Airline Cargo

How Lufthansa Cargo is unlocking efficiencies and closer collaboration with its ground-handling partners


Anyone who works in the air cargo industry knows how critical ground handling operations are, to ensuring that shipments are efficiently processed through to their end-destination. This is a complex area with many checks, processes, regulations, and stakeholders. It´s also where air cargo carriers and ground-handlers deliver on the customer promise and established service level agreements.

Yet, despite accelerated and customer-centric digitalization across most industries, air cargo has been lagging. For decades, ground-handling has relied on outdated messaging standards, processes, and systems that generate inefficiencies.

The industry´s messaging protocols only allow very basic data exchanges. Any richer handling instructions or shipment status updates need to be followed up with phone calls or emails, which is time-consuming and prone to errors. Equally inefficient are the countless manual and paper-based processes that drive inbound and outbound freight movements. Delivering on the customer promise involves meandering through a dark tunnel until shipments make it to the light on the other end.

But at Lufthansa Cargo, continuous innovation is in our DNA and we are determined to bring light to the tunnel. Real-time visibility and richer communications exchanges throughout the shipment lifecycle are key to operational performance. Different shipments have different handling requirements. Whether dangerous goods, temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals, or simply customer-specified instructions, many processes and a lot of information flow around cargo handling that stakeholders need to comply with.

As we constantly seek to improve our digital capabilities, our long-standing partnership with IBS Software recently achieved another milestone - the deployment of iPartner Handling across 50+ stations, expected to reach 60 by the end of this year. The mobile app allows us to connect and collaborate with our ground handling partners seamlessly across our major global hubs.

We now enjoy real-time visibility and richer communications throughout the shipment lifecycle that allow us to accelerate workflows, quickly recover operations if risks arise, and digitize processes that were previously human-intensive. No more physical check sheets, double system entries, or copious communications exchanges for shipment monitoring. It´s now completely digital. Our ground-handling partners know exactly what to do and we know exactly where our cargo is at any time. The electronic throughflow of all shipment related documentation has also allowed us to streamline inbound and outbound freight movements. Pre-checked freight can go straight to the unloading docks without having to queue at airport or warehouse counters, for example. But beyond operational efficiency gains, it´s all about our customers at the end of the day. Closer collaboration with our ground handling partners allows us to deliver even better service quality, which has resulted in increased customer satisfaction. 

Author Info 

Dr. Jan-Wilhelm Breithaupt is Vice President Global Fulfillment Management at Lufthansa Cargo. In this role he is responsible for all of Lufthansa Cargo’s handling and customer service processes across a network of about 300 stations worldwide. Driving standardization, digitization, and automation along the Air Cargo Supply Chain are among his top priorities.

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