You would find it difficult to read almost any industry or supply chain magazine today without being overwhelmed by the number of articles on digitization, distributed data bases and blockchain technology.
Many companies are taking advantage of these either new or energized technologies. Each is easier to implement in a closed-loop or company owned network. In the air cargo segment, an integrator essentially has a blockchain process as they possess each piece of data inside their own proprietary system and control each phase of the process from pickup to delivery.
For the rest of us it’s a spaghetti bowl. Each entity is its own noodle and if you figure there are millions of shippers, tens-of-thousands of forwarders, untold government agencies, truckers, handlers and contractors all on top of the airlines you begin to get an idea of how many noodles there are in this incredibly large bowl of spaghetti and how complex is the eco system in which they dwell.
The physical path of an individual noodle is thankfully less complex than the digital and document path it must travel to destination. There are only so many airports in the world and these are further reduced by the regional geography of our various countries and the reasonableness of flying out of a city right next door rather than trucking to one three-thousand kilometers away.
But on the digital and document side there are as many ways to get from point A to point B as there are participants in the spaghetti bowl. The core and basic messaging required to keep cargo moving was sorted forty years ago via the Cargo-Imp protocol and updated with Cargo-XML. But the solution for the digitization and community sharing of the millions of other documents required to transport goods is still a question looking for an answer.
To move the transportation of air cargo documents into the same era as the rest of the supply chain industry is within our reach. It requires that we agree upon a language protocol for documents as was done with cargo-IMP which will then open-up the industry to use permissioned tools like blockchain to reach every corner of the world in a secured network.
It is up to each of us to push for this language protocol and unlock the incredible power of this unique and digitized world which is at our front door. If we are successful the only thing we will say when seeing a bowl of spaghetti is bon appetite.
Air Canada, Cargo
TIACA Board of Directors