Digitization Of Air Cargo  How The Logistics Industry  Save Time And Money With Technology

This article first appeared in the TIACA newsletter of October 30, 2020

I used to send my trucks to the airport without clarity on whether there was any cargo to pick up.” I was talking with a logistics stakeholder during MODEX 2020. “It was like a [crapshoot].” “Crapshoot” is my word. “For about one-third of the time, I left the airport empty.”  These are words from one of Atlanta’s early adaptors who piloted the Airport Cargo Community System. Like him, other Atlanta companies recognized that digitizing their air cargo operations would save them time and money with technology.

Without a knowledge-based system, chaos ensues! Photo by Elliott Paige

Years ago, truck drivers shuffled through papers with front desk customer service and ground handling agents, trying to collect imported cargo. They were often disappointed because their load could not be located in the warehouse or came with pieces short. So, truckers would unintentionally block our cargo facilities’ road entrance, frustrated by the manual process.

How Technology Saves Time And Money

The benefits of using technology to save time and money were first envisaged during talks on developing a Single Window for trade importation. ‘Single Window‘ means a country or port – sea, air, or land – with integrated procedures and technology to avoid delays. For example, consignee and cargo descriptions are entered in documents at the origin through a digital system following that cargo, i.e., digital cargo will never need the same data re-entered further up the supply chain.

The consequence of not having a cargo community system is that trucks wait hours while blocking major road arteries. Photo by Elliott Paige

Provide greater efficiencies by overlaying tech platforms onto the ACS. These could include, for instance, a payment system, GPS tracking, attached digital photographs of the packages, Internet of Things (IoT) temperature readers, scanners linked to inventory software, and artificial intelligence. Hence, you will have a system actively learning the community’s efficiencies. With a sigh of relief, there would be no more trucking it to the airport, hoping to get the cargo. At the truck dispatcher’s fingertips is a powerful tool of transparency.

Features Of A Typical Cargo Community System

An Airport Cargo Community System (ACS) should be robust and straightforward. Accordingly, it should integrate into companies’ present systems. The best systems provide digital trailing of the shipment’s journey, from issuing a packing list and airwaybill to delivering to the consignee (door-to-door). Above all, this involves engagement with many international treaties, national regulations of multiple countries, the private sector of the land, sea, air transport, and nodes like airports.

Technology will include truck tracking, door reservations, and AI that advises trucks on routes. Furthermore, it provides warehouse inventory management, a payment platform, integration into airlines for their possession, connections with customs, sanitary and phytosanitary administrative bodies, and security. Higher-end investments will add IoT sensors. These could be truck dock sensors, cargo location scanners, temperature controls, and conveyor belt systems in a warehouse with straight-line connectors from air to landside.

Photo by Karl Magnuson

Efficiency That Goes Beyond COVID-19 Pandemic

Digitization inadvertently saves our valued supply chain and logistics staff from contracting a deadly virus. Accordingly, ground handlers cared to protect their staff because this essential industry needed to function during the pandemic.

With the digitization of documents, cargo truck drivers can circumvent crowding. They can avoid tight waiting areas and customer service front desks with papers in hand. Consequently, the technology prevents vector transmission. People can feel safer paying for, issuing delivery orders, find out any information about their shipments, all digitally. Digitization saves the lives and the health of our logistics workers. They have no choice but to leave their homes to work.

Conclusion – Sign Up To An ACS

Every company wants to save money and time. Digitization gets the added benefit of showing their staff that they also care for their welfare. Humanity builds staff loyalty. So does care for your customers and business partners. Digitization of air cargo will continue to save the logistics industry time and money with technology. Awareness is growing in the United States. Once companies are aware of ACS, then it’s a no-brainer that they should sign on. You can find other articles and a webinar on ACS on this link.

Since implementing the ACS in Atlanta Airport in November 2019, as a next step, ATL has been working with stakeholders to build awareness to get more people to sign on. Yet, some stakeholders are still hesitant to eliminate paper shipping documents. Some carriers are now using the phrase ‘disintermediate traditional freight forwarders’ where there is resistance to modernize by anyone in logistics. Early adaptors have said they are saving money, and there is less guesswork in delivery and pick-up. The digitization must start with issuing the shipper or freight forwarder’s air waybill. Atlanta Airport works with stakeholders to prepare ATL as a COVID-vaccine distribution airport. With the emergency need to track and trace vaccines for COVID-19, and consumers requesting full transparency in shipments, Atlanta Airport is banking that ACS will soon become the norm very fast.

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