dnata bets big on technology, innovation and sustainability

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From the Netherlands to Australia, the UAE to the USA, global air cargo handler dnata’s cargo teams move over 3.1 million tonnes a year across four continents – that’s more than 8,450 tonnes every day! Pioneering industry standards through investment in technology, this air services provider has been at the forefront of innovation and sustainability.

Surya Kannoth

From moving flowers, food, pharma and other perishables, to luxury cars and even animals, Dubai-based dnata, a subsidiary of the Emirates Group, has become one of the world’s largest air services providers of ground handling and cargo services.

Back home, as the sole ground handling agent at Dubai International Airports, dnata has helped to transform the Emirates into a global aviation hub and the leading hub for A380 operations. It is one of world’s busiest airport, with 140 airlines serving over 250 destinations. It all adds up to 212,000 aircraft movements, 800,000 tonnes of freight and 90 million passengers per annum.

dnata also operates at Dubai World Central Al Maktoum International Airport, which opened its doors to passengers in October 2013; and Dubai is just one of its bases. “As Dubai World Central (DWC) expands, our state-of-the-art operations there grow with it. We rigorously challenge our processes and work practices to drive efficiency, save costs and improve customer experience. To achieve our objectives, we apply cutting-edge technology to enhance our facilities and operations,” said Steve Allen, divisional senior vice president, UAE Airport Operations dnata.

As for its international airport operations division, over the last two years, dnata’s revenues have grown 77 percent to $1147 million as against $647 million while cargo volumes have risen 71 percent to 2.5 million tonnes from a previous 1.5 million tonnes. 

When quizzed about increasing its footprint in the Asia Pacific region, Stewart Angus, dnata’s divisional senior vice president – International Airport Operations & Associated Companies, said,  “We would really want to increase our operations in the Asia Pacific as it is a growing market; there are a lot of good quality carriers there. It is about finding the right opportunity and we are looking at a couple of options in Asia.” According to Angus, it has been difficult to penetrate into that market since major airlines usually retain the ground handling part of the business there.

After a slew of acquisitions over the last few years, does dnata have any plans to merge with any big industry player? Angus was clear that there is no such plan. “The strategy that we have followed is to invest in local hero-type individual operations and then integrate them with our own. I don’t think we will merge with a big industry player,” he said.  

“Over the last couple of years, within a period of a year we did a quite a number of acquisitions in Amsterdam, Brazil, USA, Canada and the Benelux. Having made several acquisitions in a short time, our focus has been on integrating and optimizing those businesses,” he added.

dnata’s cutting edge technologies and innovations
As part of digital transformation, dnata has revisited all its process and support functions to ensure simplified services for its customers. There are multiple initiatives currently in progress.

Cargoflex is a pickup and delivery service provided by dnata Cargo that operates between Dubai Airport Free Zone, Dubai Cargo Village and Dubai World Central Cargo terminals. This product started as a simple idea to reduce truck movements at its docks by consolidating loads, offering freight forwarders a one-stop-shop for the transportation of shipments from the terminals to their doorstep and vice-versa. 

Cargo Integrated Control Centre (CICC) 
CICC is a modern, technologically advanced control centre that monitors and manages dnata’s cargo operations. By co-seating dnata Cargo with government’s agencies, CICC has been ground breaking in terms of quick turnaround of requests and actions, and comprehensive communications with the government stakeholders. 

Advanced Cargo Information (ACI) 
In collaboration with Dubai Customs Authority, dnata Cargo will soon launch ACI. ACI will enable it to receive advance cargo shipment information electronically from its airline customers. The objective of ACI is to improve cargo planning across the supply chain and will be implemented by 1 May 2019. 

Roller Bed Trailer 
Dnata recently added the ‘Cartel Roller Bed’ trailer to its growing fleet of specialised equipment at Dubai World Central, which enables them to handle special cargo, oversize shipments and aircraft engines seamlessly; without the use of cranes or forklifts. It will also allow them to deliver shipments across Dubai Logistics City, Dubai South and Jebel Ali Free zone. 

One cargo - digitalised cargo operations of the future 
With a strong foundation of unified processes, dnata Cargo implemented a single tool for digitalised operations: One cargo. It is an innovative tool that steers all its processes and connects its global air cargo operations on a single technology platform. By 2020, the technology will be fully implemented, covering over 5,000 employees across 27 stations in 10 countries. 

Digitised customer engagement 
The Appointment and Dock Management (ADM) tool enables a digitized engagement between freight forwarders and dnata cargo. ADM will allow freight forwarders to schedule appointment with dnata Cargo, for delivery or acceptance of shipments. 

As part of continuous improvement, the cargo handler is now further testing additional innovations to simplify its operations, including drones for warehouse inventory and tracking of shipment and inline 3D cameras for dimension check. 

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