Executives with Astral Aviation, Freightos, CHAMP Cargosystems, and Dronamics discussed during a forward-looking panel discussion at Cargo Facts EMEA how two emerging tracks of innovation often discussed in silos – one related to commercial aspects of air cargo, and a second being equipment focused – are becoming increasingly intercoupled.
To date, much progress related to modernizing air cargo has related to digitalizing the manual processes required to quote, buy, sell, and transport air cargo shipments moving through the supply chain. Panelists agreed there remain significant opportunities to reduce idle time for air cargo shipments, and speed up the end-to-end process as cargo moves between shipper and consignee, which still takes five to seven days for many international shipments. Increased speed and visibility across the air cargo supply chain, combined with increasing e-commerce demand, could create a market for alternatives to jet freighters, such as cargo drones.
Although digitalization is key, panelists argued that modernization need not be a daunting task, as there is no need to define digital standards, or reinvent the wheel, as is the case in other industries. “What technology needs to do, is be adaptable to new evolutions of technology,” said Arnaud Lambert, CEO, CHAMP Cargosystems. Integration is key, said Zvi Schreiber, CEO, Freightos – systems need to be able to communicate.
Collaboration is the next step in boosting connectivity. “Everybody needs to embrace the fact that withholding information penalizes the entire chain,” added Lambert. Uttering a recurring theme during Cargo Facts EMEA, Lambert agreed that cargo needs to talk more. In addition to making systems talk, Lambert argued that a good data-management strategy often involves a simple dialogue with customers and clients. “If you want to make a difference, take your top ten customers, ask them what they need to improve their processes and repeat this throughout the chain, in the end we improve how we share information and ultimately satisfy needs of the shipper.”
Among cargo airlines, Zvi Schreiber, CEO, Freightos, expects digitalization of the sales and booking process to begin differentiating carriers in the coming years. As some carriers beef up their dynamic pricing offerings and introduce APIs that allow forwarders to connect directly to their sales platforms, tech-savvy airlines “Are going to start stealing cargo off of other airlines that are still in analog,” said Schreiber. Although some combination carriers like Lufthansa Cargo have piloted dynamic pricing initiatives with partners like Freightos and Cargo.one, all-cargo carriers are still reluctant to do so.
Just as carriers are now exploring new ways to quote and sell freight, equipment-related pilots are also starting to increase in popularity. While it is unlikely that drones will replace jet freighters any time soon, panelists agreed that there will be opportunities for drones and freighter aircraft to operate side-by-side, particularly at airports with undeveloped or minimal infrastructure, said Sanjeev Gadhia, Founder & CEO, Astral Aviation Ltd. Svilen Rangelov, Co-founder & CEO, Dronamics, concurred, adding that large cargo drones serving alternative markets may, in fact, boost air cargo volumes. “When you think about how little freight is actually touching airplanes, there is a vast market opportunity,” said Rangelov.