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Embattled cargo handlers can introduce increased efficiencies into their processes thanks to the launch of another tool to help them digitise.

As handlers around the world struggle with congestion, waiting times and queues, two technology companies have partnered to provide a pay-as-you-go solution.

Hermes Logistics Technologies (HLT) has introduced Nallian’s landside management applications into its New Generation Ecosystem.

HLT customers will be able to use a slot-booking app that connects handlers, freight forwarders and hauliers to coordinate pick up and drop off times, which should cut wait times and level out busy times.

The platform will also have a mobile acceptance and delivery app for drivers, allowing them to see booking slots and enable real-time registration.

“We have noticed that handlers are more open than anyone else to digital solutions,” explained Steven Polmans, chief customer officer of Nallian. “Their biggest challenge is digitisation, but they are very responsive.

“Digitisation is like eating an elephant – you have to do it piece by piece, so apps, delivered one by one, help you grow a digital mindset.”

Yuval Baruch, CEO of HLT, said there had been a “clear request” for slot bookings, but that was “just one element of landside management”.

He said: “Our customers are not the strongest part of the supply chain, so our strategic view was, what could we do with our systems to help make them stronger? It’s all about service, management and enabling them to be an informed partner to the airlines.”

HLT launched its Next Gen system last year, which already has “buy-in from some interesting leading companies”, said Mr Baruch.

One senior cargo handler told The Loadstar he welcomed the move  – although he added that the app “doesn’t look like anything new or earth-breaking to me”.

He said: “Landside systems have been around for years, especially at Amsterdam and Brussels Airport. It’s a truck queue system. But it’s still nice to see things being developed and adopted.”

Mr Polmans added: “It’s not about digitising documents, it’s about changing processes. There are 50% savings on import times by using the slot management system – these are the things we can do. Not only does it reduce waiting times, but it can add airway bill data. It’s the totality of applications that manage the process, and no airport has all that in place.”

Hermes technology is now in some 80 stations around the world, and Mr Baruch said the maturity of the product made it easier for customers to use.

But, at a time when a large part of handlers’ business has been severely impacted by the dearth of passenger travel, will handlers want to splash out?

“Investment is difficult,” agreed Mr Polmans. “It takes too much cost before you feel the benefit. So our philosophy is to get the benefit on day one.

“Handlers don’t benefit from high yields, and right now they have lower volumes and are being squeezed. Yet they are so crucial in the supply chain and have a very important role in improving the logistics chain.”

Mr Baruch added: “It has prevented GHAs from moving forward – but a big investment is not needed. It’s a new saas offering, and handlers can benefit even without making a heavy tech spend. It’s a mature product, and pay-as-you-go.”

HLT said it was the tech companies’ responsibility to invest, not the handlers. And HLT is already looking ahead, working with Copenhagen University on AI models and using predictive analytics.

“It’s early days, and we won’t be talking to handlers about AI just yet,” said Mr Baruch. “But it’s an example of a tech company making the investment, and then rolling out the benefits to the industry.”

Recent congestion across European and US airports have put a spotlight on handlers recently. While digitisation is one route to more efficient processes, there is some ‘lower hanging fruit’, claim handlers, who want to see a better understanding of the words ‘transit shed’ from forwarders.

Some handlers claim forwarders see them as little more than an airport warehousing and storage facility, and that pick-ups at weekend and evenings would result in less congestion.

But one forwarder said: “Most people prefer daytime working, so it’s unlikely to change, and it’s the way it has been for the last few decades. We need to break habits and try a more collaborative approach.”

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