Air cargo continues its reputation as something of a Luddite. Efforts to bring the sector into this century continue but, where other elements of the supply chain have witnessed substantive technological investment, it appears airside continues to lag.
Air cargo continues its reputation as something of a Luddite. Efforts to bring the sector into this century continue but, where other elements of the supply chain have witnessed substantive technological investment, it appears airside continues to lag. “From this perspective, the air cargo industry is fortunate to be able to leverage on the trials and errors that so many other (related) industries have gone through, and to implement the best processes, technologies and systems,” president of CargoTech – a “one-stop-shop” that links ECS Group, CargoAi and Wiremind Cargo “to provide tomorrow’s technology for the cargo industry” – Cedric Millet tells Freightweek. “The best example is that booking sea freight online has been possible for close to 10 years but really only started kicking off in air freight in the last two years.”
Some have suggested that the reluctance of air to update stems from concerns over job losses. But the technologists question this perspective, with chief executive officer of Wiremind Cargo, Nathanaël de Tarade outrightly denouncing such a proposition: “As
a solutions provider, I would not get any motivation if I thought my products were contributing somehow to such a scenario. I am convinced that digitalisation is an enabler that allows to do more and to do better.”
This is a position shared by both Millet and chief executive officer of CargoAi Matthieu Petot who considers it “false” to assume introducing new tech correlates with the downsizing of staff. Millet notes that on a company level, digitisation helps employees redirect their focus to tasks that bring greater value “rather than mundane, repetitive tasks which can be automated”.
“When employees identify with the greater value they are bringing to their company, including when their effort is also recognised, it brings greater workplace satisfaction in a general sense,” Millet continues. “In fact, rather than downsizing, the main issue is staff shortage at the moment for many stakeholders. So, if our s>olutions can help them work more efficiently, it is certainly a good thing.”
Petot concurs: “Taking covid out of the equation, the acceleration of technology innovation and the globally recognized record low level of unemployment in recent years is proof of this. Companies and governments have prioritised the adoption of technology in line with the upskilling of each country’s workforce.
“In the CargoAi example, we identified that forwarders are making several calls of the same nature (asking for space and quotes) for the same 100kg of cargo. When this process is automated, forwarder companies can redirect their focus to things that truly require the human element like customer service.”
Given their collective belief that tech is not only a boon for the companies but the employees, how do Millet, Petot and de Tarade believe their solutions improve the supply chains. For Millet, it is simple.
“With technology as integral to the way of life of the companies that compose CargoTech, what we bring is a lean and modern approach to creating new products, where we are always able to put the customer first and adapt quickly to requests,” he says. “Our customers are an integral part of the equation. This approach is uncommon with the legacy IT providers that are mainly working with the airlines and forwarders.”
Petot sees CargoAi’s “key differentiator” being that its products are created by an equal fusion of air cargo and tech experts; combined with modern product development tools. Both, he says, are essential in the company’s success.
“As with every business, the team is key,” he continues. “Our air cargo expertise ensures that we speak the same language as our customers (forwarders) and partners (airlines). The tech expertise ensures that we drive the solutions that are requested as quickly and easily as possible.”
As an example, he notes that CargoAi is the only platform to offer repeat bookings, allocation bookings, spot request features and with no product or weight limitations.
Having combined this with a “very easy” to use interface, he says has made it very easy to adopt by more than 6,000 freight forwarders in 103 countries so fa>r. As for de Tarade, he lists four “main competitive advantages”:
- systems that are simpler to use. That is often called ‘UX’, but it is basically about how fast someone (with little or no experience in their position) can start using systems and get value out of them.
- A unique way to manage capacity with SkyPallet, “the most advanced” flight and ULD optimisation tool on the market.
- “True expertise” in data science, “for instance, we have experience in implementing Deep Learning
AI models, which are used in production (not just as POC or blog publications)”. And
- systems that are easier to integrate within existing process – this he says is thanks to a
“100 percent” API-centric architecture.
But, with tech in a state of fluctuation and tending towards the “next big thing,” how prepared do the three feel for the disruptors around the corner. Millet is calm.
“I don’t think the next big frontier is one specific, unique and sudden breakthrough,” he says. “Rather than that, I think it is a silent revolution: the priority is given to tech in the industry. There is a massive increase in awareness among people that technology and digital solutions can create enormous value for them, and help them solve their problems, from staff shortage to optimisation of their revenues and costs, from operational pain points to commercial decisions.”
“I believe that transforming this awareness into implementation projects at a large scale has just started,” he concludes.