And yet they are the ones carrying air cargo and the aviation world into the 21st century. At CargoFacts EMEA 2022 in Dubai, two panels in particular, discussed digitalization and demonstrated the clear gains that automation and digitalization bring. Three areas were explored: autonomous flights, digital aircraft checks, and air cargo booking platforms.
Speaking on the “What’s new in airfreight technology and innovation” panel, Aleksey Matyushev, CEO and Co-Founder of Natilus pointed out that the first aircraft autopilot flight system
was developed in 1912 [Sperry Corporation]: “We’ve had the technology for 100 years, and flights today are 99% autonomous – someone pushed a button,” yet still there is public skepticism
when it comes to pilot-less aviation. Unfounded skepticism, since “humans have inherent limitations when it comes to flying [cognitive limitations in perception, attention, memory and
decision making, for example], which often play a role in accidents.” In fact, most accidents are caused by inadvertent errors made by flight crew, “Safety in manual aviation is
challenging,” he maintains. Hence, both Natilus and Xwing are looking to improve efficiencies through pilot-less transportation.
Let the others go first!
“The cargo sector just came on board in the last year,” Arun Chhabra, CEO of 8tree, said, with reference to the reception of his company’s 3D Inspection Tools. “Everyone wants to avail of technology, but they don’t want to be customer number one. Our products don’t fly but are used to make sure that aircraft of every type are airworthy and ready to fly.” They are capable of digitally assessing damage to an aircraft. “For the last 7-8 decades, this has been done manually,” he explained, 8tree’s technology is simple and easy to use at the push of a button. “The new technology can result in a 90% time saving and complete elimination of human subjectivity,” he offered, and encouraged the audience to follow Jason Pontin’s advice of “Don’t bend to technology. Make technology bend to you.”
Dare to go digital
Over in the final panel “The future of air cargo capacity sales and distribution: is a paradigm shift on the horizon?,” Moritz Claussen, Co-Founder and Managing Director of cargo.one, was blunt in his description of those companies slower on the update of digitalization: “There is a common misconception that digital and technology projects will be a shitshow – they don’t need to be.” The explosion in ebookings during the pandemic, points more towards a star-studded show than a less savory one. Zvi Schreiber, CEO of Freightos, asserted: “The industry is moving faster than we expected,” speaking of 100x growth during the pandemic years. “The digitalization of air cargo bookings has great momentum now. This is no longer the slow, conservative industry that it was over 2 years ago.”
Ever more development
The sales platform companies and cargo management system providers are constantly evolving, with press releases pointed to new API solutions, product suites, and the like. Zvi Schreiber said that “more than 50% of airline bookings are happening fully digital now, in some cases,” going on to point out that WebCargo now included 40% of the world’s air cargo capacities, and upon hearing cargo.one’s latest Auto-AWB solution, announced that WebCargo was already offering this since quite a while. There are healthy discussion amongst all pandel members, and the consensus was that the “Paradigm shift is already here,” and advising especially those companies still slow on the digital uptake, that “Airlines with modern tech can adopt much more quickly,” he said, whilst Ajith Pancily, Head of Cargo and Logistics at IBS, clarified: “One point often underplayed is how businesses are adapting to these initiatives. When it comes to ebooking, look at whether you need call center staff to service these ebookings, and whether you still need the same processes.” He continued, advising companies to check back every so often to see if they are “Still relevant in the digital path” and measuring their success of integration - right metrics. “KPIs should be drawn up to see if digitalization is creating value for you” he stated. “People still stick to the old way of doing things,” was his final caution.
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