Though the air cargo industry is embracing digitisation, more work must be done as higher quality of data increases the ease of doing business, according to Unisys senior industry director – freight solutions, Venkatesh Pazhyanur.
Electronic air waybill penetration breached the 50 per cent mark in 2017 but was still some way off targets set by IATA but it now has a positive momentum having broken this barrier. Initiatives and focused work by air cargo operators has helped with the e-freight programme aim of taking away the paper burden across the supply chain.
He says: “E-AWB was the first initiative towards that broader goal. Our subscribers are in the top 80 per cent and in the international market we have carriers leading the charge. IATA publishes a scorecard for the top adopters for those who have put it into practice and got tangible gains, and our clients are at the top of the list.”
Pazhyanur is optimistic about it but the problem in the industry is the wide range of capabilities. Saying that there could be 100,000 shippers and forwarders dealing with airfreight, there will be a wide variety of maturity levels.
He says: “The reason why we miss the mark in terms of targets is that air cargo organisations have to deal with this reality. Our value proposition as a technology enabler want to raise the bar, taking people in the lower level of the maturity levels to the higher end and our solutions can do that.”
“We are optimistic that these levels will go up in the coming years but that is only one part. E-AWB was the first initiative and it has to expand to the trading of documents so the experience should quickly propagate to take paper away from the full logistics chain.”
Pazhyanur says paper is burdening the business and one of the prime gains of going paperless is quality of information.
He explains: “When information transfers electronically then it is trapped at the source where the quality is best. What paper does not only in terms of operational inefficiencies is it reduces the quality of data as it travels across the supply chain.”
Improving the quality of data is an enabler to get the visibility of the shipment as it travels, and the visibility leads to process efficiencies.
Giving an example, he says: “If a very important shipment is delayed in transit, if we get to the point where there is proactive visibility then the stakeholders can collaborate to identify and execute the best recovery mechanisms. If the visibility is not there then it inevitably leads to a reactive measure, which then leads to shipment not reaching the destination at the right time.”
In the case of shipments such as pharmaceutical and healthcare products, this can be a life or death situation so improving the data quality gives companies the ability to take proactive steps to ensure there are fewer delays or issues.
Looking to the future, the goal is to increase the ease of doing business. E-freight is just one method and the major target is to remove paper processes.
Pazhyanur says: “There are multiple new initiatives that we and the whole industry are launching, which aims at this common goal that when there is a subscriber and provider of a service, then the question is what are the other ways of bringing in appropriate technology enablers to make those business transactions easier.”
One key thing, in his opinion is personalisation. “If I as a shipper am shipping a specific kind of product, when I interact with the providers of transport, my interaction has to be very persona and with the right context.”
Unisys has launched a personalised experience for pet shippers. They can book the shipment using a smart device, get constant visibility of where their pet is and how comfortable the animal is.
He explains: “If there are reasons to believe that the pet is not comfortable then the technology enables the owner to talk to the pet to comfort them. If there are going to be temperature variations that could put the pet in inconvenience then there is clear prior visibility and it can ease the transport of the pet.”
To do this, Unisys has used emerging technologies of device integration and machine learning mechanisms.
“These kind of enablers are going to come not just in pet transport but in various other products in the chain that lends itself to towards the personalised business experience.”
Unisys saw a lack of business solutions and recent high profile cases of animals not being treated appropriately and even dying during transportation means something must be done to resolve this issue.
“There was a definite need for things to get better and as we saw this opportunity we brought this solution to market.”
Unisys is working with specific carriers who are “delighted” about the new product because they have happy customers and could expand the solution to other product areas.
Pazhyanur says that when it brings new products into the airfreight market, it is uniquely positioned with its experience.
He says: “We have been in this business for the last three decades, we understand the business. We have built in vast experience. Security is built into all of our solutions, it is not an afterthought and we have secure solutions across the freight supply chain to serve the airfreight industry.”
Looking to the future, Pazhyanur says: “Over the next few years, as we play in all three parts of the business on the passenger, airport and freight sectors we are in a unique position to discover the synergies across the three and to bring in solutions that connect these parts of the business. In our freight solutions we make the freight business easier to operate at cost levels that are sustainable.”