How digital is air cargo today? By launching initiatives and programs like ONE Record or eFreight, driven by IATA, air cargo has become more digital in the past decade. The unprecedented amount of shipments and therefore shipment data offers much potential for making air cargo even more digital. Yet, digitalization, especially in the sense of automating data sharing and communication processes, is evaluated as one of the major challenges by the air cargo industry. However, data exchange between stakeholders is a central aspect when attempting to digitalize air cargo processes. Nowadays, bilateral data exchange and interfaces are predominantly used. Even very traditional communication channels, e.g. email or phone calls, are common ways to connect stakeholders. On top of that, logistics in general is driven by high fragmentation due to an uncountable number of diverse stakeholders. These facts, in turn, lead to increased complexity, manual data sharing processes for involved parties and decreased supply chain visibility for air cargo stakeholders and their customers, underlining the room for improvement for the digitalization of air freight. Due to the complexity of the industry set-up, one apparent solution, i.e. open data sharing, does not seem feasible.
Both individually and collaboratively, stakeholders can push digitalization forward. For the former, airlines, airports and ground handling agents can individually review their IT landscape and evaluate the future-readiness with regards to functionalities and interfaces. For air cargo players to become future-ready, the switch of the entire IT landscape to one of the predominant IT providers might not be an optimal solution. Individual requirements and local specifications can potentially be reflected better when approaching the journey towards digitalization step by step and with providers of niche solutions or innovative logistics start-ups. Besides the individual approach, acting jointly with other stakeholders in the air cargo community, offers a great leverage for digitalization. Solving challenging use cases and innovation projects, however, requires efficient collaboration as well as target-oriented steering by one or more stakeholders. Fixing the basics of data sharing, i.e. eliminating hurdles and improving automation of processes, combined with stakeholder collaboration can enable air cargo to achieve the digital breakthrough in the near future. A fully digitized data flow between involved parties and full air cargo supply chain visibility for active and passives users can lead to less manual work, fewer irregularities, faster processes and facilitated market entries for new air cargo players.
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Sebastian Kaiser – Consultant in the Solution Group Customer Experience
Dominique Bayer – Consultant in the Solution Group Infrastructure & Operations