The air cargo industry is at the point of inflection. The global supply chain must improve efficiencies and effectiveness to remain relevant, and players in the air cargo space are no exception. The process of handling air cargo can be truncated, with the chain of custody changing hands from the time manufactured goods are trucked to a warehouse, shifted by ground handlers, processed through customs, and loaded onto an air cargo plane. And the process continues when the cargo arrives at its destination port. Modernizing practices will allow air cargo carriers to be resilient, provide better, sustainable service to customers, improve transparency, and hasten response in the event of any potential disruptions.
In June 2017, IATA member companies adopted a resolution to accelerate the modernization and transformation of the air cargo industry, calling for digital transformation and harmonized standards, supported by data-driven decisions. With the imperative to evolve and the need to adapt in order to remain relevant, how can air cargo players drive effective change?
There are three critical building blocks necessary to lay the foundation for digital transformation: digitization, culture shift, and sustainability.
Digitization is the entry point for evolving systems so that processes are streamlined. From eBookings to cargo tracking through to its destination, new systems need to be established and must operate seamlessly, so there are fewer points of disruption in the flow of information. Air cargo is notoriously a paper-driven industry–IATA has said that an air cargo booking could be manually retyped as many as 97 times as it passes from one system to the next. While much of the reliance on paper stems from a history of regulations that require forms and stamps, new standards are opening up that make it more acceptable to reduce paperwork and leverage digital documentation. This will generate significant time-savings and eliminate the potential for human error. In addition, such digitization will allow greater visibility into operations and produce reliable data from which business decisions can be driven. Digitization will not only help air cargo carriers meet evolving customer needs for greater transparency into the transportation of their cargo; it will also help customers streamline their own operations.