In my previous post, I discussed the latest situation in the aviation industry amidst the coronavirus crisis and how air cargo has played the role of a savior. In this second part, I will be focusing on what both the regulators and the stakeholders within the supply chain are doing to improve the air cargo experience. There is an inevitable digitalization process for air cargo and Hitit is one of the pioneers in this vital transformation, under the guidance of IATA. Let us explore this more closely...

In order to create a seamless air cargo experience, first, the necessities should be defined. Today, the most striking weakness of air cargo is the insufficient use of IT systems. As someone who has worked for years in this sector, I can confirm that passengers have always been one step ahead of cargo in the use of IT services, which proves the well-known saying: “the passenger comes first”. Up until now, air cargo has been the second or the next in line. However, authorities and the shareholders within the supply chain are now trying to catch up with the latest developments by improving air cargo with cutting edge technologies and making air cargo “simpler, safer and smarter”. IATA has shared 6 smart objectives to achieve this goal: e-freight & e-AWB, One Record, Interactive Cargo, Smart Facility, Cargo Connect, and ACID. For a clearer understanding of these objectives, I will explain each one-by-one.

What should airlines expect for the future of air cargo?

Firstly, e-freight and e-airwaybill simply imply a paperless world. When the compatible systems are created, the paper will no longer be a mandatory document throughout the cargo’s journey. There is also a need for a regulation change since some countries and customs still require a signature/stamp instead of digital documentation in their import-export process.

Secondly, we know that although there are a lot of stakeholders using different systems in the cargo transportation process from sender to receiver, they all have one common purpose: sending cargo from one place to another and keeping their own records of each transaction. The "One Record" concept stems from here. One Record is basically smart data sharing. It includes a specific XML format determined by the regulators to create a common language among the stakeholders. With this new system, each shareholder will be able to access all data presented according to the scope of their authority.

Interactive cargo is a branch of IoT, known as IoC, Internet of Cargo. With smart tags placed on the boxes and sensors, cargo will be traceable by piece level and open to real-time data sharing. The entire air cargo industry is working to build this infrastructure. Unfortunately, if it is only working on the boxes this will not be enough, there needs to be a system that can read the smart tags. So, cargo terminals will also need to be changed, and going smart will be the key to ensuring an uninterrupted information exchange.

Smart Facility creates transparency in cargo handling services. It includes an audit certification called SFOC, Smart Facility Operational Capacity, thus reducing audit frequency, complexity, and costs. The services offered by the cargo handling facilities become visible with a remote validation process showing their existing physical infrastructure. In addition, there is an online platform called ONE Source that shares this information with the entire aviation industry and makes finding business partners easier.

As for Cargo Connect, it simplifies, standardizes, and modernizes connectivity with and between the Cargo Community Systems. It integrates virtual platforms to maintain a permanent connection and promotes digital collaboration between the airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, IT companies, and other stakeholders involved in the air cargo supply chain. It can be compared to the passenger experience. With passengers, whichever way they buy their ticket, whether it is purchased directly from a website, or a mobile application of an airline company, or bought from a travel agency, they can follow everything. Cargo Connect provides this integration through industry connectivity.

Lastly, using the big data extracted from all these previous components, ACID, Air Cargo Incidents Database, is working to prevent in particular security-related incidents that may occur. It ensures safety through data-driven improvements.

If we sum up the aforementioned objectives, we can say that the air cargo industry needs to catch up with the necessities of time through automation and digitalization, and enable an uninterrupted connection within the supply chain from the sender to receiver while maintaining security with the use of big data.

Where is Hitit in this new reality?

No IT company, airline, or any one of the stakeholders within the supply chain has implemented all 6 targets. Is there any solution enabling this? No, not yet. The entire air cargo industry is working hard on how to establish the necessary infrastructure and integration to make air cargo simpler, safer, and smarter. If all the shareholders manage to integrate, which will obviously take time, the cargo will almost communicate throughout its journey. At Hitit, we are not only on the IT development side of this business with our cargo solutions, but we are also taking an active role on IATA's Strategic Partnership Board, which means while we are one of the distinguished players, we are also among the decision-makers through this digitalization process.