Cargo iQ and its ‘smart data’ revolution

posted on 3rd April 2018

The re-launched Cargo 2000 air freight quality initiative promises to generate 110 million lines of performance data annually, potentially transforming the sector. But will it deliver? Will Waters investigates

Air freight performance quality initiative Cargo 2000 relaunched to great fanfare in March at IATA’s World Cargo Symposium (WCS) in Berlin. The relaunch as Cargo iQ is part of a ‘strategic transformation programme’ and includes a ‘smart data project’ that promises to add 110 million lines of performance data annually that its 82 members can ‘mine’, along with a new certification scheme to bring added external credibility.

The IATA-led industry initiative insists that the changes are far more than a rebrand, with many of its 82 airline and freight forwarding members enthusing about the revitalised programme, particularly its new ‘smart data’ element. This, they say, will allow members to identify and compare key indicators such as transit time performances on specific lanes, as well as the performance levels of individual stations and cargo handlers. Under the smart data project, data generated by all the members are pooled, providing a rich resource from which to identify a wide range of performance indicators, members say.

Members have also welcomed the rebranding, arguing that the reference in the old Cargo 2000 name to the year 2000 had sometimes undermined perceptions of the initiative and the good work that it has achieved. They also point to the decision of the world’s largest international air cargo carrier, Emirates SkyCargo, to join as further evidence of the new added value of the initiative. Other recent membership additions include three airports, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Vienna, and cargo handler Swissport, following a decision to allow full membership for organisations other than airlines and freight forwarders.

Members have also talked of the rebrand building positive momentum for the organisation’s work, as well as highlighting what is already being achieved. Ten million airport-to-airport and 5.5 million door-to-door shipments were measured by Cargo iQ in 2015. As well as enabling members to take action to improve and standardise their internal processes by identifying where quality is an issue, Cargo iQ enthusiasts say that by ‘speaking the same language’, members are also able to identify, establish as follow best practices and define common processes with industry partners in the supply chain.

This year, the group also promises to implement a new audit and certification scheme focused on giving the Cargo iQ Quality Management System Certification higher international recognition.

Underlying all of this is the aim for Cargo iQ members to work together towards measuring performance and continuously improve the value of air freight for customers, not only delivering what shippers demand, but also demonstrating this and identifying those that are able to do so.

Progress since the relaunch

So, what progress has there been since WCS in Berlin, and has this sense of momentum been maintained? There was talk back in March of new data elements being published in subsequent months, so is any new data already available from the smart data project? And how would we expect this project to progress this year?

Cargo Airports & Airline Services put these questions to Cargo iQ executive director Ariaen Zimmerman, who responded: “Since Berlin, we have been very focused on final implementations of the projects we announced. The Smart Data project, for instance, has successfully started producing its first phase (module one) information; confirming not only the trove of information we have at our fingertips, but also how tricky IT projects can be. Our members have been sending us their extended data sets reliably as of March and we now frequently publish network-wide benchmark data based on that.”

This new data has already demonstrated that the traditional views of the door-to-door journey time “needs a lot of nuance”, Zimmerman notes. “On average, our industry takes a little over five and a half days to move cargo from door to door, and our shipments spend about one third of that time under air carrier control,” he adds.

“To fully understand how we can serve our markets better, this is a first step, but we need to differentiate between products as well. We will need to exactly understand what value is being added by each party while shipments are under their control.”

New performance targets

Zimmerman believes these findings have already identified a need to refine the air freight industry’s target to improve transit times. “It is safe to say that an aim to take, for instance, merely two days out of this journey time is not truly relevant,” he says. “In the next two modules of our smart data project we will make online analysis available to our members and add an even wider scope to our data capture, allowing for additional information and adding components of door-to-airport and airport-to-door to our reporting.

“Our first experiences with smart data have, however, made us realise that our initial planning for our new IT setup would not suffice. For that reason, we have initiated an additional RFQ for potential IT providers that is in process and will conclude in September. Our module two may be slightly delayed, but is still projected to be running by Q2 of 2017.”

Audit and certification scheme

In terms of progress with the new audit and certification scheme, and in the ability of members to make and publish more meaningful performance comparisons, Zimmerman responds: “Our new audit scheme has been finalised internally and we have five external parties participating in the RFQ for providing the future auditing visits and reporting. This is fully in line with planning to have all our members under the new auditing system within three years.

“Combining this new audit approach with the power of continuous analysis through smart data is going to be very powerful in making sure our members’ performance is reliably measured against their customer commitments.”

But he says it will not so much be the new auditing system that will allow comparisons between members. “We aim to make sure our members make clear customer commitments in their various products and keep those promises,” he explains. “To truly compare our members, one still also has to keep in mind their various products and networks.”

He continues: “On a more granular level, our module two of smart data will allow comparison on a station and process level of the performance of our members and their providers. This is particularly relevant to improve overall efficiency and performance of our supply chain and a main driver for a lot of interest that we see with our current and prospective Ground Handling members.”

Service analysis

Next year, he says Cargo iQ will be able to provide performance certificates to members on a process level on how reliably their process can deliver a service within a certain time frame. “We will, for instance, be able to show that our members on a certain lane process 98% of their shipments within 19 hours. Or that a certain ground handler (GHA) at a certain airport takes one hour and 28 minutes to process 99% of its incoming shipments from FOH (Freight on Hand) to RCF, while the rest of the providers at that airport may take two hours and 54 minutes to get to that same level,” he explains. “These are the kind of benchmarks that will become available to our members about their own performance.”

Membership momentum

Zimmerman says the re-launch has led to a lot more attention to Cargo iQ projects and initiatives, evident in terms of levels of attention in the media, new member enquiries, as well as greater membership participation in the various Cargo iQ meetings. “The technical working groups continue to be visited by over 40 of our members and are a continuous success, but we also see a lot more interest in general,” he notes.

“We have another type of meeting in September, for instance, where we focus on how we can increase the commercial value of quality to our members. To truly drive quality, the market needs to value quality; and that is, after all, the reason we aim to make quality visible (hence our motto ‘Visibly Better’). This meeting will be visited by a substantial amount of our members and interest by their commercial departments for our activities can indeed be largely linked to our rebranding.”

Closer external cooperation

Another very beneficial result of Cargo iQ’s activities in this regard can be seen in its closer cooperation with industry bodies, other than IATA. “We will, for instance, now also work closely with TIACA, and we are excited to be holding our next board and membership meeting during their upcoming ACF in Paris, at which we aim to announce further cooperation with the Global Shippers’ Council,” Zimmerman says.

Nevertheless, he cautions that transforming air freight will not happen overnight, with IT-dependent innovations inevitably involving unexpected challenges. These experiences have been further underlined by challenges faced since the re-launch at WCS in Berlin.

Zimmerman concludes: “The main conclusion is that even though it may not be easy to actually deliver on the projects we announced in March, we do have the stamina and commitment to do so.”