In January, Oman Air Cargo became the latest carrier to jump onboard the digitalization train by offering its customers electronic access to its capacity via Traxon cargoHUB, a digital messaging platform for carriers and forwarders from Luxembourg-based IT firm CHAMP Cargosystems. The platform is compatible with IATA’s electronic air waybill (e-AWB) initiative, called e-Freight, which aims to replace customs, transport, commercial and special cargo documents with electronic versions.
CHAMP and Oman Air Cargo’s relationship formed at Oman Air’s e-AWB workshop last autumn, which was centered around the promotion of IATA’s e-Freight initiative. In October, during the TIACA Air Cargo Forum in Toronto, Air Cargo World spoke with Matt Woolmer, CHAMP’s head of sales and account management, global, to discuss how logistics tools, such as Traxon cargoHUB, Logitude and Cargo Spot, are being deployed to increase transparency not only at large, deep-pocketed carriers but also the small- and medium-sized-enterprise (SME) forwarders that may be less inclined to make large investments in digitalization.
Q: How will Oman Air’s use of CHAMP’s cargoHUB help share e-AWBs with freight forwarders?
Matt Woolmer: With Oman Air using our system, they’re connected to 3,000 forwarders that are already connected to cargoHUB, so it gives them a much broader reach. The cargoHUB is a messaging platform, so all the industries are messengers coming through. More than 80 percent of all cargo ends up touching a CHAMP service somewhere, so we have all that data for a vast track-and-trace service. It allows different actors in the supply chain to follow up on the status.
Q: How has CHAMP catered to the SME forwarders that can’t afford high-tech systems to manage data?
MW: A really high percentage of our business comes from the non-international freight forwarders, so a lot of the mom-and-pop shops in the local market – they’re used to typewriters. They’re not prepared to invest significantly in new technology. We have a service, called Logitude, which is web-based and subscription-based. It gives you a complete, almost ERP-style application for a forwarder, where they can subscribe to different levels of service. But you don’t want to allow people to stay dormant, which is the other challenge. You just start with showing them what they can do if they move up to the newer technologies, so they get more information. We are just really trying to push that collaboration across the stakeholders, and especially trying to do more work with shippers. They so often feel they’re the forgotten party, whereas actually they are the key player, and they’re often forgotten about, so we’re working closely now with shippers to see what problems they’ve got and how we can solve them.
Q: What are some new innovations CHAMP is currently working on?
MW: Blockchain is currently a challenge. You’ve got all these industries that have their own separate blockchain protocols. I don’t think you’re ever going to get everyone onto the one standard – you’ve got forwarders still using CargoXML, you’ve got JSON. We’re looking at the moment to work with a stakeholder from each part of the supply chain – so a shipper, a forwarder, airline, handler, maybe a customs authority, as well – and basically look at not just the blockchain, but all the data that each one of those segments needs and at what point in time do each of those actors get access.
Q: What other ways does CHAMP make the supply chain more transparent?
MW: A minor problem you have is that once [the cargo] is on the aircraft, if you have some kind of tracking device, it’s only when it hits the ground again that the data gets synchronized. Everyone says I can see where my tweets are going, but I can’t see where their US$200,000 shipment of pharma or watches or whatever it is, and that’s one of the key changes we’re trying to address. We’re using a new type of user interface, moving from a computer keyboard and mouse to something more tactile that can be more suitable for a smartphone. We’re working on proof-of-concept project now about how carriers keep track of containers in the air. If you have a pharma shipment in the air and you know that the chilling unit on the ULD has gone out of service, you can now take proactive measures and have the flight crews to perform service in the air rather than waiting. The more you’re digitizing the flow of the communication, you’re able to allow the right people to get the information they want, when they want.
Q: What is your outlook for 2019, in terms of tariffs and the Brexit?
MW: What we’re seeing is yes, [the market] will continue ultimately to grow, but not at the same rate as we’ve seen [in 2018.] I think yields will likely grow a bit less, partly through low prices. One thing that’s going to be interesting is how the air cargo community does with the whole e-commerce side of the coin. With customs, we’re connected to over 60 different authorities anyway, so I think our role in this is to facilitate and make life easier for the airlines, shippers and forwarders to do the trade regardless of what the geopolitical situation is. With Brexit, the news of the moment is the trade between Ireland and the U.K., and what that Northern Ireland border would be. We don’t know what the answer is, but we have both the U.K. and E.U. customs, so we can provide both, if needed.