ACL Airshop: Advancing innovations with ‘digital suite’

Published: Monday, September 18, 2023

First to offer Bluetooth tracking & tracing in air cargo ULDs, the company will showcase its new innovations at different air cargo trade shows around the world.

Greenville, South Carolina—ACL Airshop made a giant leap in the air cargo industry when it offered for the first time the innovative Bluetooth tracking and tracing app in ULDs years ago.
Now, the company is once more poised to lead the industry with a suite of digital innovations that will definitely benefit customers and their shipments apart from further enhancing the sector’s digitalization standards.
And those are reasons enough to put smiles on the faces of ACL Airshop CEO Steve Townes and COO Jos Jacobsen.
Over the past seven years, ACL Airshop steadily sustained growth with more plans across the world’s six continents.
Istanbul, home to the world’s largest airport, became ACL’s 57th airport hub. And today, the company owns more than 70,000 ULDs apart from managing more than 100,000 ULDs for different airlines, airports, and other stakeholders in the supply chain.

The Uberization of ULDs
The mere mention of the word “Uberization” makes Townes and Jacobsen gleam with happiness and hope. And why now? It’s a fond way to depict the company’s long-running digitalization strategy.

As the first-in-market to offer Bluetooth tracking & tracing of air cargo ULDs, and now various related technology and logistics innovations, ACL Airshop has made steady progress.
The company has invested substantial capital and manhours along that way. They call their efforts and investments the ACL Airshop “Technology Roadmap.”
And what a road it has been so far for ACL Airshop. Over 15 years of plot twists, hurdles, and speed bumps, but always making progress even with occasional setbacks.
Taking inspiration from the genius and tenacity of Thomas Edison who failed 2,774 times before finally perfecting the electric light bulb, ACL Airshop is just beginning with its innovative projects.

FindMyULD and the next step
ACL Airshop’s free app “FindMyULD” continues to gain traction with customers, handlers, and other users in the air cargo ecosystem.
Clients and their service partners, alike, have realized that it helps everybody get “on the same page” for ULD control, accountability, speed, and efficiency.
Fewer lost or unaccounted-for ULDs, fewer demurrage hassles, and better anticipatory planning. The Next Step: Linking the Airway Bill to the tracking systems.
Townes explains, “‘Uberization’ is coined as a generic term, akin to “Formica” countertops or “Kleenex” facial tissues. It speaks to the technology-driven convenience that has been universally defined by the Uber experience of hailing a car, versus chasing a taxi. Everything in the commercial model is in the palm of your hand.”
Jacobsen adds, “That is exactly where we are headed with our customer-friendly technologies, our Digital Suite. Let’s tie together the Airway Bill to the pallet tag and to the ULD serial number. Then link it with our global Ops Center and ERP tools so that, eventually, the client can check availability, click for instant Lease Orders, and know exactly where and when those ULDs will be ready for cargo-loading and fly-off,”
The ultimate goal is to have all the commercial paperwork and asset accountability automatically in the system, as seamlessly as possible. Easy? No, not at all. But is it worth the effort? Absolutely.
As ACL Airshop’s board of directors once proclaimed: “To be a market leader, we must also be a technology leader.”
From that point forward, the company has been hell-bent on leaning forward and advancing its goals and strategies. ACL has already successfully completed beta testing for the Airway Bill linkage.
ACL and its technology & software partners are focused on making the triggering of an urgent lease request or even a multi-year ULD contract fast and accurate from the palm of your hand. And all of it is tied directly into the company’s ERP system for inventory control, billing, big data analytics, advance ordering min/max metrics, and other valuable tools. The technologies are already available, and this type of end-to-end system can be workable and commercially viable in the not-too-distant future.
“We are maniacs about Customer Service (in a good way). We will keep accelerating our headlong technology race toward the Uberization of ULDs for cargo customers. Once tied to the Airway Bill and the ERP Systems, any small carrier should be able to give the same transparency and end-to-end accountability & efficiency to its shippers as the giant integrators—very cost-competitively,” Townes noted.
Jacobsen, stressed, “In other words, we are making this happen. Period. No rest until we succeed.” In the aviation press a couple of years ago, ACL Airshop was lauded for launching “M-Commerce” (M for “mobile”).

Transformative years
ACL’s great “Ah-Ha! Moment” came when it rolled out its ULD Bluetooth tags and readers in an ever-growing Internet of Things, aimed at helping airlines achieve the speed, service, and accuracy that their shippers and other end-customers have come to expect in the high-speed world of e-Commerce.
That newest chapter started in early 2017 when the ACL Airshop group was huddled around a trade show table in Abu Dhabi, trying to figure out if a tiny technology company from New Zealand could help catapult the Technology Roadmap forward with a proven Bluetooth system. Decisions were made, the teaming partners moved it forward together, and the whole phenomenon has been evolving ever since.
For roughly 14 years prior to that, the company and its IT/Tech consultant created the proprietary system called “ULD Control,” which allowed clients to dump the clipboards and pencils and start modernizing and streamlining.
Barcoding was added. One step led to another on a continual pathway forward, constantly listening to customers’ wish lists for what they needed to better control the logistics quagmire of ULDs at that time. Tinkering and tweaking endlessly to improve the ULD Management Systems.
That IT/Tech consultant from those early years? Well, he is, in fact, a champion-level competitive wind-surfer, is now the company’s full-time global Technology Director, and is a shareholder in ACL Airshop.

ACL at various air cargo trade shows
ACL Airshop will be sending small teams of executives to an array of air cargo trade shows in the busy fall season of 2023.
The teams will be at ULD Care in Athens, which runs concurrently and is co-located with the Air Cargo Handling & Logistics conference and the Airport Services Association leadership forum which will be held in Greece as well. Jacobsen will serve on the industry Board of ULD Care.
Townes, a well-known serial entrepreneur who studied at US Military Academy West Point and Harvard Business School recognized for his many business ventures involving successful buyouts and consolidations, meanwhile, is taking a small team from ACL to Baku, Azerbaijan in October for the Caspian Cargo Summit.
ACL is a Gold Sponsor at the event and Townes is expected to deliver his trademark high-energy presentation when he speaks before the delegates.
From October 31 to November 1, ACL is also participating at Air Cargo Americas in Miami, Florida. Topping off the efforts in early November in Singapore, ACL’s Managing Director for APAC, Mark Edwards and the company’s Asia-Pacific team are covering Air Cargo/Transport Logistics in Southeast Asia.
Hundreds of customers, industry partners, and prospects will be touched in this deliberate whirlwind of
outreach and client communication, the company executives assured.
ACL’s impressive portfolio includes award-winning technologies like FindMyULD. The company has also been awarded as a Top Employer in the United States and was recognized for its bona fide High-Performance Culture.