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Going digital

The air cargo industry is in the process of changing and digitising systems to transform internal operations as well as the way they interact with customers. Keith Mwanalushi looks at the rate of adoption

In June, LATAM Cargo announced a new partnership with global information technology firm Wipro for a multi-year cargo management engagement. Wipro is deploying its end-to-end cargo management system – CROAMIS as part of this engagement. The LATAM deal is just one of many recent agreements to automate the end-to-end air cargo process. Earlier this year, American Airlines Cargo selected IBS Software to implement a next generation cargo management system. With the implementation of iCargo, American migrates to a web-based, fully integrated technology platform connecting all its critical business functions.


The air cargo sector is currently in a digitisation revamp of current systems and Steve Hill, Principal Industry Consultant at CHAMP Cargosystems, feels we are living in fascinating and transformational times where technologies are accelerating faster than business demand, operational processes and legal frameworks. “This means technology is helping to drive change rather than the other way around,” comments Hill. He also thinks these things need to happen faster.


“The harvesting of data from different and trusted sources gives us new possibilities of data management and collaboration, which are transforming our service offerings, and at a faster pace. The emphasis here is that we are designing and developing not for paper-centric services but those that harness the power of available data, which can be provided in smaller, perhaps even ‘snippet-size’, pieces,” Hill says. 


Sandeep Fernandes, Head of Cargo Solutions at Accelya Group, acknowledges that digitising is catching up within the air freight industry. The world economic forum reports that digitisation is expected to disrupt the wider logistics industry, of which air freight is a part. “Our industry had already embarked on its journey to digitise a couple of years ago, which is fantastic, and what we now expect to see is further acceleration  and increased rate of adoption in different parts of the business,” says Fernandes.


This digitisation of air freight comes at an opportune time to the industry to help it reduce costs and improve revenue potential against a backdrop of challenging business conditions, Fernandes admits. He says cost savings can be achieved through efficiencies and productivity improvements. Revenue potential is improved through transformed business models, collaborative agreements, ancillary services and personalisation that meets the need of the digital customer.  


He adds that an air cargo management system typically spans across the enterprise and offers the opportunity to accelerate the rate of digital adoption. “This, when augmented with data driven technologies, can enable some very exciting possibilities to an air cargo business.” While digital technologies enable opportunities, Fernandes advises caution and notes that technology alone will not, and cannot, achieve the benefits of digital transformation. “Digital transformation is a mindset and is only truly effective when the business itself embraces the transition and reshapes the way it thinks and acts,” he states.


Laurent Jestin, the Software Development Manager (Cargo Solution) at Maureva, says freight is probably one of the last sectors of the airline industry to move to digitisation. Moving processes to digital could simplify, speed up and make the exchange of information more reliable particularlyin an industry that relies on the exchange of numerous documentation.


“The e-freight initiative from IATA aims to amplify this process,” says Jestin. “For providers, this means offering systems accessible around the clock via the cloud, interfaced with other systems.” To provide digital experiences to users and businesses with limited complexity and less capital expenditure, systems need to start moving into a more flexible ecosystem. Alexis Labonne Chief Technology Officer at Hermes Logistics Technologies says cloud offers not only a commoditised infrastructure, but some suppliers such as Google, Amazon or Azure provide a serverless toolset  that allows Content Management System (CMS) developers to keep their focus on functionality without the sacrifice of infrastructure, operating systems and security management.


“Contrary to the consensus that digital will mean more standards, CMS will need to actually become more versatile and tolerant in terms of integration. The speed of change means that a heavy, oversized, slow-changing standard could hinder creativity and innovation,” Labonne explains. “Data is like earth or soil, on its own it can’t do too much,” adds Hill from CHAMP. He says it needs to be watered and nourished to be useful and realise its true potential and have value to anyone with access to it. “This is a tremendous motivator for forward thinking organisations to develop and enhance their solutions to take advantage of new information layers opened by digitalisation of supply chains.” >>


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