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Digitization of air cargo - How the logistics industry will make you save time and money with technology

Article submitted by: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – TIACA Trustee Member

“I used to send my trucks to the airport with no 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 the digitization of their air cargo operations would save them time and money with technology.

Years ago, truck drivers shuffled through papers with front desk customer service, 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. The term ‘Single Window‘ means a country or port – sea, air, or land – has 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.

By overlaying tech platforms onto the Airport Cargo Community System (ACS) greater efficiencies can be provided. These could include, for instance, a payment system, GPS tracking, and attach 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 that is actively learning the community’s efficiencies. With a sigh of relief, there would be no more truck trips to the airport in the hope of picking-up cargo. At the truck dispatcher’s fingertips is a powerful tool of transparency.

Features Of A Typical Cargo Community System

An ACS should be robust and straightforward to use. Accordingly, it should integrate into companies’ present systems. The best systems provide digital trailing of the shipment’s entire journey, from the issuance of a packing list and airwaybill, to delivery, 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, AI that advises trucks on routes. Furthermore, it provides warehouse inventory management, 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.

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 took care 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 to pay for, issue delivery orders, find out any information about their shipments, all digitally. Digitization saves the lives and the health of our logistics workers who 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.

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,” said Elliott Paige, Director of Air Service Development at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Early adaptors have said they are saving money, and there is less guesswork in delivery and pick-up,” “The digitization process needs to start with the issuance of the air waybill by the shipper or freight forwarder.” Mr. Paige noted that “Atlanta Airport is working with stakeholders to make ATL ready 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.”