Following on from last week’s Part 1 edition of CargoForwarder Global (CFG)’s interview with James Coombes (JC), CEO and Co-Founder, Raft, and Lionel van der Walt (LvdW), Chief Growth Officer, Raft, Part 2 goes into detail on air cargo, outlook, and sustainability.
CFG: Was air cargo an integral aspect from the beginning? The Raft website seems ocean-freight focused at first glance. What are the particular challenges for freight forwarders when it
comes to processing air cargo shipments?
LvdW: We didn’t specifically set out to be ocean-freight focused, but we had an initial focus there, driven by our clients’ need to address pain points in that space. Today we serve all modes, and the value we deliver is universal across all these areas.
Freight forwarders face numerous challenges when processing air cargo shipments. One of the biggest is how to stay up-to-date and adhere to continuously evolving regulations that affect their operations, spanning across areas such as security, safety, and customs. Another key challenge is the time-sensitive nature of this mode. Air cargo is specifically tailored to transporting specialized goods that need to be shipped quickly, such as perishable goods, high-value goods, urgent documents, components, etc. This requires more attention to detail and allows less time for decision making. Combined with the complex regulatory framework that industry participants need to navigate, the result is an environment where access to critical information and automation tools that help to expedite processes and decision making are essential to success.
CFG: In total, how many freight pain points can already be successfully addressed by Raft? What are they? And which of these has the highest priority currently?
JC: Our platform is currently capable of addressing a number of freight pain points across both operations and customer service. In operations, our platform brings together large volumes of emails, documents, communications, and data in one place, so that repetitive and manual tasks can be automated and optimized. In terms of customer service, our data and process standardization capabilities uniquely power a digital interface for customers so that they can serve their end-customers better and in ways they haven’t been able to before.
CFG; "The future of freight forwarding is human" - does automation not do away with the need for people? What current human interaction cannot or will not be covered by Raft?
JC: I believe that automation can work as a co-pilot and help to make staff more efficient and effective. However, there are certain aspects of air cargo that require a human touch. Freight forwarding, after all, is a relationship business and not purely a transactional one. Automation can help to streamline and optimize certain processes, but it cannot replace the need for human interactivity and relationships. That’s why it’s important to educate staff to work with AI and to understand the limitations of automation. Ultimately, this is a conversation that every company in every industry is having and it’s important to understand the nuances of the relationship between automation and human interaction.
CFG: How do you see 2023 panning out for Raft and the air cargo world?
LvdW: The air cargo market is expected to remain challenging and difficult to predict in the coming months. The key factors driving this are increased capacity as passenger travel and the associated belly capacity grow post-Covid, and depressed demand due to numerous factors such as inflationary pressures and disrupted supply chains due to wars, lingering Covid implications, and trade tensions. The result has been a constant decline in business and rates as forwarders seek more cost-effective options, leading to a pre-Covid rebalance with modal shift back to ocean freight; a trend that is predicted to continue in the coming months and will invariably lead to longer shipping times.
These uncertain times and challenging market conditions are pushing forwarders’ and custom brokers’ boards and executive teams to constantly search for solutions that enable efficiencies, lower the cost of doing business, and improve their ability to deliver consistent exceptional service. Raft is uniquely positioned to help achieve these objectives, so we see continued success and rapid growth for the company.
CFG: Raft is set up to support forwarders in building more efficient, sustainable supply chains. How does Raft itself live the ESG goals? Any particular ones you'd like to highlight?
LvdW: At Raft, we’re dedicated to helping freight forwarders build more efficient and sustainable supply chains by providing them with emissions tracking and reporting automation services that help them to comply with new sustainability reporting regulations requiring forwarders to report on scope 3 emissions, for example. We take pride in knowing that our services are enabling freight forwarders to create more sustainable supply chains and that we’re doing our part to help the environment, make socially conscious decisions, and act responsibly.
As a small company, we’re mindful of our own footprint and take environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors seriously. We strive to be an equal opportunity employer and have created responsible practices and policies that further our commitment to sustainability e.g. allowing flexible work policies that minimize the need for staff to travel unnecessarily to office locations, and giving careful thought to using virtual meeting tools wherever possible versus in-person travel.
Thank you for all the details, James Coombes and Lionel van der Walt!
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