evoBOT® at Munich Airport - image: Frauenhofer FML
evoBOT® is Munich Airport’s latest cargo employee
He is all legs, arms, and speedy motivation. Strong, mentally and physically balanced, and unlikely to fall ill or take a day off. The perfect cargo employee. And one that has been developed by the by the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML. “With its two wheels and gripper arms, the robot – which keeps itself perfectly balanced – mastered a first practical test in the cargo terminal and on the apron of Munich Airport,” a recent press release states, delivering a fun video, showing evoBOT® in action: engineering perfection – complete with a happy face, albeit on the back of his “head”. He shows off, flailing his arms, flexing his muscles, and demonstrating his versatility in carrying not only heavier boxes, but also metal drums, autonomously across the airfield or in the warehouse. A perfect solution in the making for the ever-growing problem of the shortage of skilled workers. Developed as past of the Digital Testbed Air Cargo (DTAC), funded by Germany, the evoBOT® can carry up to 100kg at a speed of up to 60km/h, can lift, transport, fetch items, and even assist in loading/unloading an aircraft. It is just as good a solo employee as it is a team player, and has a very low carbon footprint, on top of it all.
Jost Lammers, Chief Executive Officer of Munich Airport, stated: “The development and expansion of the cargo and logistics sector are essential components of our corporate strategy. We welcome every initiative to optimize and digitalize handling processes. The evoBOT will facilitate the day-to-day work of our employees in the cargo area and make the workplace more attractive.”
Professor Michael Hompel, Managing Director of Fraunhofer IML, announced: “Our evoBOT is the beginning of a new population of autonomous vehicles and robots. With its arms and the fact that it moves on two wheels, it represents a step on the path to the humanoid future of robotics. The practical test carried out at Munich Airport impressively underpins the potential of this development. The evoBOT can work as a fellow colleague in a wide range of applications.”
Claudia Weidenbusch, Managing Director of Cargogate Munich Airport, added: “Against the backdrop of rising air freight figures and the challenges of recruiting employees, we are very pleased to be able to take a look into the future with Fraunhofer IML. Into the very near future at that.”
Silk Way West Airlines buys Flight Simulator
Flight safety is founded on correct and up-to-date training, and pilots must undergo regular simulator training to be prepared for all eventualities. If you are dependent on flight simulators in other locations or companies, this can be a difficult and costly task to plan training slots. Azerbaijani cargo airline, Silk Way West Airlines will not have that problem from next year onwards, as it recently opted to purchase a new Boeing 777-F with 777-200LR Interchange Full Flight Simulator (FFS) from the established, global aerospace and defense industry technology provider, L3Harris Technologies. “The FFS will provide a best-in-class training experience at the Flight Training Center in Azerbaijan National Aviation Academy,” the release boasts, going on to explain: “The Boeing 777-F Reality7e FFS will include a Boeing 777-200LR interchange to enable Silk Way West Airlines to offer training for its cargo operations, as well as the option to allocate excess training time to other B777-F and 777-200LR operators". It will be delivered, installed and operational, ready for training by SEP24, enabling Silk Way West Airlines’ flight crew, both qualified and trainee pilots, to keep abreast of the latest aviation developments and flying scenarios.
Mirsamed Movsumzade, CFO of Silk Way Group, commented: “We are pleased to sign this agreement that will give us an invaluable advantage in optimizing our crew cost. Moreover, having this simulator located in Baku brings more flexibility and convenience in planning of crew training. This is an excellent way to maximize our efficiency”.
Global Crossing Airlines is building an A321F fleet
“Subject to all FAA and DOT approvals, GlobalX will add the 321 Freighter (321F) in late 2022 to commence ACMI Cargo operations. GlobalX cargo aircraft will be certified to carry Hazmat, temperature sensitive cargo and medicine,” is still listed on Global Crossing Airlines’ – or GlobalX, for short – website. Fact is, the Miami-based passenger ACMI and charter operator has since embarked on its journey of adding ACMI cargo services to its product portfolio this year. Under the cargo tab on its site, it announces: “In 2023, GlobalX will enter ACMI, on-demand, e-commerce, long term-track program & automotive cargo charter service, flying the A321 freighter. The first Airbus A321F cargo charter revenue flight was 16FEB23. The second A321F flight flew auto parts for assembly 21FEB23.”
GlobalX recently took delivery of its second A321 freighter, adding it to the GlobalX Operating Certificate on 16JUN23. (At the same time, the airline signed a lease for an 11th A320 passenger aircraft.) Its freighter fleet of two A321F is set to triple before the end of this year. This second aircraft was converted under the Precision STC and leased from Greenwich Highland Aviation and is planned to serve GlobalX clients operating out of Miami into Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ed Wegel, Chair and CEO of GlobalX, communicated: “We are very pleased to start operating our second A321 freighter. Our first freighter has been operating 6 days per week with a 99.5% dispatch reliability, and our customers are seeing first-hand the economics and operating performance of the A321 freighter, which make it the best-in-class narrowbody cargo aircraft. We expect to make an announcement soon for two additional A321 freighters, scheduled to be delivered this year in Q3, along with two more freighters scheduled for delivery in Q4. We have also signed the lease for our 11th passenger aircraft, and we expect delivery of this ex-Alaska aircraft, a sister ship to 4 of our current aircraft with installed Wi-Fi, in late July.”
Hazgo letting go of paper with Nallian’s digital checklist
Every step towards reducing the amount of paper in logistics, is a step towards faster, less error-prone, and higher quality customer service, not to mention environmental benefits of not requiring all the paper, printing, pens, logistics, weight, etc. involved in keeping paper checklists going. Dangerous Goods (DGR) and Pharma specialized international logistics service provider, Hazgo, has opted to a digital solution for those precise reasons: increased efficiency, quality and compliance. It has opted for Nallian’s digital checklist solution, Check-it, for its DGR and pharmaceuticals shipment processes. Not only is the checklist itself fully digitized, but the solution also automatically sends notifications and enables status monitoring, reports, and analytics. All this greatly reduces the manhours normally involved in administration and invoicing, and consequently increases the quality of its customer service; reasons that Gregory Moriau, General Manager Hazgo, underlined, adding: “One of the reasons we selected Check-it, is the flexibility of the system. You can easily configure it to the specific requirements of your organization and customers. This allows us to use one single application for a wide range of checks, such as DG, pharma, dry ice, but also for the inspection of our pool of vehicles. And to configure the checklists and reports in view of the different customers we serve."
Peter Van Boxtel, Account Manager Hazgo, illustrated: “Previously, using paper checklists, I spent hours per week scanning paperwork and sending emails. Customers received documents in an unstructured way, making it hard to know what information belonged to which shipment. Now they automatically receive notifications with status information and reports per shipment. They can also consult their shipment status in the platform. Actions are registered in real-time with timestamps, which gives a clear view of where we are in the flow, what has been done, which corrective measures need to be taken. It helps us to ensure the continuity of the flow. We can also analyze typical hurdles in the process and train or inform our staff accordingly. Insights in performance also [teaches] us where we are growing, and what the trends [are] in our operations.”
Jean Verheyen, CEO of Nallian, summarized: “Check-it digitalizes any question-based check or task. It is used by ground handling agents, freight forwarders, and logistics companies across the globe, and we're very proud to add Hazgo to our network.”
Challenge Group is pretty much self-sufficient, offers End-to-End
“The larger the logistical challenge, the greater the involvement of our group subsidiaries. Challenge Group has always looked to take the load off our customers' shoulders – both figuratively and literally, and that has led to our development as a cooperation,” Or Zak, CCO of Challenge Group, explains. “Our goal, from the beginning, has been to cover the entire supply chain, from shipper to consignee, and provide our customers with a first-class, all-in-one solution: End-to-End entirely within our own hands and responsibility. That is why Challenge Group, today, consists of three airlines, handling, maintenance, commercial, and logistics subsidiaries."
Multimodal and one-stop-shop are industry buzzwords mentioned by many. Challenge Group have taken it upon themselves to make them reality – at least as far as road and air are concerned, but also with an upcoming link to rail, going by Or Zak's quote later on in this article. With the Challenge Group “End-to-End” solution, the conglomeration offers “a single point of contact that reliably assumes full logistical responsibility for the safe, in and on-time transport of challenging shipments.” In particular, large and complex shipments such as aircraft engines, helicopters, large turbines, oil & gas equipment, automotive, or big and oversize cargo, but also the fast-growing e-commerce segment. The former “big” commodities make up 65% of Challenge Group's core business, and the group has established a routine in specialized End-to-End logistic solutions for what is largely a niche market. Demand for End-to-End solutions from shipper to consignee as opposed to simply from airport to airport, however, has grown during the pandemic. A trend that is here to stay, Or Zak is certain: “We deeply believe that End-to-End will become best practice, especially when it comes to specific verticals. The pandemic highlighted the risks of relying on a single mode of transport or sole production location, hence global trade is becoming more international and multimodal. At Challenge Group, too, we are currently working on linking the railway service coming to Liège from China to our airfreight hub. Our second line warehouse is located just in front of the railway terminal in Liège, adding even greater access to our highly flexible global air and road network.”
The release points out that Challenge Group’s commercial subsidiary, Challenge Air Cargo, steers every End-to-End project. Customers are given a fully transparent logistics package detailing costs, commitment, and value proposition. Internally, Challenge Air Cargo organizes the required network planning, loadmaster operations, handling, and all necessary third-party providers when it comes to non-Challenge Group ancillary services.
Capacity forecasting and the two Ws.
In journalism, the 5 Ws (What, Who, When, Where, Why?) are important when it comes to writing a piece. In the Air Cargo industry, there are currently 2 Ws working on improving an industry painpoint: capacity forecasting. The Ws in this case are the French digital solutions provider, Wiremind, and WestJet’s fast-growing new cargo arm, WestJet Cargo. The two are collaborating on an explorative Proof of Concept since APR23, with final results expected in the second half of this year. The solution will feed into Wiremind’s SKYPALLET product, for which WestJet Cargo recently signed a contract extension. Using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, capacity forecasting should become much more accurate, facturing in the many variables, and offering optimal loading layouts for maximum operational efficiency.
Nathanaël de Tarade, Chief Executive Officer of Wiremind Cargo, said: “We understand that a key pain point for cargo teams at passenger-heavy airlines is determining how much cargo capacity they will be able to sell. This is why we developed our capacity forecasting solution to provide more accurate recommendations which cargo sales teams can trust. We have been accompanying WestJet Cargo in its digital transformation since DEC19, when they became a SKYPALLET customer, and we are very excited to take the partnership a step further with this PoC.”
Kirsten de Bruijn, Executive Vice President Cargo at WestJet Cargo, explained: “Having experienced the financial benefits and efficiencies that SKYPALLET brings to the cargo business here at WestJet, where we have already implemented Wiremind's software into our daily operations for three years, I am more than confident that our joint Proof of Concept will be an incredible success. In the run-up to the flight, there are several variables and factors to consider, making intelligent digital support highly valuable. Given the current pace of change in machine learning and artificial intelligence, we are just at the beginning of the vast opportunities they can bring to the air cargo business. With Wiremind, we have a trusted and innovative SaaS provider that offers flexibility and reliability.”
Maersk strengthening air and road services
It has already been a busy, fully focused first half year at Maersk. With the inauguration Maersk Air Cargo’s weekly scheduled flights between Denmark and China just three months ago, following previous new air freight services launched between South Carolina, Korea, and China, operated by Miami-headquartered cargo airline Amerijet International, and the opening of its new Chicago air freight gateway facility, A.P. Moller - Maersk (Maersk) is now going one step further in meeting customer demands. This week, it announced the expansion of its freighter network between Mainland China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the U.S. both in terms of flight frequencies and aircraft numbers.
Hence, it is doubling it weekly services between Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD) and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, China (HGH), from three to six flights, and weekly rotations between Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, South Carolina (GSP), Incheon International Airport, Korea (ICN) and Shenyang Taoxian International Airport, China (SHE) are increasing from two to three. Five connections will now run between Billund Airport, Denmark (BLL) and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH), as opposed to previously three, operated in part by a newly converted Boeing 767 Maersk Air Cargo freighter. This is the fifth of initially six ordered Boeing 767 freighters.
Michel Pozas Lucic, Global Head of Air in A.P. Moller – Maersk, stated: “The introduction of an additional aircraft together with a substantial increase in rotations will further expand our ability to service our customers with regular flights and controlled capacity while ensuring visibility, reliability, and resilience in their supply chains. At the same time, we are further strengthening our position as a truly customer driven partner in the global air freight market.”
On the ground, too, Maersk is making sustainable headway, having recently purchased 25 Volvo e-trucks for climate-friendly container transports in Germany, as part of its commitment to becoming net-zero by 2040 across the board. The new trucks are powered by renewable energy sources and therefore will massively reduce carbon emission levels. Another factor, is that they are much quieter than conventional trucks, so will cause less disturbance in the residential areas surrounding Maersk’s warehouses. The first two units are due to be delivered by Volvo Trucks in Q4 2023, and the final ones in Q1 2024, with Maersk working on setting up a green-electricity charging infrastructure for its fleet at its German warehouses.
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