Even if digitization has not yet trickled down into every cog of the air cargo clockwork to turn it into a well-oiled machine, the success stories presented and shared at the TIACA Amsterdam Symposium raised hopes. The succession of various crises has given digitization a big boost, Ed Gillett (EG) of Chartersync said. We spoke to the manager on the sidelines of the TIACA Regional meeting.
EG: Covid-19 has pushed the companies over the tipping point, stated Ed Gillett, Director of 100% cloud-based Chartersync, a booking system for air cargo charter capacity.
CFG: You spoke about this crisis, the pandemic. At a DB Schenker Colloquium in Berlin, it was said that digitization was pushed forward by Covid-19, the supply chain hiccups, and the Russian-Ukrainian war, and the hiccups in ocean transport. Would you agree?
EG: There are so many different supply chains and so many different variables in the supply chain. Within the supply chain, everybody has to be involved. Even if you digitize only one part, this is going to take time. There is so much volatility in shipping and in scheduled air freight, and some great initiatives are being taken, but it will definitely take time.
CFG: Is digitization mainly driven by external events, like crisis situations?
EG: If you look at the blockade of the Suez Canal, causing ships to get stuck, which had an effect on other ships, some shippers went for the air option. But the lack of visibility, not knowing where the shipments were, certainly had an effect on the demand for more digitization.
Covid has put the spotlight on aviation, as it was the only option, but the spotlight was also on all the inefficiencies.
From top to bottom
CFG: In digitization will the big players take the lead, to the detriment of the middle-sized and smaller players? The latter could be pushed out of business if they don’t follow suit.
EG: I definitely agree, whilst there are also advantages. We are a small company, so we are very agile, and we can react to changes more quickly. If you look at the forwarders: if the smaller ones don’t follow suit, they will be left behind. But even if they do not want to invest themselves, there will be other companies that will help them. They will have to decide and be open to change. There are too many warning signs. It has to come from the top down, starting with the senior management, convincing their team to open their eyes.
CFG: A lot is being said about the circular economy, covering everything from A to Z, from production to consumption. How does this relate to digitization? EG: In a circular economy everybody has to work more closely together. People who are not willing to do this will, again, be left behind. They may have issues regarding security, etc., but once they have been exposed to more to these systems, confidence will grow.
But who is in the lead: the Kuehne & Nagels and DB Schenkers?
EG: I think the key forwarders are going to take the lead. You can see that the forwarders are really catching up.
CFG: Could smaller forwarders collaborate digitally with handlers and airlines to create a sort of alternative integrator?
EG: I think the challenge would be to set up a bespoke system, that would encourage others to work with them. Unfortunately, we are in an industry in which you need to be neutral.
CFG: In your opinion, what is the reason for the eAWB to take off so slowly?
EG: People do not want to change their habits if there is no pressure. Maybe IATA could do something there.
CFG: Thank you Ed, for sharing the information.
Passenger and cargo worlds are to merge
Bart Jan Haasbeek and David Linford of CHAMP Cargosystems predicted a future in which the world of travel and cargo will be merging, especially as airports carry a lot of data. Data fusion is on the horizon, also with other modes.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) could be the right technology to capture paper AWB data on the computer so long as the eAWB has not been fully implemented throughout the chain.
The benefits of an operational Cargo Community System (CCS) were demonstrated by Nallian’s Sara Van Gelder. She warned against reinventing the wheel and insisted that, in a digital vision, people and culture should come before technology and processes. The set-up of a CCS should be led by example with a guiding coalition, she said.
Marcel Schoeters in Amsterdam
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