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LATAM Cargo - Role of Digitalization in Turbulent Times

Article submitted by: LATAM Cargo – A TIACA Corporate Member

Written  by: Jorge Gálvez

Why is digitalization important? First question we should think to answer is who’s it important for? Who’s the one most benefited by this digitalization and therefore pushing for this to become a reality, who’s the stakeholder behind this need? In the air cargo business, airlines have freight forwarders as their clients, but digitalization is not  necessarily being driven by their need, but the need of their clients: the shippers. Shippers own the cargo and their business relies on their product being transported and delivered around the world on time and form, they are the decision makers, the stakeholders that we are all serving directly or indirectly.

So back to the question, why is it important for the shipper that as an industry we can provide a digital experience? The answer is very simple: time, and time is money. By identifying the critical touchpoints and digitizing them, customers can address their processes in a more agile and efficient way, increasing productivity. Additionally by identifying the critical data and tracking milestones that they need, they can properly plan and proactively adapt and adjust when contingencies happen and plans change.

Digitalization becomes especially important during turbulent times, as it provides a competitive advantage to those stakeholders that have embraced it as it becomes more efficient, easy and simple to collaborate with. As we see the industry moving forward in this digitalization path, we have seen several global freight forwarders embracing digitalization and therefore are pushing and demanding that airlines adopt many of these initiatives and develop the necessary digital capabilities in order to choose their services and utilize their capacity, as this presents significant efficiencies and becomes relevant to be more competitive during the downturn.

In LATAM Cargo we understood the importance of digitalization for our customers and we embraced it by going through the painful process of depleting most of our legacy IT landscape and replacing it with an efficient, scalable and robust end-to-end platform, CROAMIS, that will enable us to digitalize our business and collaborate more efficiently with our stakeholders. We started to reap the benefits by using APIs to integrate with marketplaces like WebCargo and and soon directly to the freight forwarder’s systems, so that clients can buy our capacity in a more transparent and agile manner.  We have also leveraged the messaging capabilities to collaborate digitally with customers and other stakeholders.

However, this is still not enough. Our vision for digitalization requires a significant change that has to be addressed as an industry. ONE Record, IATA’s initiative to have a standard for data sharing and create a single record view of the shipment, will be a game changer for the industry and is a way forward to address other markets such as eCommerce where more visibility, agility and efficiency is demanded.  It is an initiative that allows all the relevant stakeholders in the supply chain to collaborate among themselves in a very efficient way but the benefit this initiative presents can only be obtained if all participants are involved. Therefore it is very important that customers and suppliers, as well as the authorities, accompany airlines on this path in order to advance together in its implementation. We are at a tipping point where our industry needs to leap forward in digitalization, if we do not address the change then someone else might.