In Good Time: Time-critical services save the day for a just-in-time world

On an aircraft, certain parts, like wing surfaces and engine fan blades, are absolutely critical pieces of equipment. The same might be said about a professional soccer player and his shoes. If those shoes don’t make the trip, the player is sidelined.

This scenario occurred recently when a key player of the French National Football Team was preparing for an important match in Paris when he realized his customized shoes were missing the day before kickoff. Undaunted, the team contacted time:matters, a logistics firm specializing in urgent shipments, and arranged for a new pair of shoes to be shipped from the manufacturer in Nuremberg to the Munich Airport. After an hour dealing with export procedures, the shoes were loaded onto the next flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, where they underwent another 45 minutes of import handling. From there, a courier delivered the parcel to the training facility at the Centre National du Football.

With time:matters’ Sameday Air service, the entire process took less than eight hours. The player received his customized shoes in time and he was able to play the match the next day. And the French National Team won.

In an increasingly interconnected world, where some regular airfreight shipments must be delivered at a specific time, there are bound to be hiccups like these in every supply chain. Instead of shoes, a machine part may need replacing to keep a factory running, or an accident may threaten the delivery of perishable goods. For these moments that involve time-critical, short-haul air service, carriers and forwarders are now seeing the value in providing a premium backup option for desperate shippers.

It’s no surprise, then, that Lufthansa Cargo, last summer, acquired the 51 percent of time:matters that it did not already own. This marked a return to its original fold for the smaller company, which Lufthansa had spun off in 2002, selling 51 percent to an investment firm.

Lufthansa was hardly alone. In April 2016, Qatar Airways unveiled a bespoke Premium Services product, divided into QR Gold for priority uplift with late booking, and QR Platinum for guaranteed next-flight delivery for items under 300 kilograms, and priority confirmation for larger items. Both levels feature top boarding priority and rapid handling, short and flexible close-outs, quick and dedicated ramp transfers for transit shipments and retrieval within 90 minutes at destination. In the fall of 2016, IAG Cargo launched Critical, an emergency service for urgent shipments that require shorter transit times than express traffic. The new offering sits at the top of the carrier’s portfolio, with an ironclad paramount loading priority. The Critical product is “non-offloadable,” declared Daniel Johnson, IAG’s global products manager. The airline describes it as “bespoke to the emergency shipment market, exclusively designed for time-urgent shipments, which often have significant cost implications if they don’t arrive on time.”

Forwarders also have the time-critical market on their radar. In September, DHL Global Forwarding (DHL-GF, the forwarding arm of Deutsche Post-DHL) introduced SameDay Speedline, branded a “mission-critical solution for emergency shipments.” Monitored door-to-door from “Contact Centers” in the United States, Singapore and Ireland, the service is built on best-flight-out options and carries pledges to deliver quotations from dedicated service representatives within 60 minutes and collection of the shipment inside of 120 minutes.

Carriers and forwarders alike said the premiums these services command represent a promising new revenue stream – one that continues to grow. “Until now we have not had a product that fully satisfies this unique need, with short cut-off times and non-off loadable status,” said IAG’s commercial director, Dave Shepherd. “We can now meet the exact demands for shipments that simply must fly.”

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