Air cargo carriers transform into data-driven businesses, reports Unisys

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Air cargo industry experts participating in the Unisys Cargo User Group (UCUG) community report that disruptive innovations driven by cloud computing collaboration, sensor technology, and digital business are radically transforming the way air cargo organisations work and integrate in the supply-chain. This is creating a fast-growing gap between leaders and laggards.

"The air cargo industry is at a tipping point where transformational innovation enabled by modern technologies has become a reality. The most innovative carriers are now data-driven businesses that are responding dynamically to market changes, using cloud, sensors, analytics and digital business. Such organisations are differentiating themselves with speed, control and new value by re-thinking all aspects of their business," says Christopher Shawdon, vice president Logistics Solutions for Unisys.

Shawdon identifies three key trends based on discussions at the recent 61st meeting of the Unisys Cargo User Group held in April:

1) Sensors and integration drive insights and help businesses manage by exception

Sensors in a heartrate monitor can alert a doctor to changes in the way a patient's heart is operating. Similarly, sensors embedded throughout logistics supply chains feed data into rules-based analytics engines that provide insights and early warning of issues. For example RFID sensors on items within a shipment can quickly identify if part of a shipment is missing, exactly what is missing and where it is likely to be. Data from sensors on containers carrying sensitive air cargo such as pharmaceutical and perishable products can automatically send key metrics of environmental conditions throughout the transport lifecycle to a logistics management system so that a full audit trail is available on demand. Such ready access to up-to-date data throughout the supply chain provides air cargo carriers with insights to help ensure that customer promises are fulfilled even when there is disruption along the route.

2) Cloud-based models speed technology change and enhancements

Cloud-based technology services deliver speed and savings compared to traditional software and Software-as-a-Service models (SaaS). They offer the benefit of quick implementation -- often in less than six months compared to the years typical of other models -- and with much lower capital cost. As enhancement costs can be shared among clients of a cloud-based service, vendors can deliver services at a lower price point than through traditional software. Harnessing the community nature of cloud drives collaboration to tackle joint challenges such as facilitating a fully electronic supply chain, meeting new regulations and changing established ways of working across the industry.

3) Electronic-supply chains enable more dynamic and optimised business

Air carriers offer a very perishable product – any space unsold on a given flight and date is lost revenue. Dynamic pricing is helping leading carriers maximise use of available capacity. Their systems interface with the systems of their customers and partners as part of a fully integrated supply chain using XML, peer-to-peer apps and web services to reduce cost and better understand their markets. They are using highly targeted e-business campaigns at a more granular level than can be done through telesales. And they are using this early and greater visibility of data, combined with mobile technology, to fast-track the flow of goods from acceptance through delivery.

Unisys logistics solutions are used by carriers that move approximately 25 percent of the world's air cargo. Leading carriers using the Unisys Logistics Management System include Air Canada, Gollog, MASkargo, Modern Logistics, and TravelSky on behalf of Chinese carriers, who collaborate via the Unisys Cargo User Group. This group of clients works closely with Unisys to discuss industry issues and to identify and prioritize enhancements and upgrades to the Unisys services. Unisys and UCUG members have worked with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for more than 20 years on initiatives such as e-Freight, Cargo 2000 and XML messaging, and with customs and security agencies to help carriers develop best practices and remain compliant with constantly-changing regulations.

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