On Monday, ECS Group’s Cargo Digital Factory and Wiremind Cargo announced the launch of their new technology-focused and autonomous company, CargoTech. The two French companies are combining their digital expertise to push forward digital change in the cargo sector.
Cédric Millet, ECS Group chief strategy & digital officer and Nathanaël De Tarade, board member at Wiremind and CEO of Wiremind Cargo, speak to ACW to explain how CargoTech’s establishment will elevate the industry’s digital efforts to the next level.
“The first step for CargoTech to identify synergies and the low hanging fruits that will accelerate the promotion of the existing products, and their adoption in the industry,” says Millet.
“The priority is also to define a comprehensive roadmap for the enhancement of the existing products, and the developments of the new ones.”
CargoTech will build on Wiremind and Cargo Digital Factory’s existing products, generating synergies between the two brands.
“First of all, we are putting expert resources together that will co-ordinate their actions,” says Millet.
“These resources are not only expert in technology, but they are also expert in the cargo business itself. People working in the Cargo Digital Factory and Wiremind Cargo have more than 50 years’ experience in the air cargo industry all together.
“This is a precious asset as these are knowledgeable people who have experience in cargo sales, operations and revenue optimisation. They know what the processes are and how they should be improved.
“Besides, CargoTech will foster the awareness of the products developed by one company to the customers of the products of the other companies (and vice-versa). This will accelerate the adoption.”
De Tarade adds that CargoTech will have a wider range of digital offerings: “We aim at offering a digital solution for every process that can benefit from technology. We are speaking about booking, pricing, quoting, tracking, planning, build-up, etc. Our current products already cover a series of needs, but when we talk with our customers and prospects, we see there are many areas that we can help them with.”
Though CargoTech has burst onto the scene, the wider digital drive has been somewhat a slow revolution.
“I believe that digitalisation is an incremental process – even though some increments are more significant than others in what they change to the way business is done. So rather than saying the industry as a whole is “ready for a ramp up,” I reckon that there is a significant increase in the number of stakeholders that have the staff, the data and the willingness to move forward with technology in a number of departments,” De Tarade explains.
“Of course, you will always have actors that are careful and waiting to see what others are doing before committing, but some airlines, forwarders, GSAs and GHAs started to pave the way.”
Millet adds: “The industry is ready more than ever. We started to witness some significant developments before 2020, but the trend has significantly accelerated since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Manual work is not good enough and not fast enough in an environment where things are changing overnight and where resources become scarce.”
That being said, will the increase in digital adoption threaten jobs created by the manual work?
“When you create value, you foster job creation. The question is also: how are jobs being transformed?” says De Tarade. “I think it would take all us only a few seconds to think of areas of our jobs that we would love to be more efficient at and digitalisation has made us more efficient already in a number of areas.
“So if a job can be done more efficiently, that means the person doing that job will free up time to do more strategic perspective. I don’t think that a lot of cargo people would say they are lacking ideas as to what they could spend their time on, if they could be freed up from time-consuming tasks. We believe in tools made for people, not people that adapt to tools that are not delivering value to them.”
Digitalisation reduces manual labour, but it does not mean that it reduces the workload, Millet believes.
“There is a shift of activity from time-consuming and manual tasks (taking a booking for example) towards more added-value activities (optimising revenues for example). We have a motto: ‘whatever can be digitised should not remain manual. However, we cannot automate everything’.
“Besides that, digitalisation addresses the issue of staff shortage: we do not have enough people today in the cargo industry. Everybody is fighting for the same competent resources, and all companies are understaffed.
“There is a clear surge of activity in the air cargo industry, and this will continue. Digitalisation will help cope with that.”
The industry is changing fast, what would a fully digital industry look like?
Millet says: “Nobody has a crystal ball and nobody can predict what the future will be. But, we want to make sure that whatever can be digitised should not remain manual. This is step one.
Step two is to look at what exists in other industries, learn from it and adapt it to air cargo. There is also a Step 3, but step 1 & 2 come first.
De Tarade says: “I am an optimistic person, so I’ll tell you a few things I’d like to see happen by 2030:
- Stakeholders have worked together to such an extent that data structures allow for easy and fast connectivity between systems
- There is complete traceability, both externally and internally for everyone to track progress on bookings, quotes, shipments, data, etc.
- Also, dynamic pricing, capacity management processes and operational processes are advanced so that it fosters maximum utilisation of the space, to have 0 wasted volume on the flights, and profitable actors across all the supply chain.
- Oh, and just to throw in one more thing, airway bill numbers have a new format so that every single one is unique and we never have to use existing AWB numbers multiple time over the years. The 8-digit model is out dated.
“Hopefully, I’m not asking too much – that’s a lot to achieve in 8 years!”