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E-freight is key to improving air cargo sector

By control on May 7, 2013

By Adina Solomon

It’s no secret that the air transport world is a tough business – and a way to improve it is through E-freight, the president of Delta Air Lines says.

“We know that changing behavior can be a challenge, but encouraging the industry to move to E-freight has real tangible benefits,” Edward Bastian says in his keynote address Monday at the CNS Partnership Conference.

E-freight will boost efficiencies across the cargo supply chain, increase the accuracy of information, decrease the chances of human error and move transactions faster. It will create cost savings that affect the bottom line.

“In the end, this will benefit us all,” he says.

In an interview with Air Cargo World, Bastian says as far as implementation of E-freight goes, everyone in the industry is struggling with it. The need to work through the entire supply chain to achieve adoption presents the greatest challenge, he says.

“I don’t think that the airlines or the air cargo carriers have as much control as they’d like over the exercise,” Bastian says. “I think if it was up to the air cargo carriers, you’d see much greater progress.”

In his speech, Bastian also talks about how the industry must move toward risk-based screening for cargo. This will improve the flow of goods through the supply chain.

“[Air Cargo Advance Screening] and programs like it can focus on the shipments that are most likely to present a concern,” he says. “We need to avoid as much complexity in the operation as possible.”

He also speaks about shipping dangerous goods. Though Delta’s agents are trained to handle dangerous goods, cooperation is needed throughout the industry.

“With our competitive tendencies, this is also the biggest challenge,” Bastian says. “One of the challenges the industry must overcome is the fragmenting nature of the issues being addressed.”

But he forecasts that global trade will continue to grow – and airfreight will play a role in transporting those goods around the world.

“I do see signs though in our global economy for cautious optimism,” he says.

The biggest opportunity for Delta in emerging markets is Latin America, especially Brazil, Bastian says. He also says China is a long-term opportunity.

In his interview, Bastian says industries that are willing to pay more for speed will factor into air cargo’s role in the future. He names the biomedical sector, pharmaceuticals, automobile sector and other premium-related products.

Technology trends will also play a part in air cargo’s – and Delta’s – future. Scott Barkley, managing director global cargo operations at Delta, says the airline now scans cargo at every touch point, making Delta more efficient.

Tony Charaf, chief cargo officer for Delta, says down the line, he expects the airfreight business to get rid of scanning in favor of active chips.

“They would transmit information at all times, wherever they are, and it will have automatic readers through satellites that will tell you exactly where every shipment is without any scanning done by any human,” Charaf says. “We are still babies in the woods trying to really get to the level where absolutely we must have that. I think that’s really the end state.”

As far as when chips would be implemented, Bastian says it comes down to the cost of the technology.

“I think that’s the ultimate growth opportunity that we have is to be a leader in that space,” he says. “But it will require some additional efficiencies by the technology.”

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