions in the various process stages, and making them available as open source for the wider cargo and logistics industry, thus benefitting everyone.
The goal is to increase the efficiency and performance of the actors within the air cargo transport chain, by exchanging electronic information between all players involved, thus speeding up processes, upping quality levels, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The project is scheduled to run for 3 years. During this time, integrating and overarching “lighthouse solutions” will be developed and demonstrated in six subprojects under the scientific leadership of Fraunhofer IML and Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. The combination of different participants covering the entire air freight industry and supply chain, provides a solid data basis to develop digitization solutions across different locations, and foster a nationwide application of the findings.
“We want to make air freight more digital and efficient. This will only happen if existing capacities are better utilized, and processes are optimized,” Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer exclaimed at the research kick-off. It is the first time that the so far atomized German cargo industry is bundling forces to develop common digital solutions.
We spoke with Hendrik Bender (HB), Head of Group Business Development & Marketing at Sovereign Speed, about what motivated his company to become part of the project:
HB: In line with our company slogan “Ahead of Time”, we always try to be at or ahead of the pulse of time and to set standards. With our pan-European overnight road network and our air freight transshipment warehouses in Frankfurt, Cologne, and Hamburg, we bring the perfect operational test facilities and experience to the digital air cargo test field and the respective projects to the consortium.
CFG: What benefits do you expect from your participation?
HB: The consortium unites cross-competitive stakeholders reflecting the entire supply chain. This creates a unique opportunity to tackle projects across companies and processes in order to achieve the best possible effects for all players belonging to the German air freight industry, and to further strengthen Germany’s leading European role as an air freight location. At the end of the day, this benefits us as well.
CFG: According to which criteria were the participants selected, and did they have to qualify beforehand?
HB: Headed by the Fraunhofer Institute, the consortium applied by presenting a comprehensive project description to the Ministry. In addition, each partner had to submit its own elucidation for joining a sub project, which then was put under the microscope by the Ministry and, in the case of Sovereign Speed, finally approved. The different partners knew each other well beforehand because they are often engaged in bilateral projects. The data obtained this way are incorporated into the new lighthouse solution scheme. Hence, we are all not starting from scratch.
CFG: Which “sub-projects” has Sovereign Speed joined?
HB: We are engaging in 4 out of 6 projects. These fields reflect areas of our operational activity, enabling us to contribute knowhow, practical expertise, and setup. These are:
- Data Hub & Digital Avatar
- Smart Pouch and IoT
- Autonomous outdoor cargo transportation
- Autonomous air cargo warehouse handling.
The funding provided by the Transport Ministry covers expenses for research, material, personnel costs, and other spending over a period of 3 years.
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