As part of the organization's transformation process and further its purpose of continuing to meet and exceed the needs of its customers, Avianca Cargo opted to be certified. With a mindset of continuous improvement, the company partnered with IATA throughout the process of obtaining multiple CEIV certifications, to exceed regulatory requirements and drive change throughout the supply chain. CEO Gabriel Oliva, tells their story.
Chief Executive Officer
Avianca Cargo is a subsidiary of Avianca group, Colombia's biggest airline and one of the oldest airlines in the world. With destinations all over the Americas and worldwide, Avianca Cargo offers effective and innovative solutions for shipping cargo to suit customers' needs, meeting strict international industry standards.
Consolidate our strategic transformation and make it tangible
I came on board at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2021, to lead Avianca Cargo in a strategic transformation. Aiming to become the leading cargo operator in our region, the Americas, we set our intention to reinvent our organization, making it stronger and the best business partner for customers, with a committed world-class team, a clear vision, and a strong focus on execution. We centered our efforts on our customers’ needs and four strategic pillars.
We focused on revamping our network and fleet to create value for customers. On strengthening our customer value proposition with a clear product offering, high service levels and great customer experience. On becoming a process-driven organization to make it easy for customers to do business with us and be assured of a consistent experience wherever they are in the world. And on integrating cost-efficiency into everything we do, so that we can continue to provide our customers with superior service into the future.
To demonstrate our commitment to meeting and continuously exceeding the needs of existing and potential customers, we envisaged certifying our revamped operations. Certification would guarantee to them that we were applying industry best practices and could deliver the highest levels of service. It would demonstrate that we were a reference in product handling. And it would bring together our four pillars under one banner.
We chose IATA’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) because it consolidates the requirements and standards of the most relevant regulators in each field and is therefore considered one of the most reliable certifications in the industry. Since IATA is also the main association for the world’s airlines and sets the standards which we all must meet, we were sure we would have the best ally to achieve these standards. Due to the pandemic, we had already begun a CEIV certification for pharmaceutical logistics. Given our strong market position in the transport of perishables such as flowers and salmon, it made sense to follow up with a certification related to this business: CEIV Fresh, which would make the first airline in the Americas to be certified as such. In parallel, we pursued a certification for lithium batteries handling: CEIV Li-batt, which would make us the first in our region with three different CEIV certifications.
Working hand in hand with Avianca Cargo to achieve immediate and long-term goals
The CEIV certification process comprises training, audit and assessment, validation and certification. Our training was 100% virtual, allowing us to include personnel from the different regions where we operate, and led by IATA trainers. Recognized cargo industry experts, they shared the philosophy behind the certifications, the methodology and the processes concerned, and all about the standards. Their willingness to contribute their knowledge and experience to enrich the objective of each program to which we applied was a critical part of our success, and their constant communication and flexibility in dates enabled us to speed things up, and achieve multiple certifications in short time spans.
A range of training solutions to meet organization-wide needs
IATA’s dedicated learning platform allowed each student to be directly connected to the presentation, activities, and deliverables of each syllabus. For each CEIV program, an average of 20 people were trained directly, including our company instructors in a train-the-trainer program. Over 100 people from every stage of the process – quality, product, operations, ground handling, ground services, and safety – were then trained in house, with our instructors maintaining the records and training controls necessary for the fulfillment of the certification. If we add up all the training carried out at each station, it totals more than 2000 hours. We even requested customized in-house virtual training to involve administrative staff, and face-to-face training for operational staff, to reinforce knowledge throughout our supply chain.
A smooth process enabling a focus on exceeding the requirement or regulations
Armed with the knowledge gained through the training, our next step was to conduct an internal audit based on the CEIV checklist. This enabled us to identify our strengths and our opportunities for improvement, at each station and for each product. We then presented this checklist to the IATA subject matter expert at the start of the assessment. It was fantastic working together as a team, with the IATA specialist providing us with real examples or simple implementation formulas in real time, enabling us to more easily generate ideas and more quickly implement improvements.
We already had good processes in place, and we wanted to not just get a stamp showing we meet industry standards, but to show our customers that we have taken a step further. Being able to collaborate with the IATA Certification team, to design better processes that allow for continuous improvement was extremely valuable.
A leaner organization, continuously improving in the interest of customers
We have achieved our certification goals in every program, and in very short periods of time. We have proven that we are innovators by becoming the first airline in our region to be certified CEIV Fresh, and the first to be certified in three different CEIV categories. To date, we have ten stations certified for the three CEIV programs, including three for lithium batteries at major hubs in the Americas serving Asia, Europe and our region.
The certification process has allowed us to put in place processes and elevate our knowledge at every level of the organization, driving accountability and an enhanced culture of continuous improvement. Our teams, who played such a vital role in our success in each validation for the CEIV program, now build on this solid foundation every day. Not only are we aligned with industry standards regarding product, quality, and service, but we also take proactive steps, based on the assessments, to continuously reinforce our product quality system. This collective effort, aligned with our transformation objectives, has significantly improved our efficiency and consistency in how we work, across all our facilities, and has strengthened our value proposition to customers, including improving the customer experience.
Following the CEIV Pharma certification we obtained in 2022, we transported 38% more pharmaceutical products than the previous year. Additionally, we improved our product delivery service: the rate of complaints and overall corrective and preventive actions (CAPA) decreased by more than 30% each. Similarly, in the few months since we obtained the CEIV Fresh certification, we have transported 15% more perishables compared to the same period the previous year, with CAPAs dropping by 28% and claims decreasing by 17%. Finally, we have seen an improvement in CAPA response time of an average of 20% compared to the commitment established with our customers.
An advocate for innovation and improvement throughout the air cargo industry
Obtaining IATA certifications has 100% met our expectations, but we are now aiming at 200%. We strongly advocate for certification and want to help the industry improve overall, around the world. Obtaining CEIV certification is a statement of the individual company's commitment to consistent processes, safety, and compliance, however, the air cargo industry requires a joint commitment to the sustainability of the industry and to continuing to be innovative and agile. All airfreight stakeholders need to be involved in order to build trust and confidence with customers, and make airways the transport of choice. We are therefore actively helping other organizations, by sharing our experiences, and we have representatives involved in leadership groups, sharing our ideas to keep pushing it forward. We firmly believe that we owe it to our customers to keep pushing the envelope for their benefit, moving towards ever higher levels of service and safety, and that is what we intend to do.