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Digitalisation a changing player in the cargo chain

On February 6th the first Air Cargo Summit was organised by Air Cargo Netherlands, Air France KLM Martinair Cargo and Erasmus University Rotterdam. The informative and interactive event brought together around 75 air cargo leaders and logistics professionals, to learn and discuss how digital platforms will influence freight forwarding.

In recent years, efforts to digitize air cargo gained momentum. Digital platforms are growing in numbers, and catapult new business models that allow players in the air cargo chain to improve their play or change the game. During the symposium, three international keynote speakers gave their expert views on digitization and platformization, and the future relationship between players in the air cargo chain.

Dick Benschop, President and CEO of Royal Schiphol Group, informed the audience about Amsterdam airport’s strategy ‘towards a sustainable future’. He emphasized that the position of air cargo requires additional attention in order for Schiphol to remain ‘Europe’s smartest cargo hub’. And that it is important to protect full freighter capacity. When it comes to improving and digitizing the air cargo chain, we have seen good examples of cooperation with the cargo community, such as the Smart Cargo Mainport Program. Together with supply chain partners at Schiphol SCMP organizes working groups around smart logistics, data sharing, innovation and sustainability.

“Digital Air Cargo’ is not 2025 – it is right now”
Zvi Schreiber, Freightos

Zvi Schreiber, Founder and CEO of Freightos, held up a mirror to the audience. In his opinion the air cargo industry is responding too slowly to fast changes such as digitization, dynamic pricing and real-time supply chains. ‘Digital Air Cargo’ is not 2025 – this is right now. Visionary supply chain professionals and freight players are already doing this today. And the ones who do not digitize, will be left behind very quickly.

Finally, Marion Freijsen, Stategic Business Advisor at Adobe and Chair of the Advisory Board of PayCargo, addressed the digital transformation process of companies. According to Freijsen, transformation is certainly not just about technology. It is about having the right tools, having the right people, pressing the right buttons and getting all your stakeholders ready for the transformation. She added that the industry should be less stressed towards sharing information, as this is the basis of successful digitization.

After the plenary session, all participants split up for break-out sessions to brainstorm and brainwrite the subjects of ‘transparency’, ‘flexibility’ and ‘modularity’. During these energizing sessions, facilitated by the Design Innovation Group (DIG), numerous ideas and opportunities were identified around customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, utilization, data sharing, standardization and more.

During the wrap-up of the day by chair Charles Groenhuijzen, the key take-aways of the break-outs and the most promising opportunities to improve the air cargo value chain were brought together. The enthusiasm around both the insights gained, and the set-up of the day was shared by many of the air cargo leaders in the audience. Also the organizers were pleased with the result of the first edition of the Air Cargo Summit.

Maarten van As, Managing Director of Air Cargo Netherlands, concluded that digitization cannot be stopped and should be seen as an opportunity instead of a threat. And noticed a wider acceptance among the participants of the first Air Cargo Summit for digitization of the air cargo industry.

Jaco Vaneman, Director Business Innovation of Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, emphasized the enthusiastic participation of everybody during the break-outs and the useful take-aways of the day. Somehow, we need to follow-up on these insights with a pragmatic digitization agenda for the entire community.

Floris de Haan, Senior Researcher Air Transport Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam, added that there already is an excellent physical infrastructure available for air cargo at Schiphol. Now the time has come to develop and optimize our virtual infrastructure.