The e-commerce surge has deeply impacted the air cargo industry, prompting the question of how industry leaders can meet the evolving needs of online retailers while coping with the rising demand for speed and reliability. Glyn Hughes, Director General of TIACA, provides insights into this challenge.
He emphasises the distinct nature of e-commerce cargo, which is closely tied to consumer expectations and urgency. Unlike traditional cargo with well-defined handling conditions, e-commerce cargo spans various scenarios. It includes goods already purchased by consumers, necessitating swift, transparent, and predictable transportation with continuous tracking.
Adaptation and effective response are keys to an exciting and prosperous future in air cargo.
It also involves moving large volumes of potentially low-value cargo, as seen in ultra-fast fashion, where rapid delivery is critical. E-commerce cargo extends to supporting e-commerce platforms in moving products to regional or final delivery locations.
He also underscores the need for industry adaptability, given the increasing cargo volumes. Full digitalization is presented as the key to success, with a focus on data integration to enhance supply chain efficiency and transparency. Integration with final-mile delivery solutions is highlighted as crucial. In essence, adapting to the evolving e-commerce cargo landscape requires embracing technology and streamlined processes to meet consumer and retailer demands.
Hughes highlights the importance of collaboration in creating a more integrated and efficient air cargo network. He suggests building trusted partnerships, sharing data, aligning processes, and utilising industry standards. Customised solutions should align partners around common operational objectives, with industry community networks facilitating relationship-building.
The transformative role of AI and machine learning in air cargo operations is another key point. Hughes emphasises the benefits of virtualized 360-degree scanning and AI-based analytics for maximising space. He envisions the vertical expansion of cargo facilities with automated storage systems and the utilisation of machine-to-machine communication to enhance disruption management in the face of operational challenges.
He asserts that autonomous cargo drones are not a possibility but a necessity in the future of air cargo. He anticipates their application will enhance existing supply chains by serving remote areas and addressing emerging needs, making the future of air cargo promising.
Hughes acknowledges the significant role of governments in advancing the air cargo sector. He notes the importance of government support in promoting innovation through research grants and contests, particularly in fields like robotics and automation. Furthermore, the establishment of regulations aimed at digitising border management and compliance requirements is viewed as a facilitator for enhanced supply chain development, particularly when data is digitised from the beginning.
In closing, Hughes emphasises that preparing for the unexpected is essential for the future of the air cargo industry. Anticipated trends include digital AI tools, drones, robotics, integrated solutions, and the growing importance of sustainability. Adaptation and effective response are keys to an exciting and prosperous future in air cargo.