IT Focus: The intelligent cargo ecosystem revolutionising freight forwarding

An End-to-End Cargo Management Solution
The air cargo industry is a complex and operationally challenging environment with many stages and checkpoints across the globe, and with the industry’s rapid rate of growth, these challenges will only intensify.
In short, digital transformation will be essential to managing such complexities.
Last year, the air cargo industry shipped 52m tons of goods with a total value of $6.8trn. As the volume of air cargo shipments increases, the movement of goods via air is becoming increasingly important for the health of the world economy.
A more intuitive and interoperable air cargo ecosystem could significantly improve profitability for freight forwarders and carriers alike, and enhance transparency and predictability across the entire supply chain. 
Digital platforms are rapidly evolving, from web only to fully mobile, enabling us to work on the go, while the addition of scalable cloud-based services has made paperless documents readily available in a business that requires accurate and automated documentation at a forwarder’s finger tips. 
New technology has also given rise to e-commerce platforms which are changing the landscape of logistics whereby historically goods were traded between large and medium wholesalers working with organized local distribution, where today, it includes the trading of goods between private consumers and micro-enterprises.
A Solution for Fragmented Data and Outdated Systems
The systems currently in place for air cargo management involve too many agents and siloed systems, with little or no integration between them.
This overcomplicates and slows down the entire process of shipping cargo. The wider problem here is that the air cargo industry is still affected by legacy systems with outdated technology, a lack of data, and limited information sharing.
This in turn has a knock-on effect in creating unnecessary complexity across the supply chain, which ultimately drives up costs for customers and dents profits for carriers.
When you think about the multiple stages across the air cargo supply chain and all the influencing factors such as scope, scale and frequency, security, reliability and accuracy, latency and timeliness – there are clear opportunities to automate, synchronize and connect the processes with a view to create a faster, more efficient and intelligent cargo operation.
Disrupting Air Cargo and Affording Freight Forwarders More Control
Mercator’s Intelligent Cargo Ecosystem approach has the potential to transform all the processes that make up the air cargo supply chain, through a set of breakthrough digital technologies.
These include solutions for Offer & Order Management, Logistics, Warehousing, Regulatory compliance, Quality Management, Revenue Management, and Analytics.
The Warehouse App allows carriers and ground handlers to capture all shipment data across the supply chain through a single mobile interface and achieve full visibility into every stage of the process, from acceptance and relocation, through to breakdown, build-up, delivery and tracking billing data.
This improved visibility drives greater predictability, efficiency and value.  In addition, the app has a smart search functionality allowing the agent to search query shipments, display SHC codes and labels, view shipment itineraries and query loading details.
After the cargo is scanned, all stakeholders across the supply chain can see all shipment-specific information.
Finnair revolutionizing its cargo system with the industry’s first open API app
The Warehouse App was developed after extensive consultation with hundreds of air cargo warehouse agents around the world and through Mercator’s own experience of handling over 200,000 tons of air cargo.
The app is the first of a series of breakthrough applications which will be rolled out as part of the Intelligent Cargo Ecosystem.
The ecosystem is the industry’s first open API platform, offering partner integration, delivering an end-to-end view of cargo management, while capturing and displaying information in real-time, and making workflows seamless.
Finnair Cargo is using the Warehouse App to help increase cargo capacity by 50% by 2020, by improving the efficiency of warehouse management and automating almost 90% of work processes, whilst increasing customer satisfaction and boosting the bottom line.
Finnair Cargo’s new warehouse in Helsinki will be the biggest air cargo warehouse in Europe, operating 24/7 with a workforce of approximately 40 employees.
Technological Shift Liberates the Airline Industry from Legacy Systems
The air cargo supply chain needs to mirror the technological shift taking place in the management of organizations, as it becomes increasingly clear that the carriers of tomorrow are becoming more reliant on IoT, AI and robotics to optimize logistics processes.
Mercator’s Intelligent Cargo Ecosystem is built with an open API platform architecture to help liberate freight forwarders and carriers from legacy IT systems and enable them to break down operational silos to streamline business operations. This means users will be able to make changes to IT processes and workflows, providing unrivalled agility and encouraging innovation.
With the unprecedented level of flexibility and predictability in the accurate tracking of cargo movements, carriers will be able to introduce new services such as guaranteed delivery and other premium delivery options, which were previously hard to offer.
This could include the delivery of small consumer packages, perishables, dangerous and high-value items.
Intelligent Insights Avoid Delay
The Intelligent Cargo Ecosystem enables users to identify potential issues such as flight delays and service disruptions as well as changes in temperature/weather conditions which can negatively impact the cargo delivery process.
This allows staff to take preventive measures and change the way the product moves across the value chain to minimize risk and improve the service quality.
Key to this will be adopting an open architecture approach and an agile ecosystem of apps, which can help them make the most of data insight and implement business changes quickly to drive service innovation.
At this stage this is an imperative, not an option for the air cargo industry, in order to deliver value to customers and differentiate themselves from the competition.
Carriers and freight forwarders have the opportunity to embrace digitization and adopt emerging technologies to radically change the way they operate and the services they offer customers. This also affords a great opportunity to be safer, faster and above all smarter.

Brendan McKittrick, CTO Mercator

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