digitalisation © Faithiecannoise
© Faithiecannoise

The air freight industry has moved a step closer to digitalisation and data-sharing with the launch of the e-Dangerous Goods Declaration (eDGD).

The eDGD, which is IATA compliant, uses supply chain community platforms to enable collaboration between partners, traceability and reduce errors and delays.

Implementing the e-DGD requires cooperation between all stakeholders, including shippers, forwarders, carriers and ground handling agents.

The current “proof of concept” phase involves the three airlines behind the initiative, Lufthansa Cargo, Swiss World Cargo and AF-KLM.

“The house manifest, security declaration and dangerous goods declaration are the next three paper documents that need to be electronic after the air waybill,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, chief commercial officer of Lufthansa Cargo.

“Then 70% of the shipments could be moved without paper, and the efficiencies really kick in. Then we and forwarders can change our processes.”

The news follows hot on the heels of several other digitalisation initiatives, revealing a groundswell of support for change in the industry.

Last week, Lufthansa Cargo announced it was offering two new platforms for forwarders: GetCapacity and GetRates. Customers can access data, which includes real-time capacity information, via their own systems and process it without having to manually upload it. The process speeds up the flow of information and reduces errors, said the airline.

“We are strongly moving towards digitalisation,” said Mr von Hoensbroech, on the sidelines of the WCS conference in Dallas last week.

“One very important aspect is to create the right interface and get away from EDI. The new service offers visibility on capacity and rates. You have to sign up, it’s not public.

“The service is for forwarders. We don’t do business directly with shippers, and that won’t change. It might make it more transparent for shippers, but it is facilitated by forwarders.”

The carrier said it was working on more services, such as being able to provide spot prices together with capacity information.

Swiss World Cargo (SWC) is also working on new electronic initiatives, along with community association, Interest Group Air Cargo Switzerland (IGAirCargo).

“We are working to digitalise,” said SWC chief Ashwin Bhat. “It’s all about connecting all the relevant parties. There was a lot of paper in dangerous goods declaration; it was very inefficient.”

Colleague Christian Wyss, head of quality & services, added: “It took the industry more than 20 years to make the AWB the default document, but things are really changing now for the good.”

However, in this new era, the key will be universally available data, warned Jim Butler, senior vice president international and cargo for American Airlines.

“For any of you who still believe your competitive advantage in the future will be the data you possess, I am willing to bet you will be proved wrong.

“The competitive advantage around data will likely be defined by how you use universally available data, not the data you keep to yourself.

“And if anyone questions that, just think back to the independent travel agent of 15 years ago who believed that holding passenger airline fares to himself was his competitive advantage.

“In fact, the ones who perfected how to use newly universally available data are the ones who are still around today.”

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