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What happened at WCS 2017

Transform today, Shape Tomorrow

The 11th World Cargo Symposium gathered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from 14-16 March 2017. The theme, "Transform Today: Shape Tomorrow" was very prominent and echoed throughout the event.

The event provided the ideal networking structure to share experiences and challenge one another. This world premier air cargo event attracted over 1000 delegates, from across the supply chain, to transform the air cargo industry and meet the demands of our ever-changing times.

Optimism has come to Air Cargo

The symposium opened with a positive outlook. The two positive forces that support industry growth have been the expansion of E-Commerce, “which depends heavily on air cargo,” and the shipment of time and temperature-sensitive goods. Alexandre De Juniac, DG and CEO IATA, cautioned the industry to listen to its customers. He said most customer complaints come in two areas: frustration over “complicated and convoluted” air cargo processes that “belong in the 16th Century” and the lack of “high-quality, cutting-edge services.”

Optimism is here but we have to innovate, in processes, in products, and in services to improve the effectiveness of our industry and meet customer demands. 

Partnership for Change

The airfreight industry needs to work together to find solutions that benefit all. It needs to take a parallel approach to innovation and harness technology to not only improve the customer experience, but also allow carriers and their partners to better manage capacity and optimize revenues. 

Partnerships are critical in driving industry transformation. “Driving change—whether it is to modernize processes or unlock value through innovation—is challenging for a business where global standards are so vital. Air cargo is highly regulated--so governments must be on-board with change. We are a complex value chain, so building industry consensus is critical. To be successful we must work in strong partnerships,” said de Juniac.

Following on from the theme of the conference the Horizon summit, showcased a number of innovative methodologies and approaches to placing true innovation at the heart of our future business models. The need for faster transit times, greater reliability and improved visibility in air cargo have never been greater. As the role of technology in air cargo management shifts from being a driver of efficiency to an enabler of fundamental innovation and disruption, digital platforms will play an increasingly transformative role in the global air cargo ecosystem.

Glimpse into each Track

The Cargo Operations and Handling Track emphasised that improving safety and visibility should be the primary objective of the entire industry. To focus on an ‘omni-channel’ approach in addressing emerging needs and not just a single warehouse tool/solution. The track called on the industry to invest in facilitates that are critical for their success and the industry must come together to address these challenges. 

The Dangerous Goods Track emphasised the need for technology and training to go hand in hand, “the more we know the better we can prevent.” Call on the industry for operators to conduct robust SRAs (safety risk assessments) to ensure fast and secure movement across the supply chain. 

In the Cargo Security Track speakers unanimously voiced the importance of the human factor and technology as a major catalysts to ensure that security and safety processes are correctly applied.  

The Digital Transformation Track called for the industry to take the lead and push the boundaries of technology. As Cormac Whelan emphasised, “the limit is not the technology, the limit is our appetite to embrace it.” (Mercator) The industry should not see the cost of innovation as an expense but as a real investment to enable and generate new opportunities. 

The E-Commerce Track urged the supply chain for collaboration. E-Commerce is still in its infancy and our industry must unlock its potential for growth by sharing data to enable and facilitate E-Commerce trade.

The Cargo Border Management Track focused on the role of borders in all its aspects: as a potential barrier or as a useful checkpoint. The track highlighted the call to work more collaboratively together on issues that concern us all such as the fighting against illicit trade. 

The Smart ULD Track agreed ULD would be an active enabler to improve flight safety and warehouse efficiency by automation (eliminating human errors), enhance cargo connectivity by application of wireless devices on ULD and aircraft. The track urged active collaboration to ensure modernization and transformation opportunities related to ULD would not be missed.

The Pharma/RadioPharma Track urged the industry to collaboratively raise awareness that transport of radiopharmaceuticals can be achieved through proper trained personnel, compliance and appropriate packaging as it can save lives! 

The Cargo Facility of the Future Track focused on improved automation, deploying wearables and other technology to improve throughput, while thinking about processes differently for today and in the future.

The Fighting Back to Profitability Track provided a better understanding of the current challenges the industry is facing in regards to air cargo profitability. The track identified programs to capitalise on improvements in market conditions which would help to improve profitability. 

Under the motto "Harvesting the Future in Perishables Logistics” the Perishables Track included representation of the entire supply chain (including shippers) who expressed the need for industry-wide harmonised minimum standards and the importance of a collaborative standard setting approach.

The Live Animals Transport Track called for more collaboration with authorities and governments to work together to ensure the safe transportation of animals. Live Animal welfare, particularly in war zones and Wildlife Trafficking must be addressed before it’s too late to save the entire species. 

Looking Ahead

The 11th World Cargo Symposium concluded with a strong sense of innovation. Collaborative efforts are key to transform today and shape tomorrow.  

This sense of innovation resounded during the closing plenary through the Future Air Cargo Executives (FACE) presentation and the innovation awards. The FACE team highlighted the need for young professionals to break out of the mould, and to work together to embrace and anticipate the future in order to successfully transition air cargo. As Jennifer Haigh’s, Director of Sales at Morpho Detection shared, “We are in the brink of the 4th industrial revolution that will change global industry, and air cargo will be no exception.” Edward Matti also reminded the audience that “we have the ability to change the world, and more importantly to change air cargo.” 

The innovation awards had 46 applications and 5 finalists. The 5 finalists presented their ideas to the delegates at the World Cargo Symposium. The audience voted for the best innovative idea and the winner was Astral Aviation

Astral’s Aerial division aims to be the leading drone operator in Africa, and has already developed the Flyox cargo drone. The drone is capable of carrying 2,000kgs over 1,200km that can stay in the air for up to 26 hours and land on unpaved airstrip or even water. Astral envisages its primary use for delivering medical and humanitarian supplies, as well as E-Commerce.

The runner-ups were: 

  • Etihad Cargo built a sustainable cool dolly, which it plans to turn into a ‘smart’ cool dolly.
  • Gatechain created a blockchain-based “ecosystem” which allows all parties in the supply chain to work together, creating workflows, purchase orders, air waybills and so on.
  • Jettainer had developed a platform to manage its 85,000 fleet of ULDs
  • OpenAirlines developed a product called SkyBreathe, based on big data. By analysing millions of flights and other data, the system can work out optimal fuel burn in an application for pilots.

The theme resonated throughout the symposium. We must continue to take steps to transform our current processes, to enhance productivity, in order to meet the needs and demands that will shape tomorrow's air cargo world.

Where next?

The 12th World Cargo Symposium will be in Dallas, Texas from 13-15 March 2018.


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