Athens, the birthplace of democracy, was also a hotbed of networking and discussion last week: four conferences converged at the city’s Grand Hyatt for a three-day mix of information and informalities. CargoForwarder Global attended the ACHL Conference 05-07SEP22, and came back with these impressions.
More than 460 attendees turned up to discuss, present, and showcase in Athens, at one or more of the four concurrent conferences. The Air Cargo Handling and Logistics (ACHL) took place next door
to ULD Care (for the first time), the Airfreight Pharma/Cool Chain event, and the ASA Leadership forum. Split on different levels of the hotel, the participants gathered in the exhibition hall
during refreshments breaks and lunch, and had the opportunity to talk to company representatives from a broad spectrum of 33 exhibitors: a mix of ground handlers, ground equipment producers,
packaging solution providers, airlines, airports, ULD operators and manufacturers, SaaS providers, and training and change management specialists.
Under the umbrella title of “innovation showcase”, a marathon series of ten fifteen-minute presentation sessions began; each gentleman strictly monitored for time from the admin desk just in front of the stage. Moderator Chris Notter’s humorous introduction to the day’s agenda and the promise of a “plethora of skilled and entertaining members”, emphasized that “innovation is crucial to success,” and asked, “what are we doing to protect our tomorrows?” First to kick-off was Philipp Maier from Wipro Talent & Change with an energetic and colorful presentation on “the importance of change management” – “it’s all about the people!” - a theme that went well with the final presentation on that day: Stuart Maddocks from Calibrate, took the audience through the idea and importance of Cognitive Diversity, motivating the audience to do what his presentation title conveyed: “encourage and leverage your differences, the fastest way to protect your business and ensure continuity and sustainability.”
In between, was an interesting and in part impressive show of how various companies have innovated and developed digital solutions for greater process efficiency, security, and monitoring. Buzzwords such as KPIs, digital twins, visibility, transparency, cost-efficiency, robotics, automation, IoT, were heard. My personal favorite was the Reinier Danckaarts, VP Product Development at Kuehne+Nagel’s presentation on the development of a low-cost, talking smart label for piece-level monitoring, triggered by the realization that “our present status of visibility sucks!” The conditions for the result were that it “has to work and be cheap.” That, along with including people into the solution, were the main winning themes. Dirk Goovaerts, Head of Middle East & Africa/Global Cargo Chair, Swissport, summarized the importance and reason for innovation; that it “is not just about systems, but also how to stay relevant for future employees.” Regarding relevance for future employees, Ari Ketola from The Airport College demonstrated the latest in Virtual Reality training, and talked of gamification in training: “Gaming is in planning together with ULD Care for a Forklift Driver game, since forklifts are the number one cause of unnecessary ULD damage,” he revealed.
Panels and high-decibel networking
Day Two featured five panel sessions around topics such as “The new world of logistics – we must adapt to remain relevant”, “How digitization must accelerate the end-to-end process”, and “The role of airports in future data and logistics corridors”. Main takeaways here were: “data, data, data – who owns it, how useful is it?” (Stephen Dawkins, CEO of Air Logistics Group), “We are in a supply chain and need to collectively work together - we are all working in silos. We are so dependent on weakest link that we need to collaboratively work” (Vito Cerone, Senior Vice President International at Cargojet), and “I want data. It is important to me. I don’t get it [from GSAs/airlines]. I could do a lot more with it if I got it. Everyone is trying to make money out of their product. Why don’t we make it free? We had the same discussion in 2006, and we may have this in another 10 years. We are not changing the footprint. CargoIQ brings so much value with so much data, but this is not being used in the best way”, (John Batten, Executive Vice President Cargo – EMEAA, Worldwide Flight Services). Vitaly Smilianets, Founder & CEO of Awery Aviation Software summarized: “Commercial change process is more the challenge than the digital process. Mindset not technology will force the change.”
The Day Two panels were of varying success, depending on the amount of room for discussion that was given to the panelists. The group atmosphere livened up no end at the informal networking dinner which took place at Bolivar Beach, with much animated conversation and laughter amidst not only loud music, but a few very loud shirts, too.
Attract, retain, and sustain
Day Three’s panel discussions were not only the most interesting of the event, but also the most diverse. A shame that these were put to the final day since many attendees had already begun making their way home at this point. The discussions were focused on recruiting and training, and sustainability. The messages included adapting to the changing expectations of new talent, being clear and honest in job descriptions, creating training that can be transferred to other parts of the industry or even to other industries, seeking new methods of training that reflect how we best understand and retain information, and encouraging mentoring. At the end of the day “add value for employees!” (Teresa Wojtanke, Head of Operations Support and Innovation at dnata) was the theme, along with buzzwords such as clarity and authenticity. On the sustainability front, there was agreement that TIACA’s sustainability methodology and guideline was helpful, and the desire was stated for everyone to share their measures so as not to reinvent the wheel, and to move forward together as an industry.
Executive review of conference goals
In a candid review of the conference, Moderator Des Vertannes invited four panelists to the stage to prepare the ground for discussion as to which topics should feature at the ACHL in SEP23 (date to be announced). The basic objectives were to ensure that more global logistics executives and a few more airlines would be encouraged to attend, that there would also be a female moderator in the line-up, and that more young talents should be motivated to attend. Tim Strauss, CEO of Amerijet International underlined that digitalization was crucial in ensuring air cargo is successful in recruitment, in getting a say in the airport set-up, and in encouraging the next generation to apply: “Digitalization is most important – you cannot attract young employees if you’re not digital. A 100% cloud-based system is needed for attraction and business to thrive.” With that, the focus topics of Young Talent and Digitalization were noted for the ACHL 2023.
*Title taken from William Shakespeare’s A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream: “And thence from Athens turn away our eyes, to seek new friends and stranger companies.”
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