Digitalisation must still offer a personal touch

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Marcel de Nooijer, executive vice president of Air France KLM Martinair Cargo

When Air France KLM Martinair Cargo revised its footprint five years ago, a strategic decision was made to enhance investments in the field of digitisation, Marcel de Nooijer tells Air Cargo Week.

Speaking at air cargo Europe on 6 June, the executive vice president of AFKLMP explained that while the freighter fleet was cut back, the airline group looked to change the culture of digitisation. De Nooijer believes that being able to work in an agile manner shows that it has been a successful journey.

He says: “We’ve enabled ourselves to work in a truly agile manner, no longer in a waterfall with big, bureaucratic processes but with very agile scrum teams where we bring the experts together. The business or product owners, the specialists from the business together with developers and architects and we work relentlessly in sprints together and we follow a customer experience approach.”

De Nooijer says this has enabled AFKLMP to be very close to products it develops in a manner to allow the airline to monitor and adjust according to the customers’ needs, and then deliver what is useful.

He says: “The biggest recognition of that is the way our own distribution tool, myCargo is rolled out but also the way it has been embraced by the market.”

It has seen “unprecedented” growth, with the shift towards the channel. Over 20% of global revenue is now coming in by this channel within less than two years, which de Nooijer says is proof that the market is ready and embracing digital services.

Even with all the digital tools available, customers still want a personal touch. AFKLMP will maintain its global presence with its own sales and customer organisations. It is also essential that AFKLMP remains a company that is easy to do business with.

De Nooijer says: “We want to be close to the customer but in the way he or she wants us to do business with us.”

If the customer still wants to do business in person, global teams are on hand to help but if they wish to engage through the digital channels, AFKLMP is able to accommodate that too. The digital services can be done through AFKLMP’s systems or through the customer’s own channels.

De Nooijer says this is why AFKLMP has invested in API capabilities and engaged with WebCargo by Freightos to offer dynamic pricing. AFKLMP is also working with other customers to roll out technology.

So far, the recently announced partnership with WebCargo has been a “smooth journey”, and de Nooijer is very excited to have chosen this partnership.

He says: “We see more strength coming out of it going forward.”

Customers have been very receptive to new tools, with de Nooijer commenting: “We live in very dynamic and turbulent times, new technology is coming up and that is helping the industry. The industry is not always known for its agility to change, we’ve had a slower pace adapting to new technologies than other industries.”

He says the world is changing and this includes expectations. As consumers, we now expect information and delivery updates.

Giving an example, de Nooijer says: “If you’re ordering a pizza, you know exactly when it’s going to arrive on your doorstep. Why on earth would you like to have different transparency if you have a shipment as an end customer or as a shipper? This is a changing world of expectations where digitisation helps and the state of the technology is now such that we can do much better.”

Looking to the future, de Nooijer sees digitisation requiring a balance of human and digital services. As an airline, AFKLMP believes in being close to the customer and making transactions easy.

De Nooijer says: “If it’s easy and straightforward then digital is the perfect tool. There will always be specific shipments and exceptions that require a human interface. The human part needs to be balancing the digital part. The more straightforward stuff that goes digital means, the more capabilities you can have with your own staff towards the customer to focus on the more challenging stuff.”

He also says that the front end has moved ahead much quicker than the back end.

“This is why we decided to invest dearly in replacing our operational legacy systems. We’ve closed contracts with Accenture and IBS to work hand in hand to replace our legacy operational domains by new handling systems.”

De Nooijer admits he does not possess a crystal ball to know which specific technology will transform the industry.

He says: “The importance is that we manage ourselves to be a company which is capable of dealing with change. It’s better to move and go along and change accordingly to the needs of the customer rather than applying a wait and see approach.”

He has an open question to each stakeholder in the supply chain. “We really need to come together with cooperation, truly thinking about what is needed from each stakeholder to work hard on standardisation and then all our energy can go to the right question of how to enhance services to our customers in the full supply chain.”