Exploring artificial intelligence

posted on 17th March 2022
Exploring artificial intelligence

Dirk Goovaerts, global cargo chair and head of Middle East & Africa at Swissport International, expects Swissport’s recent partnership with logistics technology provider Speedcargo to help improve overall logistics efficiency and increase cargo capacity in warehouses and on flights

What have you been doing to improve air freight operational efficiency and communications, and what will you do this year?
Our mission is to create a process that is fully transparent and ultra-efficient, for our customers to be able to track the supply chain and streamline their activities. Swissport already has number of successful initiatives, such as cargo self-service kiosks that reduce hand-to-hand interaction – and so lessen the risk of virus transmission – while also digitalising formerly paper-based processes in order to speed the flow of documentation through the supply chain. Developed with customer and partners such as truckers and forwarders in mind, they are already in use in seven global locations, such as BSL, LGG, FRA, and the kiosks will be implemented at more airports soon – with MAN, VIE, JNB next in line.

Bluetooth ULD tracking
We are also utilising Bluetooth ULD tracking in 33 air cargo facilities across the globe. This state-of-the-art technology with geolocation of ULDs enables real-time tracking and inventory control, allowing efficient and effective distribution planning.
Our partnership with Speedcargo aims to advance Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as Cargo Eye & Mind in supporting our drive to digitalise the overall logistics, including cargo capacity both in warehouses and on flights, and again – improving our operational results.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that Swissport invested in a new generation of mobile devices and an app that allows employees to record every step of the warehousing process, such as acceptance, build-up, check-in of goods and delivery. With these process steps supported with real-time visibility, customers can keep track of their shipment status. By the end of 2022 we expect 76 stations and its staff to be equipped with those devices.

How can you and other stakeholders in the air freight supply chain work more effectively this year to improve visibility and streamline cargo operational processes – to minimise some of the congestion, delays and volatility experienced last year at certain cargo handling stations and airports?
Swissport is a keen supporter of airport cargo communities, which brings real value to freight communities. Connecting Swissport systems with the airport community systems leverages benefits not only for Swissport but the entire community, by pushing each stakeholder to meet and exceed industry standards.
Examples include linking our self-service kiosks with slot and door management in airports such as BRU, LGG, FRA, AMS, JNB, using digitalised solutions to simplify some of the processes and to create multi-disciplinary coordination.

How can we better incentivise stakeholders in the air freight supply chain to support these aims?
The digitalisation of the aviation industry and consequently sharing the data across airport communities holds many benefits. We firmly believe that this is the way forward for our industry, and thus the challenge lies mainly in convincing all players in the supply chain to align and join the community.
Of course, this at first requires the investment in digitalisation, change management and shared vision, albeit the benefits are countless. Shared data will lead to new ways of organising, planning and executing the projects – more efficient and effective solutions will be applied in scrutinized areas.
Cooperation and transparency are the values we actively promote.

What role will new and emerging technology play?
Swissport has recently signed a proof-of-concept agreement with Speedcargo, a leading provider of logistics technology. Its artificial intelligence (AI) based solutions, Cargo Eye and Cargo Mind, will support our digitalisation drive, help improve overall logistics efficiency and increase cargo capacity in warehouses and on flights. We expect to further optimise cargo loads on our customers’ flights and ULD containers by 5%, representing a significant increase in revenue for both the airline and the handler.
The application of advanced AI technologies allows us to stay in the lead of cargo services providers by constantly reviewing our technologies, services and their execution. The complexity of the aviation industry requires complex solutions tailored to the specific needs of customers, and digitalisation is essential to answer the market’s requirements.

Other expectations for air freight in 2022
We are forecasting that air cargo will experience the steady annual growth by of 4-5% in the coming years.
The belly capacity that has been removed due to the Covid pandemic related collapse in flying passenger numbers, will start to incline in 2022, as we see the number of passenger flights increasing and airports re-opening. The ecommerce volumes are likely to continue their ongoing steep upward curve. I am confident that we will see a gradual increase of demand for rail-air and sea-air multimodal solutions.
Finally, throughout the year we will be delivering our comprehensive cargo strategy. Swissport has ambitious growth plans, both organic and through acquisitions.