Uniting forces to connect the dots in supply chain

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The challenge in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines has brought together the cargo community. Cargo community systems are empowering the entire supply chain ecosystem. The game-changer is data integrity - taken from the right source and transferred to each stakeholder with minimal intervention. Therefore, there are no data discrepancies and errors that cost a lot of money or penalties. It also gives a community the agility to proactively prepare for and quickly react to disruptive events and market forces. The resilience of such communities during the pandemic is an impressive example of how collaboration is key to success.

In a bid to support the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVAX initiative to distribute 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021, Dubai Vaccines Logistics Alliance formed in January. The alliance consisting of Emirates, DP World, Dubai Airports and International Humanitarian City, is one such collaboration in the air cargo community system.

Though ‘collaboration’ is a niche term repeatedly deliberated among the industry players, coronavirus brought it into reality. The challenge in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines has brought together the cargo community. Brussels Airport’s BRUcloud is an integrated logistics platform which translates air cargo community’s needs into applications running on this data-sharing platform. The community, through Air Cargo Belgium, has been instrumental in developing a digital roadmap focusing on digitising landside processes. 

“Cargo handlers, airlines, forwarders, and truckers use these applications, and the number of participating companies has significantly increased during the Covid-19 crisis. Our goal is to achieve standard use of the digital landside process before the end of this year, whereby the non-digitalised landside delivery and pick-up of cargo becomes the exception,” states Nathan De Valck, head of cargo product & network development, Brussels Airport Company.

For improving the air cargo supply chain, Fraport developed Air Cargo Community Frankfurt, which brings together freight forwarders, airlines, cargo handlers and other service providers from all sectors of the cargo process chain at Frankfurt Airport. 

Max Philipp Conrady, senior vice president cargo, Frankfurt Airport, says, "Recognising the need for collaboration, the community came into existence in 2013. Since then, the community established a resilient level of trust between members and airport operator. When the pandemic hit, the community could already rely on existing structures. Management groups comprising of companies and authorities were activated as early as March to prepare for the vaccination campaigns to respond to the dynamic changes in cargo volumes and structure, especially PPE and the Q4 peak season. As most relevant stakeholders were already members of the community, we only saw a few freight forwarders joining the group recently.” The newest member to join the community from January 1 is National Air Cargo (Germany).

Italian cargo services provider Alha delivered two specialised
CoolBox cool dollies to German airport operator and handler Fraport

The cargo community in the Netherlands has joined forces in Vaccines Gateway Netherlands (VGN), initiated by Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Air France KLM Martinair Cargo and Air Cargo Netherlands. The VGN consists of 60 companies and government agencies, including manufacturers, airports, airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, trucking companies, general sales agents, banks, insurance companies, educational institutes, consultancies, staffing agents, and security companies. 

Marcel Kuijn, global head of pharmaceutical logistics at AirFrance KLM Martinair Cargo, observes, “We have worked with the customs authorities to ensure fast and efficient checks. We have also identified the storage capacity that each handler has to support each other when there is a need for additional storage.  In future, we would like to involve the pharmaceutical shippers more in further developing the proposition of VGN.”

Kale Logistics Solutions’ ACS tracks the temperature excursions at the airport and provides alerts through interfaces with the warehouse temperature sensors. Similarly, it has provided the facility to all the stakeholders of the value chain to track the shipment status, including temperatures through mobile apps as well as web portals. The system has capabilities of connecting to destination community platforms thereby providing complete and detailed end-to-end tracking up to the point of delivery at destination. Furthermore, several features like advance shipment information to the handlers, online terminal charges payments, e-AWB, e-Certificate of origin, truck slot bookings, and the processing of pharma shipments vaccines is expedited.

Amar More, CEO, Kale Logistics Solutions, notes, “Today, the entire value chain, including the SME players, believe in digitisation and automation. We have seen the adoption of our community platforms go up 8-9 times during the pandemic. Today, we are engaged with over 40 ports and airports across North America, South America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific. The North American market is very receptive to ACS after our successful implementation at Atlanta International Airport in 2019. Truckers are experiencing very less wait times at the terminal gates and all documentation is done in advance before the truck reaches the terminal. The handler is well equipped with advance shipment information to plan the resources, equipment and warehouse. The airlines are getting IATA compliant e-AWB. So all the actors are well synchronised and ensure the cargo flow is seamless and quick along with significant cost savings.”

The award-winning cargo cloud of Brussels Airport is powered by Nallian’s data-sharing platform. It empowers stakeholders to streamline landside management operations, gain granular insights in real-time cargo flows, facilitate regulatory processes and enable end-to-end track and trace.

Speaking on how BRUcloud helps maintain cold chain integrity and providing real-time information in pharma shipments, De Valck, says, “All cargo handlers at Brussels Airport agreed to participate in the community quality dashboard for all pharma shipments.  The results of 18 quality and ready for carriage checks that are performed upon acceptance of each pharma shipment is shared with this community dashboard allowing us to address risks in the cool chain and collectively implement corrective actions. Additionally, we have launched a pilot project in January to implement a full data-sharing platform for all pharma shipments throughout the handling at each step in the cool chain.  The pilot group will include forwarders, handlers, and airlines, aiming at providing real-time transparency in the storage and handling conditions at multiple data points.  This data sharing platform will allow the BRUcargo community to be more pro-active in reacting to breaches in the cool chain integrity.”

Tracking is a vital part that is growing further to ensure the well-conditioned journey of the vaccines. Kuijn states, “All the ground handlers, hauliers, forwarders and airlines that are part of Vaccines Gateway Netherlands are GDP compliant and/or CEIV certified for Pharmaceuticals which means that they have strict processes in place to ensure the integrity and transparency of the cold chain.”

Community member Fraport Ground Services is Frankfurt's ramp handler and has recently been re-certified by IATA CEIV Pharma. Conrady, says, “Together, the community members offer 14,000 square metres exclusive temperature-controlled and CEIV certified pharma handling space.  Stringent pharma reference processes between warehouse and aircraft were developed a couple of years ago to ensure visibility in pharma transport. It guarantees a maximum ambient exposure time of 120 minutes, an hour less than TCR (Temperature Control Regulations) recommendations, which can even be shortened by fast and temperature-controlled transport options. While the main focus so far lay on visibility and CAPA-processes, real-time information is available with each service provider which is in the process of being integrated into the airport’s cargo community system.”

He further adds, “In 2021, the leading projects of the community will be the fully integrated information flows for imports from the aircraft into the freight forwarders’ hubs at Frankfurt as well as the integration of the handlers’ slot and yard management systems into the cargo community system.”

For Mumbai International Airport (MIAL), Kale has rolled out the imports deep automation process on GMAX. It has the potential to save over 6.4 million copies of paper annually. The community platform in Bengaluru is about to go live while there are new announcements of customers going live with Kale’s systems in North America and the Asia Pacific.

More says, “The pandemic drove the significance of minimal manual operations and paperless trade which our system was propagating for quite some time. The Airport Cargo Community System (ACS) from Kale Logistics Solutions is developed considering the future needs of the air cargo industry. The vaccines need faster and efficient distribution while maintaining the right temperature throughout for product efficacy. The ACS system connects all stakeholders in the supply chain, right from pharma companies, airlines, temperature-controlled facilities suppliers, freight forwarders, temperature-controlled transport service providers for uninterrupted services and data flow to the end-users.”

BRUcloud’s flexibility makes it easy for parties to onboard and to activate functionality as and when their business needs it. The applications mutually reinforce each other, but every company can start small and then scale according to their capacity and requirements. Getting started is relatively easy, as the apps on BRUcloud platform do not replace existing systems – they integrate with and augment the existing systems and data flows. 

Meanwhile, More opines, priority handling of trucks carrying vaccines is enabled by way of truck slot management, where the airport can set the system to accept trucks to pick/drop off the vaccine consignments on highest precedence. “The e-gate pass created by the agent helps the trucks pass through the gates much faster with minimal stoppages. The data tracking is aligned with all data loggers to ensure speed, security, reliability, and transparency. We have done changes to our web portal and mobile app to enable tracking Covid-19 vaccine transportation. The AI/ML technologies used to predict data and conditions for the stakeholder. Traffic conditions, load/unload times, transit times, clearance times are all predicted to ensure there is very little ambiguity.”

Cargo community systems are empowering the entire supply chain ecosystem. The game-changer is data integrity taken from the source. These systems ensure that data is captured from the right source and transferred to each stakeholder with minimal intervention. Therefore, there are no data discrepancies and errors that cost a lot of money and sometimes heavy penalties. Smart apps are connecting the small players into the platform to automate their data handling and documentation. 

The shared trust between community members and the common vision of seamless supply chains along all parties involved is the basis for integrated community systems and shared standards and processes. It also gives a community the agility to proactively prepare for and quickly react to disruptive events and market forces. The resilience of such communities during the pandemic is an impressive example of how collaboration is key to success.


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