Lufthansa Cargo VP Ground Handling Frankfurt, Dr. Mohammad Ali Seiraffi, will move to Japan in May, becoming the carrier’s new Senior Director of Cargo Sales and Handling based in Tokyo. He spent 10 years as Head of the Lufthansa Cargo Center (LCC) at Rhine-Main Airport. During his tenure, he did not reinvent the handling business, but fundamentally restructured it from manual handling to computer-based production.
We met him in his office at Frankfurt’s CargoCity North during one of his final Frankfurt working days, to talk about his achievements.
The removal boxes are not yet out in the corridors or piled up in different rooms within the Lufthansa Cargo Center (LCC) at Frankfurt Airport. Yet, that is only a matter of days. This all the more since Mr. Seiraffi’s successor, Thomas Rohrmeier, is already present. “We are intensively exchanging ideas, because it should be a smooth transition, without any hiccups or dysfunctions,” says incumbent Mohammad Seiraffi.
During our conversation, the manager frequently uses two specific adjectives: “dynamic and flexible”. This is because all processes that are not dynamic or flexible tend to become static at some point, which translates into stagnation in the long run. And that is the last thing a ground handling agent needs since, in this business, constant change and volatility are the name of the game. So, to stay ahead of the pack in delivering high quality handling, it is imperative to be able to react quickly and professionally to process disruptions as a result of strikes, flight cancellations, weather situations, or even a pandemic. This also applies to new developments requiring seamless integration into existing systems and handling procedures.
Innovation vs routine
But how does this translate into everyday operations and existing workflows? The main challenge was the dialogue with the handling partner and staff listed on the payroll of Lufthansa Cargo’s handling unit in Frankfurt, to make them understand that innovative operational procedures are beneficial, despite initially appearing demanding, disrupting routines and intellectual conformity, Mr. Seiraffi explains. “I have become known among employees for simply asking why a task is done this way, and whether it could be done differently. Just a question enabling me to better understand workflows, and not meant as reproach.” This is – in a nutshell – his formula for success.
Seeing processes through the eyes of the customer
Since then, answers like “...because we've always done it that way,” have all disappeared from the staff’s standard responses. Instead, many of them started changing their perception and viewing processes from the customer's perspective and not from the habitual procedures practiced over years within the Lufthansa Cargo orbit. This mind-shift of the staff, now fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, is probably Mohammad Seiraffi's greatest success since he became responsible for Lufthansa Cargo’s handling business in Frankfurt.
The fact that most of the handling personnel now strongly reflect on their own activities and perform tasks without a supervisor standing by, has another positive effect: “Thanks to the cooperative and autonomous working style in an innovative area of continuous change, Lufthansa Cargo Center in Frankfurt become a carrier booster within our organization,” lauds Mr. Seiraffi.
Above all, the following is a conceptual illustration of what he means when emphasizing the value of a dynamic approach. Under his leadership and in close coordination with the airline's Executive Board and external experts, a new program was launched: “LCCevo”. The acronym stands for evolution, i.e., something that will never be finished, but allows new processes and solutions to be integrated quickly and dynamically.
The LCCevo will be built in a modular design and during ongoing operations. The aim is to bundle processes more closely by concentrating activities in two buildings instead of the current fragmented infrastructure. This avoids unnecessary driving and loss of time. Through digitization and automation - where possible and necessary - handling is to be transferred into a clocked production process. “Today, we move shipments weighing as much as the American Statue of Liberty, every 1.5 hours. And every 5.5 days, our forklifts, lorries, cargo dollies, and vehicles statistically travel around 40,000 km; theoretically, this is once around the earth. We see considerably more potential for innovation and savings there.”
High job identification
System partners are airport operator, Fraport, and logistics provider, Fiege. Fiege is actively integrated into the handling process of Lufthansa Cargo, and manages a workforce of around 800 employees. “I know, from many discussions, that job satisfaction is higher than before among our own employees, but also among our colleagues from Fiege,” says Mr. Seiraffi. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that the hierarchies are very flat, and people can work in a very self-determined manner, receiving constructive feedback when they have suggestions or raise questions.
So far, in addition to the job and the earnings, the work culture has been decisive in determining whether employees identify with their company and employment. Things even get an extra kick “when our colleagues focus first and foremost on customer concerns,” advises Dr. Mohammad Ali Seiraffi.
We welcome and publish comments from all authenticated users