Cargo-XML is airfreight’s new electronic frontier

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Adoption of the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) e-freight initiative launched almost 10 years ago has proven to be slow, but CHAMP Cargosystems business development manager of e-cargo, Bart Jan Haasbeek, says the industry is now beyond the point of no return.

“It is no longer the issue of if stakeholders will participate, but a question of when,” he warns. “Companies who remain passive and ignore the benefits or are unwilling to invest in new technologies will eventually pay the price.”

Electronic communication has been the catalyst for a host of benefits that have helped improved data quality and reduce irregularities and workload throughout the supply chain processes.
“We are seeing an increasing demand to digitise shipment information that was previously transmitted and shared in less effective ways,” he tells Air Cargo Week.

“Further improvements in processes and standards such as IATA’s Cargo-XML (CXML) will accelerate this momentum.” CHAMP is part of the IATA’s CXML task force and has incorporated support for the new standard in its distribution and integration services.

“The adoption of the CXML has been slow so far,” says Haasbeek. “However, it’s clear that as the number of users increases there will be a need to have bridging and integration services between the industry standard Cargo-IMP and Cargo-XML, and the many variations of home grown XML exchanges.”

He explains that, as the uptake of CXML progresses, the challenge remains as to how the stakeholders will consistently be able to implement these new protocols in their existing IT infrastructure. Haasbeek is pragmatic with his assessment that rolling out e-commerce across the airfreight supply chain will take significantly more time than it did for passenger flights or other modes of transport.

“The air cargo process cannot be compared to ocean freight which is two thirds containerised and has one dominant portal and many less stakeholders,” he says. “This is not the case for the dynamic world of air cargo with its range of divergent processes and IT systems and the number of stakeholders.”

For Haasbeek, the air cargo industry’s efforts to improve data quality by sharing data throughout the supply chain is a painstaking process which has proven to require time to implement. While IT may work at the speed of light, business cultures can slow its impact to a crawl.