Shippers revealed the challenges of the air cargo industry in a panel Monday at the CNS Partnership Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Des Vertannes, global head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association, moderated the panel. He said one issue is air cargo – the mode that shippers pay the most for – is often the least reliable.
Blake Bowlin, global transportation procurement manager at Caterpillar Enterprise System Group, said he compels all the forwarders that the company uses keep track of how much cargo Caterpillar puts on freighters vs. passenger aircraft.
But Bowlin said he worries whether the freighter market will go away.
“What I begin to worry about it is we move some rather large items that need to go on freighters,” he said.
Danny DuBose, supply chain management NAFTA at Continental Automotive Systems, said the primary initiative for improving the supply chain is transparency. When a product is in transit by air, the company sees a gap in visibility.
“We have to be extremely on top of what comes in on a daily basis,” DuBose said.
Vertannes said this is embarrassing for the air cargo industry.
The cool chain is especially important to Brian Miller, president of Gourmet Trading Company, and Alvaro Faret, president of ALFA Logistics, a forwarder specializing in perishables.
Quick airfreight is crucial for Miller. For example, he said for every hour asparagus is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it loses a day of shelf life.
But he said some customers try to push Gourmet Trading Company to use other transport modes, even at the cost of product integrity.
“There is pressure to take other avenues,” Miller said. “It should be airfreight. It should be.”
Faret said starting December, there was growth in airfreight in Chile due to the country’s blueberry crop – but the airplane capacity wasn’t sufficient.
Communication was another topic of discussion. PJ Moffet, consultant at Garrison Savannah LLC, said it’s important for him to speak with everyone in the supply chain, not just freight forwarders, in order to understand everyone’s challenges.
“I want to break that chain of ‘Why can’t I talk with that agency?’” Moffet said.
Communication was a pervasive issue. When Vertannes asked whether the panelists knew the industry is working on emissions standards, most were unaware of the initiative.
Most panelists did not think new advanced data regulations would delay air cargo in the supply chain, but Bowlin said he hasn’t heard many details about them. He said he must understand the regulations in order to inform his company of what lies ahead.
“Will there be other fees introduced into the marketplace?” he asks.
When Vertannes asked if traditional air cargo (discounting the integrators) showed any improvement in end-to-end transit time, Bowlin said Caterpillar’s process is more on the ground than with airlines.
“It’s that ground dwell time that kills us,” he said. “That ground portion is always going to be a challenge, and we need to shorten that.”
Moffet said it is frustrating that ground handlers take 6-8 hours to break down cargo.
“I feel it just takes a little too long,” he said.
And when it takes longer, there is no feedback, Moffet said. He doesn’t know if the cargo will be ready in one hour or three.
“It’s about speed and consistency every time,” Vertannes said.
For the final approximately 15 minutes of the panel, Vertannes gave a call to action for the air cargo industry to respond to shippers’ concerns.
“If these people are going to spend a premium price on airfreight,” he said, “let’s make sure they get premium service.”