ACHL Conference Report: Air freight quality standards rated 8 out of 10

posted on 22nd September 2023 by Eddie Saunders
ACHL Conference Report: Air freight quality standards rated 8 out of 10

Companies are relatively satisfied with the industry’s existing measurement programmes such as Cargo iQ, although there are concerns about how some measures are implemented on the ground

Air freight companies are relatively satisfied with the industry’s existing quality measurement standards and programmes such as Cargo iQ, although some operators have concerns about how certain measures are implemented on the ground.

In a panel discussion on Quality and Compliance during the second day of the Air Cargo Handling & Logistics conference in Athens this week, Kai Domscheit, CEO at CHI Deutschland Cargo Handling said there appeared to be different definitions or understandings, for example, of the physical handover point for the industry’s Latest Acceptance Time (LAT) measure, providing an excuse for companies to manipulate the extent to which they were achieving certain key KPIs. For example, airlines or cargo handlers that claim to be meeting a KPI to deal with arriving trucks within 15 minutes were sometimes achieving this by telling truck drivers to circle round and come back later – with truck drivers left waiting up to 18 hours before being served, Domscheit claimed.

Lothar Moehle, executive director for Cargo iQ, said that Cargo iQ had a clear definition of the physical handover point for LAT, the moment when the cargo physically enters the cargo handler’s facility – although that point could be redefined if the forwarder and airline or handler mutually agreed.

One delegate that reported similar experiences questioned whether the standards were set by people who didn’t fully appreciate the realities on the ground, although Moehle disputed this, arguing that he had a long industry background and the organisation’s members and their subject matter experts together defined the standards and their implementation.

Moehle said it was not a problem with the standard, but it may be the way they are implemented by some players.

Henrik Ambak, SVP of cargo operations at Emirates and chair of Cargo iQ’s board, urged Domscheit to join Cargo iQ and contribute to its work. Domscheit said he was already involved with a hub performance initiative at Frankfurt in order to help improve practices and efficiencies.

Kai Domscheit

Kendy Choi, senior manager for cargo business development at Cainiao Network – which controls a cargo handling facility at Belgium’s Liège Airport (LGG) – said the company’s cargo handling facility at LGG included a guard house with a gate system and truck-booking system. If there is a delay in the loading of a truck, “we know that the truck was there. We have that timestamp and we have to handle the driver in 15 minutes.” The company also had a target to deal with and get all trucks off the premises within 90 minutes.

She believed the Cargo iQ concept was good but questioned whether it was measuring old milestones, noting: “We have technology measuring real-time data.”

But Moehle insisted that Cargo iQ and its milestones had been designed to work in a digital, modern technology environment.

Domscheit said if everyone operated their cargo handling facility like Cainiao – which had invested significantly in technology, to make their facility work efficiently – there would be far fewer problems.

Brendan Sullivan, global head of cargo at IATA, noted that “with the technology that is becoming available, there is less and less time to hide”. He believed other checkpoints could be added now that new technology was available to facilitate that.

Multiple airline audits

The panel discussed whether it was really necessary for a ground handling agent to have dozens or even hundreds of different airline audits each year – and if various companies are certified to a certain recognised level, does every single airline need to drop by and audit them as well? Several panellists agreed that if the cargo handler met certain clearly defined industry standards, it should not be necessary to check every element already covered by that audit.

One panellist said, however, that some of these audits focused very much on paper evidence, often failing to fully take account of whether these targets were being met on the ground. It was suggested that this was one reason why certain carriers felt the need to continue to do their own independent audits.

Quality measurement rating

Asked to rate how well the industry’s quality measurement standards were performing, most panellists were relatively positive.

Sullivan rated the programmes “very highly, at 8 or 9 out of 10”, although he wanted feedback to be fed into the programmes “to get that 8 or 9 into a 10”.

James Wyatt, general manager of air cargo consultancy aeroconcept, said he would give programmes “an 8 in terms of the standards that are out there”, for example, the Cargo Handling Manual. “I think the challenge is the adoption and the execution,” he added.

Domscheit said: “I would say from the airline perspective it is somewhere between 7 and 10,” noting that he believed the standards were created with good intentions – but what happens inside the laws needs to be fine-tuned and the definitions need some work on.

Moehle rated the Cargo iQ system as “8 to 8.5. Why not 10? Because there is always room for improvement. And if I rated it at 10, I would be out of a job!”