Standardization: Enablers and obstacles in air cargo partnerships

Standardization: Enablers and obstacles in air cargo partnerships

In order to unlock its full potential in terms of service delivery quality and diversity of product portfolio, there is an urgent need to recast the air cargo fulfillment model on the basis of connected, open architecture digital platforms that enable seamless, real time communication between supply chain partners.

A key consideration from the above dictum is that all partners in the supply chain have to be integrated on a common platform such that they can "speak one common language". In the absence of such alignment with a unified messaging standard, manual interventions and offline communications such as telephone or email expose the system to errors and redundancy. The Cargo XML standard introduced by IATA achieves this objective to some extent in the real world, enabling efficient communication between airlines and the stakeholders on either side of the export/import chain, but this too is insufficient to address the needs of specialized cargo products and services like constant temperature solutions. 

In the face of constantly growing demand for bespoke logistics solutions and constant pressure on the air cargo industry to deliver healthy margins, it becomes imperative to develop a more connected ecosystem that would enable seamless and predictable service across service provider links in the supply chain.  

Role of a modern technology ecosystem

In the current scenario it is inconceivable that every single partner in the typical air cargo supply chain will have deployed the same technology platform and thus will inherently ensure that a common language is spoken in all electronic messages. This can be attributed to the greatly fragmented ownership and the huge variance in maturity of the partners. In such a situation, the most basic possibility would be to ensure compliance to a global standard – such as EDI or CXML, which means that irrespective of which partner utilizes which platform, it is possible to bring about a certain level of standardization through adhering to a common messaging protocol such as the Cargo XML. However, this only forms a baseline case of a communication line between supply chain partners – a much more capable integration is required in the case of more intricate solutions involving more than the baseline milestones.

In this context, the role of modern IT platforms becomes more and more relevant. IT platforms should on the one hand provide the flexibility to the primary provider of the service (the carrier) with the capability to create myriad possibilities on modelling products and services – allowing product managers to add layer on layer of dimensions and attributes such as SLAs, special services (E.g. constant temperature monitoring) and ofcourse pricing. On the other hand, the execution of the service – in the most part executed by Ground Handling companies, should be able to seamlessly execute these layers of service and provide reliable, real time feedback to the carrier on the progress. Both of these considerations require a vast rethink on the way in which the air cargo supply chain business process. The need is for a business process revamp, with technology as the glue that holds it together. 

Enabling partnerships in air cargo 

For the reasons mentioned above – fragmented ownership, variance in partner maturity and non-uniform incentive across partners – there is no clear and practical path to ensure a unified platform deployment across the entire chain. As the largest investor in the chain, the airline company has some incentive to aid the standardization and even initiate some momentum for the same. Technology is the most effective path for this, specifically to enable even those partners with significantly less technological maturity to seamlessly connect with the core platform and engage with the other partners in terms of process and data.

This can be done in a highly focused manner by taking into account the messaging and data exchange pertaining to specific partner combinations within the chain, such as the collaboration between a cargo airline and the ground handling agents. IBS has approached this problem as a tremendous opportunity for improving the air cargo supply chain and has created a concept called "Virtual GHA Connect" – which provides capabilities that would elevate the level of integration between the two key cogs in the air supply chain – the carrier and the GHA.

IBS is hosting the next edition of its cargo community meeting – the IBS Cargo Forum in Bangalore in November, with the theme of "Partnership and Collaboration in the Digital Age" where this will take center stage. This is the 14th edition of the semi-annual event, where decisions that will shape the future of air cargo are taken with the participation of the who's who of the industry. 

Relevance of iCargo in the new generation 

Business strategy in today's world revolves around the power of digitization, integrated operations and a cutting edge IT strategy to create new and bigger possibilities than ever before. A key implication of that trend is that organizations don't want one-size-fits-all technology tools to run their businesses. Instead, every company which is of significance is demanding technology platforms that will enable them to create and deploy their own toolsets in alignment with their specific business strategy.

From the very foundation, iCargo was built to be an effective enabler for a diverse array of air cargo business models, addressing virtually all aspects of the sector. By enhancing sales, making operations more efficient and even implementing new paradigms such as predictive analytics, the platform will strengthen your business from its very core while allowing you the flexibility and dynamism you need to continually modernize your business in accordance with market demand.

A unique ecosystem of distributed industry expertise is in place to ensure that the platform is always ahead of the game. iCargo represents more than a decade of experience in the field of air cargo management along with the depth and breadth of domain knowledge resulting from working with around 25 cargo airlines of different sizes. It enjoys the support of a vibrant community of experts from the air cargo industry, which convenes twice every year to review the product roadmap and reinforce its relevance to the industry's future requirements. This is backed by a systematic and continual R&D investment by IBS, which is an organization famous for its focus on building and successfully delivering next generation solutions for the aviation industry.

In addition, the status of IBS as strategic partner to IATA ensures the participants in the ecosystem are at the forefront of industry-wide enhancement and standardization programs that are designed to improve air cargo service delivery across the globe. Every user of the product is offered the dual benefit of compliance with industry best practices and the capability to configure it differently to cater to the specific needs of the customer. 


Radhesh Menon heads product management and strategy for IBS' offerings in the Airline Cargo Services line of business. In this capacity, he is responsible for short and long term product goals, competitive benchmarking, product roadmap and innovation practice. He is also responsible for running the product community model. He has over 16 years of experience in the air cargo and logistics business systems in air cargo, industry best practices and new industry initiatives.

Radhesh played a pivotal role in conceptualizing and developing the blueprints for IBS's new generation product line for air cargo management. He was instrumental in setting up and running the IBS Core Group of Influence (CGI) – a partnership of IBS and several industry leading carriers for the conceptualization of IBS' new generation cargo system - iCargo. 

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Sunday, 18 November 2018

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