The last few years in the air freight industry has seen initiatives such as e-freight and C2K continue to make slow progress, while information and communication technologies and channels have been evolving rapidly throughout business and society.

In order to keep up, the air freight sector needs to ensure it is preparing for the next generation of messaging requirements, not the last generation, and with the expectations of e-consumers and retailers, for example, increasing in terms of information exchange and the transparency of transport services.

The air freight industry still seems wrought by challenges of the last generation messaging processes, technology and legacy systems. For a period of time there was reluctance in the industry to invest in improved technology – but that trend seems to be changing – the cost of systems are coming down  and the significant efficiency benefits can pay for themselves as the economic environment approves.

Learning from Others

Often times the best way to know where you are going is to look at others – what lessons have they had to learn the hard way?

One lesson taken from the ocean industry is that end-to-end visibility is usually managed better by the providers of ocean cargo movements today. Visibility into supply chains, forecasting and planning, inventory management, timely delivery planning have all become more important to all shippers today.  The key to the shippers success is to have the right product, at the right time at the right price is sometimes shifting some products to slower but more visible and predictable supply chains.

Other transportation sectors have been better at integrating information between providers like ocean, rail and truck carriers to provide this better visibility between each other as well as to the end shippers and consignees.

Technologies that Lie Ahead There are a number of new technologies that are coming that will change the messaging paradigm:
  • Web-based communication protocols
  • XML messaging
  • Data management services
  • Collaborative SaaS based applications that allow widespread access and data management in multi-party transactions
In addition, the advances in technology with e-commerce, social networking and smartphones have created a more knowledgeable, flexible and mobile work force.  The air cargo industry is going to have to leverage these new capabilities in order to succeed.  The technology will still have to allow for centralized visibility to data and record keeping but with a mobile workforce at the other end. So how can the air freight industry use these advances?:
  • E-Commerce offering multiple delivery options to end consumers (B to C) as well as flexibility for on-line rate shopping and booking for direct cargo companies could be further expanded.
  • Social media could be used to spread the word on policy changes, service interruptions and promotions.
  • Smart phones will allow for more efficient information gathering and sharing as well as more efficient customer support.

Moving past issues in the industry is going to take a group effort – everyone embracing technologies and the process  recognizing that in the end it will make for a more efficient and profitable environment.

Written by Jan Markill

Sales Director Europe, Middle East & Africa at Descartes