BERLIN – At last week’s World Cargo Symposium, Niall van de Wouw, managing director of CLIVE, said that the key to getting started in airfreight technology is to start small. Not a fan of what he called “big data,” he said big data was what tripped up DHL Global Forwarding’s failed attempt at rolling out its “New Forwarding Environment.” It was too much at once. “Small data is less risky and can be used starting tomorrow,” he said.
Jos Nuitjen, vice president of network integration strategy at Descartes Systems group said small-to-medium size freight forwarders tend to follow airlines with new IT rollouts, taking a horizontal approach, one document at a time. Nuijten said the pace needs to pick up for the industry to go digital because many customs authorities are requiring it, even going so far as to charge companies who don’t use e-documents.
There are hurdles, however. There are legal constraints as some trade lanes will not go paperless, with the biggest hurdle being getting companies and people to embrace change. Nuijten said data quality is essential. Different countries may have different requirements; information must be complete, valid, accurate, consistent and available. The information should arrive ahead of the shipment, he said.
Thorsten Friedrich, head of the e-AWB rollout for Lufthansa Cargo said the first steps include convincing ground handlers, forwarders and all partners to invest in IT, citing the speed, efficiency and integration of IT systems. “You have to convince people that this is the way to go,” Friedrich said. He said the investment in IT is worth it because of the valuable process efficiencies gained from going paperless.
A panel discussion moderated by Jim Friedel, president of Strategy Validation, followed, with panelists Friedrich; Nuijten; Serge Tripet, director of airfreight, Europe, with Agility Logistics; and Kunal Bhatt, senior manager, cargo business and performance automation, with Qatar Airways. Friedrich said data quality is what is hindering the industry from going forward to becoming paperless. He said Lufthansa has roll-out people that go to every one of their stations to train staff. Data quality tends to be a problem for many companies, Nuijten said, but forwarders have it particularly tough because they are often dealing with 20 or more airlines at a time.
Whether to roll out by station or go for “e-everything” at once seemed to be debatable. Friedrich was of the mind to roll out bundles of documents at one time. Also, all the players need to be at the table, Tripet said. Both Tripet and Nuijten said ground handlers and truckers need to be involved in the conversation as well. After all, they, too, are links in the chain.