Air Cargo Europe: e-commerce is vital for development

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How the e-commerce revolution is being taken advantage of within the airfreight industry was hotly debated at the Air Cargo Europe exhibition and conference in Munich (Germany) on 6 May.

The first conference session was called, E-commerce in Airfreight: Possibilities and Priorities, and was discussed by a panel of six, moderated by Maresch owner, Bernd Maresch (see picture, left to right, Accenture freight and logistics practice managing director, Marcus Fromm; WCA president, David Yokeum; Fraunhofer Institute supply chain services manager, Tobia Seidler; Kuehne + Nagelexecutive vice president air logistics, Tim Scharwath; Lufthansa Cargo programme manager for e-commerce, Frank Naeve and Maresch). Scharwath, explains to delegates his company, “uses e-commerce applications to be closer to its customers,” and it is a vital part of developing business.

His view about e-commerce technology bringing benefits to customers was also the view of Naeve. He says: “Our main aim is to use the digitisation of processes to improve the interface to our customers and to make it better and easier for them to use.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) operates Cargo 2000, which maps the processes involved in the planning and movement of cargo from shipper to final customer. IATA’s head of cargo e-business management, Guillaume Drucy, tells delegates the association has been trying to get a standardised processing system for the industry. 

He says, IATA sees e-commerce as part of the digitisation in the industry. Drucy feels that not enough progress has been made on digitisation, but there has been some progress on regulations, operator processes and standardisation. Drucy feels the key to making a success of e-commerce is harnessing the power of data and connectivity. He explains in IATA’s opinion, the data revolution is the next step. Meanwhile, Fromm, had strong words for the lack of action on digitisation within the air cargo industry. He says carriers will lose business to integrators if it does not adopt technology soon. 

“We cannot wait another 15 years to see the digitisation process move forward. To be part of a successful industry we need action now.” Drucy also spoke about the need for electronic air waybills (e-AWB) to be adopted across the entire air cargo industry. He says that IATA hopes to have an 80 per cent use of the e-AWB within the next two years. 

“The struggle we have with the eAWB is all the processes used on the ground on the operations side by airports, handling agents, and airlines all different. A lot of work we are doing is to harmonise the processes on the ground and get them standardised in the industry.” 

As the session came to a close, Scharwath explains to delegates that operators’ must make investment in IT systems a priority in their business strategies and in his view his company’s end customers should be getting a better experience forindustry.