Senior Vice President, IBS Software
Ashok Rajan is a senior vice president at IBS Software which offers SaaS solutions for airline operations, crew operations, airline passenger services, loyalty programs, air-cargo management, and MRO.
With over 20 years of experience in conceptualizing and developing products for the travel and transportation industry, Ashok is now responsible for the flagship iCargo product line. He is committed to building and executing a successful strategy for the continued growth of the company.
“I’ve been involved in the tech industry for my entire professional life, and I like to think of myself as a freight technologist. I have a background in computer engineering, and I’ve done everything from coding to design to implementation. Now I’m running the business, and my mantra is to build and support your team and watch the magic happen,” Rajan tells Air Cargo Update.
Rajan is a huge fan of sports, “even though I’m not particularly good at any of them. I love following events, records and sportspeople”.
After a long day of work, Rajan relaxes by watching Netflix on television with his feet up. He has a remote control in one hand and a book in the other, enjoying some well-deserved leisure time.
Rajan’s favorite quote is in Hindi but loosely translates to “Raise yourself to such levels of excellence that when the almighty writes your destiny, he asks you – ‘Son what is your heart’s desire?’
“I look up to a number of leaders in business, sport or politics who believe that investing into teams and people will give you outcomes and success and not the other way round.
“If I weren’t into aviation, I probably would have tried a hand at sports journalism”.
Rajan sees 2022 as a year of opportunity, when the world will start to rebound from the challenges of the past year.
“I believe the airline industry will begin to return to normalcy, and the air freight industry will build on the progress it has made in recent months. I am hopeful that digital technology will play a key role in this new chapter,” he concludes.
Investment decision worth around EUR100 is of key importance for Germany as a commercial vehicle location. The factory has manufacturing capacities of over 100,000 battery systems per year.
MAN Truck & Bus is set to manufacture high-voltage batteries for electric trucks and buses in large-scale production at its Nuremberg site from 2025.
The company says it will invest around EUR100 million over the next five years at the tradition-rich production site for combustion engines. Production capacities will be expanded to over 100,000 batteries per year.
The investments in the development of battery production will secure 350 jobs with a promising future. MAN Truck & Bus says this important investment decision was made in close cooperation between the company and the employee representatives and with the active support of Bavarian politicians. The decision gives Nuremberg’s traditional location a clear perspective for the future.
Initially, the batteries, which along with the engines form the heart of electric commercial vehicle drives, will be manufactured manually at the MAN plant in Nuremberg in a small series production for about two and a half years.
Construction of large-scale production is scheduled to start in mid-2023 and to be completed by the end of 2024. MAN is thus laying the foundations for the large-scale industrialization of electric drive systems for trucks and buses.
The commercial vehicle manufacturer is receiving support from the Bavarian State Government, which has promised a contribution of around EUR30 million to energy research and technology funding for the period 2023 to 2027, provided that the funding and budgetary requirements are met.
These funds will be used to conduct research in battery assembly, cell chemistry and development, battery safety, and ultimately battery recycling to ensure the sustainability of the propulsion mode.
Alexander Vlaskamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of MAN Truck & Bus SE, says: “We are now starting to industrialize electromobility and continue on our path to climate-neutral mobility in commercial vehicles. It is a ground-breaking location and investment decision for the next decades. At the same time, it is part of MAN’s transformation into a provider of sustainable transport solutions.
“This now paves the way for a commercial vehicle e-cluster “made in Bavaria”, consisting of the production of e-trucks at MAN in Munich, battery production in Nuremberg, research & development at both locations and excellent cooperation with the respective colleges, universities and institutes. With our investment decision, we are securing around 350 jobs at the Nuremberg site and hundreds if not thousands of jobs in Germany. Such important decisions can only be made in close cooperation with all parties involved from the employer and employee sides as well as politics.”
Markus Wansch, Chairman of the Nuremberg Works Council and Vice Chairman of the General and Group Works Council, adds: “Our industry is undergoing a profound transformation. Our workforce is rightly asking: What are the perspectives? That is why it is such good news that together we have succeeded in establishing battery series production in Nuremberg. This goes to show that the future of Nuremberg as a location will also rest on the pillar of electromobility.”
Complex but powerful batteries
The batteries are the result of complex assembly and real powerhouses: They are made of battery cells, which in turn are grouped into modules and combined in individual layers to form a battery housing (pack). This requires a high level of know-how and strict safety standards. Depending on the range, a heavy electric truck needs up to six of those battery packs.
This will initially give MAN’s e-trucks a range of 600 to 800 kilometers. In the next generation of battery technology, ranges of up to 1,000 kilometers are expected from around 2026. This will finally make the e-truck suitable for long-distance transport.
Around the middle of the current decade, the total cost of ownership for an e-truck and a diesel-powered one will be at the same level. MAN, thus, expects customer demand for e-vehicles to increase significantly by then at the latest – assuming the appropriate charging infrastructure is in place.
The production of heavy e-trucks will start at MAN in Munich at the beginning of 2024. The manufacturer has already put a small series on the road in 2019. MAN has also had fully electric city buses and vans on the market for some time.
Old MAN’s roots
The Nuremberg plant looks back on a long tradition. With a history dating back around 180 years, it is one of MAN’s roots. Trucks or components have been manufactured in Nuremberg for over a hundred years.
Today, for example, the site with its approximately 3,600 employees is responsible for the development, production, and external sales of all MAN diesel and gas engines.
With its “electrification”, a new chapter is now beginning for the Nuremberg production and development site, which will also increasingly take on tasks within the TRATON GROUP: With the start of battery production, MAN Truck & Bus is strengthening its position in the TRATON GROUP as a competence partner for electromobility. Images & Story from www.mantruckandbus.com
Alexander Vlaskamp, CEO MAN Truck & Bus, Markus Wansch, Chairman of the Works Council at MAN’s Nuremberg site, Dr. Markus Söder, Minister President of the State of Bavaria, Ulrich Zimmer, Senior Vice President Production Powertrain, Marcus König, Lord Mayor of the City of Nuremberg, and Arne Puls, Chief Human Resources Officer and Labor Director at MAN Truck & Bus.
The MAN eTruck coming onto the market from 2024 onwards from series production will also receive battery packs “Made in Germany”.
The MAN Lion’s City E city bus will be supplied with battery packs from Nuremberg in the future.
On India’s 75th Independence Day in 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government would launch ‘PM Gati Shakti Master Plan for Multimodal Connectivity’, a project for developing ‘holistic infrastructure’.
‘Gati Shakti’ roughly translated from Hindi means ‘Power of Speed’ and the government had speed of economic growth in mind.
The Prime Minister launched on October 13, 2021 in New Delhi, heralding a new chapter in governance, the Gati Shakti—a digital platform—that is expected to bring 16 Ministries including Railways and Roadways together for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects.
It incorporates the infrastructure schemes of various Ministries and State Governments like Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, dry/land ports, UDAN (regional air connectivity scheme) etc.
Economic Zones like textile clusters, pharmaceutical clusters, defence corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, fishing clusters, agri zones are covered to improve connectivity and make Indian businesses more competitive.
It intends to leverage technology extensively including spatial planning tools from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) imagery developed by BiSAG-N (Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics). The intent is to facilitate last-mile connectivity of infrastructure and also reduce travel time for people.
Seven engines of growth
“PM Gati Shakti” is a transformative approach for economic growth and sustainable development. The approach is driven by seven engines – a) Railways; b) Roads; c) Ports d) Waterways; e) Airports; f) Mass Transport and g) Logistics Infrastructure.
All seven engines are expected to pull forward the economy in unison. These engines are supported by the complementary roles of Energy Transmission, IT Communication, Bulk Water & Sewerage, and Social Infrastructure. The approach is powered by Clean Energy and Sabka Prayas – the Central Government, the state governments, and the private sector together – leading to huge job and entrepreneurial opportunities.
The scope of the Master Plan will encompass the 7 engines for economic transformation, seamless multimodal connectivity and logistics efficiency. It will also include the infrastructure developed by the State Governments, with focus on planning, financing including through innovative ways, use of technology and speedier implementation.
World-class modern infrastructure
The projects pertaining to these 7 engines in the “National Infrastructure Pipeline” will be aligned with PM Gati Shakti framework. The touchstone of the Master Plan will be world-class modern infrastructure and logistics synergy among different modes of movement – both of people and goods – and location of projects. This will help raise productivity and accelerate economic growth and development.
The plan has been developed as a Digital Master Planning tool by BISAG-N and has been prepared in dynamic Geographic Information System (GIS) platform wherein data on specific action plan of all the Ministries/Departments have been incorporated within a comprehensive database. Dynamic mapping of all infrastructure projects with real-time updates will be provided by way of a map developed by BISAG-N.
The map will be built on open-source technologies and hosted securely on MEGHRAJ i.e., cloud of Government of India. It will use satellite imagery available from ISRO and base maps from Survey of India. The comprehensive database of the ongoing & future projects of various Ministries has been integrated with 200 plus GIS layers thereby facilitating planning, designing and execution of the infrastructure projects with a common vision.
Data of ministries on one platform
The digital system is a software where individual Ministries are given separate user identification (login ids) to update their data on a periodic basis. The data of all the individual Ministries will be integrated in one platform which will be available for planning, review and monitoring.
The Logistics Division, Ministry of Commerce & Industry (MOCI) will further assist all the stakeholders through BISAG-N for creating and updating their required layers in the system and update their database through Application Programming Interface (APIs).
Corporates as partners
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the Master Plan will give a new direction to the development of modern infrastructure through planning, implementation and monitoring, besides cutting down on time and cost overruns of projects.
He has asked the corporates to partner with the government and increase investments and contribute in the development of the country.
He underlined the lack of coordination among the stakeholders in the traditional ways of completing projects. “This was due to lack of clear information among the various concerned departments. Due to PM Gati Shakti, now everyone will be able to make their plan with complete information. This will also lead to optimum utilisation of the country’s resources.”
The Master Plan has over 400 data layers covering various infrastructure projects, both existing and proposed, and also information about the forest land and available industrial estate. The private sector can use this for their planning. “Due to which it will be possible to get project alignment and various types of clearances at the DPR (detailed project report) stage itself. This will also be helpful in reducing your (industry’s) compliance burden.”
High logistics cost can be reduced
He added that the logistics cost in India is considered to be 13-14 percent of GDP and this is more than other countries. The Master Plan has a huge role in improving infrastructure efficiency, he said adding that 24 digital systems of six ministries are being integrated through Unified Logistic Interface Platform (ULIP) and this will create a National Single Window Logistics Portal that will help in reducing the logistics cost. “Our exports will also be greatly helped by PM Gati-Shakti and our MSMEs will be globally competitive.”
The Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia, said the success of PM Gati Shakti will catalyse the multimodal connectivity in the country, leading to realise the vision of $5 trillion economy.
The Gati Shakti initiative will not only help in bringing more investment in the country but also help create great employment. The Union Minister said many countries all over the world, including those in South Asia, have focused on investment in infrastructure sector in the last 70 years and all of them have become developed countries now.
The Minister said that only 74 airports were built in the last 70 years, now 66 more airports have become functional in the last 7 years and India has total 140 airports. The cargo capacity in the ports had increased from 1280 million metric tons to 1760 million metric tons during the period.
16 new airports to come up soon
He announced that 16 new airports will be built in all five states of Central India including Rewa in Madhya Pradesh; and Ambikapur, Bilaspur and Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh. Nine airports will be built in Uttar Pradesh, one in Rajasthan and two in Maharashtra.
100 cargo terminals in three years
The Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting the budget this year said that 100 cargo terminals will be developed during the next three years under the PM Gati Shakti Master Plan. She also mentioned that 400 new generation Vande Bharat trains with better efficiency will also be introduced in the next three years.
Master Plan for Expressways soon
The Finance Minister also apprised that PM Gati Shakti Master Plan for expressways will be formulated in 2022-23, to facilitate faster movement of people and goods. She said that the national highway motorway network will be expanded by 25,000 km in 2022-23 and 2.5 billion USD will be mobilized to complement public resources.
The intent of the government is clear – to ensure last-mile connectivity to speed up the engine of growth. The growth in GDP during FY 2022 is estimated at 8.7 percent.
It must be noted that this expansion comes against the backdrop of a very low base as the economy contracted by 6.6 percent in the previous fiscal due to the impact of strict anti-COVID pandemic restrictions and measures. India is truly in a ‘Gati Shakti’mode.
By Ayesha Rashid
The global third-party logistics (3PL) market was valued at $1,027.71 billion in 2019, and is projected to reach $1,789.94 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 7.1% from 2020 to 2027. In 2019, the Asia-Pacific region garnered the highest share in the global 3PL market. (Source: Allied Market Research)
Pull Quote: “3PLs are companies that provide services such as packaging, inventory management and warehousing at a customer’s location for use during shipping. A 3PL service provider’s process can be as limited or as broad as the customer would like and customized to that individual customer’s needs. The process can be a simple as performing a basic ‘pick and pack’, and as complex as full supply chain management involving movement of the goods from origin through to warehousing, raw material provision, and supply management and warehousing.” – David Mallinson, UK Airfreight Director at Kerry Logistics
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Logistics is vital to any business. In fact, it has evolved to become the cornerstone of most companies. Shipping, storage, transport and other logistical processes are some of the important aspects that need careful planning and execution, with efficient warehouses playing a vital role in this process. Having an efficient 3PL provider ensures that your logistics requirements are met at all times.
Third-party logistics (3PL) is an essential part of a company’s supply chain. The 3PL provider handles a number of different services for its customers including transportation management, warehousing and distribution, inventory management, returns processing and compliance management.
3PL logistics is also a key part of supply chain management and its importance lies in the fact that it offers professional services to companies looking to outsource their logistics processes. If you’re looking for an effective 3PL, you need to recruit the right people and make sure they have the necessary skillsets to carry out the job.
The global third-party logistics (3PL) market was valued at $1,027.71 billion in 2019, and is projected to reach $1,789.94 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 7.1% from 2020 to 2027. In 2019, the Asia-Pacific region garnered the highest share in the global 3PL market (Allied Market Research).
In addition, globalization has helped to establish a worldwide network of manufacturing activities. To keep it running smoothly, the demand for 3PL services is expected to increase. Furthermore, the scope of 3PL services is expected to grow during the forecast period, as productivity gains are realized. The growth of the global 3PL services market is also driven by the development of the e-commerce industry and the increase in reverse logistics operations.
David Mallinson, UK Airfreight Director at Kerry Logistics, explains to Air Cargo Update how a 3PL benefits a business.
3PLs enable commercial shippers to outsource the majority of their supply chain management functions to a 3PL provider. This provides them with better control over and cost efficiency in their logistics operations.
The third-party supply chain model was developed in the 1970s when intermodal marketing companies began receiving packaged loads from shippers and handled those loads to railroads for delivery. In the decades since, the process has become refined and modernized with 3PL software that simplifies and streamlines the whole process for 3PLs and the companies that hire them.
“3PLs are companies that provide services such as packaging, inventory management and warehousing at a customer’s location for use during shipping. A 3PL service provider’s process can be as limited or as broad as the customer would like and customized to that individual customer’s needs. The process can be a simple as performing a basic ‘pick and pack’, and as complex as full supply chain management involving movement of the goods from origin through to warehousing, raw material provision, and supply management and warehousing.”
Moreover, companies that outsource their order fulfillment to a 3PL do not have to invest in and maintain a fleet of logistics assets. By outsourcing order fulfillment, companies can focus more on growing and developing their core business. While the process has become refined, modernized with software and technology, and streamlined over the years, it remains similar in many ways despite these changes.
For large shipments or volumes of goods that take up the entire truck, full truckload or FTL shipping is the best option. It is a truck that carries only the company’s shipment. Even if the company’s shipment does not take up the entire truck capacity, the company can still book an entire truck. This ensures that goods or cargo do not end up stuck with other products when being transported.
As the name suggests, LTL – Less than Truckload carries freight from multiple shippers rather than from an individual company in one trailer. The purpose of LTL is to maximize the truck’s capacity to the maximum extent possible. With less shipping requirements and fewer budget constraints, small businesses tend to favor this type of trucking load.
According to Mallinson, the role FTL and LTL play in 3PL, is essentially the last link in the delivery cycle in the process usually described as ‘final mile’.
3PLs play a vital role in today’s delivery cycle, providing the link between shippers and end customers. Fulfillment services and advanced logistics provide assurance that goods will reach consumers or businesses. Whether the product is going to the consumer or being used as an integral part of manufacturing process, they help ensure goods are delivered when they should be, intact and ready for use.
In recent years, 3PLs have embraced technology to tackle major challenges in the logistics industry. Shippers are demanding more from a logistics partner than just transportation: they need planning, processing and tracking capabilities that can be delivered through innovative technologies.
This provides fulfillment centers with greater visibility into shipments, allowing them to make fast decisions and keep their shipper partners happy.
With a tech-enabled 3PL, the shipping process is automated by having systems communicate directly with one another, therefore eliminating the possibility of human error.
Moreover, connected technologies help with increased visibility into the 3PL’s performance, as the fulfilment steps of picking, packing and shipping are directly linked to the software, allowing exactly how accurate orders are being handled.
In order to streamline shipping and order fulfillment, 3PL providers with a tech focus use a variety of advanced information technology tools to meet sellers’ requirements. Besides the traditional fulfillment services and logistics operations that 3PLs and other logistics companies provide, such as inventory warehousing, picking, packing, shipping, as well as value-added services, most 3PL companies provide updated technology tools in addition to the traditional fulfillment services and logistics operations. Additionally, they can provide software that integrates data from a variety of sources to give both the seller and consumer an understanding of the order fulfillment process as well as help with decision-making.
“The biggest advantage is that tech-enabled 3PL’s offer savings and greater flexibility and have a broader variety of solutions to hand that may not be available to the client currently.
“The use of technology is absolutely critical. Visibility alongside systems that are interoperable and above all easy to use, offers clients the maximum benefit and opportunity in improving their supply chains. Switching to a tech-based 3PL can provide greater flexibility with scaling up or down during peak/slack periods, saving costs and time in allowing the customer to focus on other core areas of their businesses,” Mallinson further explains in our email interview.
By Ayesha Rashid
“The HI-SCAN 10080 XCT has been qualified under the US Safety Act, setting limited liability for claims related to terrorism. It is TSA certified for high-speed checked baggage screening and EU/ ECAC EDS Standard 3.0 and 3.1 as well as TSA ACSTL approved. Moreover, technology to detect dangerous goods such as lithium batteries as well as flammable solids and liquids, compressed and liquefied gases can be seamlessly integrated to enhance this scanner.” — Harald Jentsch, Head of Airports, Baggage Screening & Air Cargo Screening, Smiths Detection
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the importance of air cargo security has become increasingly apparent. Air cargo security involves a wide variety of procedures and practices designed to protect the cargo carried on commercial aircraft from terrorist attacks or other threats.
One important air cargo security procedure is known as ‘screening’ which refers to the process of inspecting cargo for explosives or other dangerous materials. Cargo screening may be carried out manually or using automated screening equipment.
Another key air cargo security procedure is known as ‘vetting’ which refers to the process of verifying the identity of the cargo’s owner and the legitimacy of the cargo itself. This involves checking the cargo against various databases of banned items and terrorists.
Air cargo security measures are also designed to prevent cargo from being stolen or from falling into the wrong hands. In order to achieve this, cargo is typically screened and sealed prior to being loaded onto an aircraft.
The global air cargo security and screening market was valued at $687 million in 2021 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.0% during the forecast period 2022-2032 (Visiongain).
Harald Jentsch, Head of Airports, Baggage Screening & Air Cargo Screening, Smiths Detection, explains how there TSA certified product Hi-SCAN 10080 XCT is fully automated in screening and detecting air cargo threats at high speed.
CT scanners were originally developed for medical applications, but were also first used for security scanners in the early 1990s. They are now increasingly being used in air cargo operations, especially when speed and efficiency are of utmost importance.
The HI-SCAN 10080 XCT is a next generation high-speed, explosives detection system (EDS) for hold baggage and air cargo. It features a dual-view dual-energy X-ray line scanner with full 3D volumetric computed tomography (CT) imaging and reconstruction. The HI-SCAN 10080 XCT has a belt speed of 0.5m/sec (98.5ft/min) and a large 107 x 81 cm (42.1 x 31.9in) rectangular tunnel. It is designed to be integrated into fully automated and networked baggage and material handling systems. This combination offers airports a throughput of up to 1,800 bags/hour and air cargo handlers the capability to screen 2,500 parcels/hour.
“The HI-SCAN 10080 XCT has been qualified under the US Safety Act, which sets limited liability for claims related to terrorism. It is TSA certified for high-speed checked baggage screening and EU/ ECAC EDS Standard 3.0 and 3.1 as well as TSA ACSTL approved. Moreover, technology to detect dangerous goods such as lithium batteries (iCMORE Lithium Batteries) as well as flammable solids and liquids, compressed and liquefied gases (iCMORE Dangerous Goods) can be seamlessly integrated to enhance this scanner,” explains Jentsch.
The HI-SCAN 10080 XCT combines an X-ray line scanner delivering 2D images with 3D volumetric computed tomography (CT) imaging.
The line scanner uses X-ray to penetrate air cargo goods and measure the absorption, delivering detailed material discrimination.
The CT gantry rotates at a constant speed as the baggage or cargo is carried through it on a conveyor belt. It spins around the object taking hundreds of views at slightly different angles and then reconstructs the raw scan data into volumetric 3D images using measurements based on density.
The combined comprehensive data is used to make precise measurements and very accurate judgements on substances within the bag.
Typically, there are two ways to meet the latest regulations – conventional, often standalone, X-ray scanners which require 100% manual image analysis; or in-line, automatic explosives detection (EDS) systems with Computed Tomography (CT) technology which only require analysts at the recheck stage. Both will deliver compliance but, operationally, there are considerable differences with high speed, in-line CT solutions offering the best outcome.
“Working to small two-four hour windows, air cargo handlers need to move huge volumes as quickly as possible using material handling systems. Although historically, standalone, X-ray scanners have been used for air cargo screening, by nature they are restricted in terms of speed. Firstly, belt speeds average around 0.2m/sec and manual loading and unloading is required and, in addition, image analysis is 100% manual. High speed, fully automated equipment (like the HI-SCAN 10080 XCT) delivers higher throughput and greater operational efficiency which suggests there is a strong business case for investing in a more sophisticated solution.
“At the start of the screening process, an automatic evaluation is made by the scanner. If the system produces an alarm and further assessment is needed, the images are passed to an operator who can make a quick decision based on 3D images which can be rotated for a 360 degree view. Due to the high level of automated detection and low false alarm rates only a few images require any operator analysis or intervention which, of course, speeds up the process and optimizes staff resources.”
If the automatic explosives detection capability of a scanner produces an alarm, the image is passed on to an operator for evaluation. Suspicious items are highlighted, and the high-resolution 3D rotatable image enables operators to make quick and accurate decisions. Additional automatic dangerous goods detection algorithms can further support operators by drawing a frame around, for example, Lithium Batteries, Jentsch explained further.
“With our suite of scanning software and technology, a wide range of aviation threats will be detected. We deliver the solutions needed to protect society from the threat and illegal passage of explosives, prohibitive weapons, contraband, biological threats, toxic chemicals and narcotics. Our goal is simple – to provide the security, peace of mind and freedom of movement upon which the world depends.
“The main security threat for Air Cargo in terms of screening is, similar to the whole aviation community, that from explosives (IEDs – improvised explosive devices) in general and particularly homemade explosives. Especially as terrorists are becoming increasingly sophisticated in developing and concealing them. It is worth noting that about 50% of air cargo is transported on passenger flights.”
From a safety point of view, the growing use of Lithium Batteries and other dangerous goods poses another risk to air cargo industry; statistics from IATA have shown a strong increase of risks due to Lithium Batteries which can cause safety risks in Airplanes when not accurately packaged or secured against shortcuts as then can cause heat/fire incidents.
In addition to these threats, the tremendous growth in network connectivity and digital data sharing exposes more and more organizations to cybersecurity threats.
Cybercrime and data breaches are on the increase and the protection against them is a priority for all stakeholders. From both a social and economic standpoint, the consequences of any violation is grave, putting a huge responsibility on companies and public administrations to prevent such breaches.
Accordingly, legislators are ramping up national safeguards and standardizing processes and regulations. By strongly evolving its capabilities, Smiths Detection is able to detect explosives substances beyond regulatory requirements.
With usage of machine learning (ML), convolutional neuronal networks (CNN) – or generally with artificial intelligence (AI) the security industry now has additional technology tools to identify threats. The human operator also represents an important stage of the detection process, as they will be responsible for differentiating between threats and false alarms.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to air cargo security. New standards are constantly emerging to help ensure a safe and secure transport system. Security must be present at every stage of the transport chain, from start to finish.
“Security does not only begin at the aircraft. Security permeates the transport chain from start to finish. From shippers over forwarders and airliners through to industry associations and authorities, all stakeholders in the transport chain are challenged to assure that air cargo worldwide is 100% subjected to the same thorough security checks.
“Smiths Detection equipment has been fulfilling and exceeding international legislative requirements for air cargo screening and is committed to further enhance the security chain with its comprehensive range of detection solutions. A close security chain is increasingly becoming an integral part and a hallmark of quality for global trade activities in the future. As mandated by the authorities, air cargo on passenger aircraft has to be security screened. As a world leader in transportation security, notably airport X-ray systems used in the search for illegal or dangerous items.”
According to Jentsch, Smiths Detection is well experienced in providing air carriers and other stakeholders in the security chain with cargo security technologies tailored to fit their layer of security and to meet their respective legislative mandate.
Smiths Detection air cargo screening systems are designed for screening loose, bulk, containerized or palletized configurations. Experience has shown that air cargo is very much heterogeneous, starting from air mail and small parcels up to standardized container units. Depending on the respective logistics different approaches for the inspection of freight have to be found.
Smiths Detection offers adequate concepts for all different scenarios. In addition, Smiths Detection also provides services for the operator training and maintenance of the air cargo screening equipment to fulfill high equipment availability requirements necessary to keep that industry running.
“Technology-based security systems and methods, from X-ray scanners to explosives trace detectors, ensure the most effective and efficient detection of threats (versus manual inspection). For an industry that trades on speed, it is essential to ensure the smooth flow of goods as well as protect the quality of time sensitive goods that could easily spoil,” Jentsch concludes our email interview.
Despite the importance of air cargo security, many experts believe that the current system is far from perfect. One major problem is that the screening process is often seen as being time-consuming and inconvenient. Additionally, the cost of implementing and maintaining air cargo security procedures can be prohibitive for some small businesses.
Nevertheless, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has made air cargo security a top priority, and new measures are being put into place all the time. In the coming years, it is likely that air cargo security will become even more important than it is today.
Adrien Thominet, Executive Chairman
Robert Van De Weg, Chief Commercial Officer
Representing 156 companies and airlines, ECS Group transported 1,227,122 tons of cargo in 2021. It remains optimistic the positive volume trend will continue though yields are under pressure on some trade lanes like in the North Atlantic and amid the lingering Russia-led war against Ukraine.
By Gemma Q. Casas
ECS Group is known the world over as the largest integrated GSSA, and in recent years, it made its impact even greater with the introduction of its “All-In Solutions” in the air cargo industry that utilizes the power of digitalization and smart technologies.
In 2021, ECS transported an impressive 1.23 million tons of cargo across continents, representing 156 companies and airlines. And despite the numerous challenges confronting the industry, it remains confident the positive trend will prevail.
ECS Group Executive Chairman Adrien Thominet attributed the company’s success to its brave transition from doing the traditional role that General Sales & Service Agents (GSSA) are known for to leading the industry’s future.
“First of all, ECS Group follows its “Augmented GSA” strategy, which offers the industry a completely new GSA model. It is based on 4 pillars: commercial, abilities, technology and sustainability. The aim is simple, to fit our customers’ needs and optimize their revenues,” Thominet told Air Cargo Update in an email interview.
ECS Group’s All-In solutions covers the full scope of cargo processes—from sales to marketing, revenue optimizations to operations (network operations as well as Quality, Safety & Security), Interline Management, Handling of Claims, all the way through to chartering operations.
Robert Van De Weg, ECS Group Chief Commercial Officer, proudly shared the company transported 1,227,122 tons of cargo in 2021 representing 156 companies and airlines.
10 New Abilities
Foraying in the new normal, ECS has combined its sales expertise with a host of digital solutions to help their customers and industry partners navigate in the new normal of the tech age.
Primarily, it offers 10 New Abilities focused on providing solutions to complex issues related to shipping goods via air cargo.
Thominet explained ECS Group’s 10 New Abilities as “single modules that we have created beyond all standard GSA services, offering a variety of support options – a new set of ‘à-la-carte’ products. These are unique products that we have developed in-house to meet the new demands of our customers and the new realities of the market. At the same time, ECS Group places agility at the centre of its actions.”
“With our abilities, we offer a range of solutions to enable our partners to maximize their revenue while safely transporting various goods. With our All-In solution, we are covering the full scope of cargo processes: from Sales, Marketing, Revenue Optimization, Operations (Network Operations as well as Quality, Safety & Security), Interline Management, Handling of Claims, all the way through to chartering operations,” he said.
“We also have “Optimum” which is our Revenue Optimization Experts that offers tailor made processes covering the scope of budgeting & forecasting, strategic & tactical pricing, commercial steering and interline management. “Optimum” also delivers the necessary Performance Management processes, taking the Revenue Optimization to the next level. Also, for customers that use our TCE services we ensure best possible handling service and compliance to the highest standards. These are just a few examples to give an overview of our abilities and the strategic role they can play for airlines,” he added.
Van De Weg described ECS Group’s “All-In Solutions” as simply an improvement on their established Total, saying, “The “All-In” is an improvement on ECS Group’s established Total Cargo Management Solution, covering the full scope of cargo processes from sales, marketing, revenue optimization, operations, interline management, claims handling, all the way through to chartering operations. Yet, that is just one of the 10 New Abilities. Single services, such as “Quality Stars” offering back-office data administration, or “Optimum” assisting airlines in maximizing their cargo revenues, are also available alongside modules that have never before been offered by a GSA.”
Shaping the future
The Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated our transition to digitalization and the use of technology in all facets of our lives. This is particularly evident in the development of Pfizer-BioNtech COVID vaccine in less than a year. A miracle of sort, combining science, technology and hope, this vaccine was produced without any live virus but rather a chemically produced modified genetic code developed through a process known as the messenger RNA vaccine.
Technology also changed our lives with the adoption of more remote work, online education, increasing demand for buying things or services online via e-commerce, among many other things.
Governments have also widened the adoption of technology in their systems to reach out, monitor and control people and disseminate information while the world attempts to control the further spread of the Coronavirus that had since mutated in many different forms.
For businesses and different industries, technology and digitalization offer unprecedented potentials in widening their markets globally while enhancing their operations.
And for the air cargo industry, which is carrying out the so-called the mission of the century, distributing billions of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, digitalization is a game-changer.
“Digitalization is a strategic lever that is increasingly becoming essential—reinforced by the pandemic. If the process of digitalization was already underway, we cannot deny that it is now an inevitable, even mandatory, turn. However, we don’t just want to embrace the change and follow the movement,” said Thominet.
“The pandemic was a real accelerator. Technology and data are very important and we need to push further the digitalization of the supply chain to streamline operations and increase productivity through efficiency gains and streamlined communication. ECS Group started its “e-focus” a while back: “e-distribution”, “e-booking” “e-procurement” and we are now seeing real growth in this type of product. We believe that more technology will increase transparency and this is a key factor: more transparency, visibility and enlarge sales channels also leads to more trust, which is a capital value. Technology also saves time and allows companies to reallocate their human capacity to other tasks that cannot be digitized,” noted.
Already a global leader on innovation, ECS Group continues to explore new ways to make things better in the industry while creating opportunities.
“ECS Group wants to become a leader in this area, to be at the avant-garde and offer new tools that can lead the transformation of our industry. We have our own incubator with the Cargo Digital Factory which already offers various tools such as Quantum which supports the ad-hoc pricing process, Apollo, a BI & reporting system with real-time full visibility on the results, combining market and performance information and Pathfinder our in-house shipment tracking system,” said Thominet.
“It is part of the technology pillar of our Augmented GSA concept. Moreover, we have recently given proof of this ambition since the Cargo Digital Factory is with Wiremind Cargo and CargoAi part of CargoTech; an independent entity which acts as an accelerator of tech companies and talents to transform and digitize the cargo industry.”
Transforming with time
The ECS Group Executive Chairman said the company will continue to evolve with time through innovative ideas and pursuit of creative solutions to better serve its customers and business partners.
“We are living in the new ‘normal’ and the challenge now is how to adapt to it. The basic observation is that the needs of our customers are ever increasing. And these needs are constantly changing. The Augmented GSA replies to their needs. Not only with the new abilities but also regarding the sustainability. Today, it is an important issue for a customer to pay attention to. The industry is aware of all this, so it responds very favourably to what we put in place and bring to the table. We are continually reviewing our positioning in relation to what might be described as traditional approaches, seeking that balance. The key in a constantly changing world is agility and that is exactly what we are offering the industry through this Augmented GSA strategy,” said Thominet.
“ECS Group will continue to be the leading GSA, leading the way on important issues such as digitalization but also sustainability with a new business model. ECS Group will offer a completely diversified range of services based on all the skills already in place for TCM with the development of new activities. And perhaps in a few years’ time ECS Group will be a one-stop shop for freight expertise and will no longer be considered a GSA, but will have another name,” he concluded.
ECS Group continues to embark on a global expansion
Under the leadership of the Paris-born, Adrien Thominet, ECS Group has remarkably grown from strength to strength.
The globe-trotting Thominet first joined ECS in 1995 as Commercial Manager of the company’s AeroCargo business unit, subsequently, becoming the Managing Director. In 2009, he accepted the challenge of leading the commercial development of the Group, and in 2011, he became the Chief Operating Officer.
In 2017, ECS Group nominated Thominet as Chief Executive Officer to fully align with the transformative needs of their partners and clients and support them to navigate the shift to compete in the digital economy.
With hard work, a unifying presence, innovation and astute business sense, Thominet delivered remarkably. By 2021, he’s been named as the Executive Chairman of ECS Group, the firm he has served for more than 27 years now.
Under the new normal, Thominet and his team are bent on pursuing further global expansion. Here’s their take on different continents and why ECS Group should be there.
EUROPE—The markets of Netherlands, France, Spain and Germany but also the Nordics and Eastern Europe are very active. The reduced Euro exchange rate will help competitiveness on exports, but will affect import potential into Western Europe. At the same time, capacities are increasing in particular on the North Atlantic.
The bottleneck-factor is increasingly affecting the availability of manpower to handle aircraft in the main European hubs. We see strings of cancellations at London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt for example and expect this to continue. We aim to further strengthen our customer portfolio in Europe, in particular in the domain of Total Cargo Management as we have a stronger flexibility when it comes to hiring staff in comparison to most of the airlines.
LATIN AMERICA –The region has an enormous potential, even more so with the growth of e-commerce. The number of marketplaces is increasing which is a good omen. We plan to strengthen our presence in the region in the short-term through new acquisitions allowing us to have almost full coverage in the Americas within 2022, first semester of 2023 the latest.
ASIA-PACIFIC—Asia is the “world’s factory” and will soon increase its market share. This is reflected in the order forecasts of Boeing and Airbus. The increase in e-commerce in the region is accompanied by a subsequent increase in perishable goods, automobiles, chemicals, etc. Our expansion plans consider the North-East, especially Japan, as having the greatest dynamic potential.
MIDDLE EAST—Dubai is our stronghold, which is developing very well. We are also looking at increasing our footprint in the Middle East further.
NORTH AMERICA—We have had a tremendous development in the USA in particular in our customer portfolio to and from South America from the USA. There is room for further growth in particular on the Transpacific trade lane where we see strong potential in particular with Asian carriers.
AFRICA—We are relying on partnerships in Africa to service our customer base in Europe. We are also looking at acquisitions, but we will do this step-by-step.
ECS Group has also its own airline, Niger Air Cargo. This is a real added value that strengthens the group’s African expertise and benefits directly from GSA’s know-how. Niger Air Cargo transports absolutely everything, especially military equipment.
Air France KLM Martinair Cargo (AFKMP) has taken part in a project to fly a solar-powered car that is taking place in South Africa’s Sasol Solar Challenge.
The Nuna 11s car was developed by the Dutch Brunel Solar Team from Amsterdam’s Delft University of Technology and will take part in the event which challenges teams to build cars that can travel as far as possible using just solar power.
The car departed Schiphol Airport for Johannesburg on an AFKLMP Boeing 747 freighter aircraft on August 6.
AFKLMP converted the fuel needed to fly the Nuna 11s from Amsterdam to Johannesburg into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), reducing the carbon footprint of the journey.
This year’s Sasol Solar Challenge will start in Johannesburg on September 9 and end in Cape Town on September 16.
GertJan Roelands, senior vice president sales and distribution AKLMP, said: “Air France KLM Martinair Cargo feels inspired and connected with the drive and purpose of the Sasol Solar Challenge.
“The airfreight industry faces the challenge of reducing our collective carbon footprint. Part of our purpose is to drive innovation towards this goal by leading initiatives involving all the players in the industry.
“From an airline perspective, fleet renewal and the adoption of sustainable aviation fuel are key policy objectives for the short and medium term, bringing us closer to making the necessary change.”
Maersk Air Cargo is moving closer to operations with a test flight following its launch in April.
“In preparation for our new Maersk Air Cargo services between Asia and USA, we are operating a special demonstrator flight on 8/31 PM ex ICN (Incheon, Korea) arriving GSP (Greenville Spartanburg, SC) 9/1 AM local times,” said Adam Farmer, representative director of Maersk Korea/ head of sales – North East Asia, in a LinkedIn post.
Maersk Air Cargo is due to be operational in the second half of the year and will offer daily flights utilizing Denmark’s Billund Airport as its main hub.
Maersk recently confirmed Maersk Air Cargo’s three newbuild Boeing B767-300F freighters will be operated by Miami-headquartered cargo airline Amerijet on a US-China route from this autumn.
The order of the three new B767-300Fs was announced in April with the launch of Maersk Air Cargo.
They are in addition to three leased B767F freighters which will be operational this year through Cargo Aircraft Management, the leasing arm of ATSG.
The carrier has also ordered two new B777Fs due for delivery in 2024.
The new airfreight company is the result of the existing in-house aircraft operator, Star Air, transferring its activities into Maersk Air Cargo.
Maersk is not the only shipping company to have invested in airfreight recently. CMA CGM Air Cargo received its air carrier certificate from the French Civil Aviation Authority on June 1, following the delivery of its first Boeing 777F.
Bulgaria-based CargoAir has ordered its fourth B737-800SF freighter conversion from Aeronautical Engineers, Inc (AEI) as it continues its fleet ‘revitalization’.
The aircraft, (MSN 30883) is slated to commence modification at the end of October 2022, with all conversion-related touch labor to be performed by the authorized AEI conversion center, Commercial Jet in Miami.
“The AEI B737-800SFs are part of our overall fleet revitalization program and will be used to incrementally replace our existing fleet of B737-300SF/-400SF freighters,” remarked CargoAir purchase and fleet acquisitions director, Angel Petrov.
AEI said that CargoAir is an important, long-term customer for AEI and upon completion of the order, CargoAir will operate a total of 15 AEI freighters, including a mix of B737-300SF, B737-400SF, and B737-800SF freighters.
The AEI converted B737-800SF freighter offers a maindeck payload of more than 23 tons and incorporates eleven full height 88” x 125” container positions, plus an additional position for an AEP/AEH.
Europe’s busiest cargo airport saw cargo volumes drop in the first half of the year as Covid lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine took their toll on cargo demand.
Airport operator Fraport said that during the first six months of the year cargo demand declined by 11% year on year to 1m tons.
“After a strong cargo performance in 2021, the decline can be mainly attributed to the airspace restrictions following the war in Ukraine, as well as to the effects of numerous lockdowns implemented in China as part of its zero-Covid strategy,” the airport operator said.
The airport has also been affected by ground handling capacity constraints during the year.
In January, Lufthansa Cargo placed an embargo on certain shipments at Frankfurt as it battled staff shortages due to Covid outbreaks.
In July, which wouldn’t have affected first-half performance at the hub, further restrictions were put in place due to staff shortages at the airport at Fraport’s handling operation
In June, cargo volumes were down by 11.8% to 167,771 tons.
“The slow but sure opening of China affected a slight increase of worldwide manufacturing. Nonetheless, the global procurement manager index was at a 22-month low,” said Fraport.
“A main reason for this downturn is the stagnating count of incoming orders in the very important industrial regions US and European euro zone.”
“There was somewhat less pressure on the delivery chains. However, the handling situation at airports remained strenuous.”
In June, cargo on freighter aircraft was down by 18.3 % compared to June 2021. Cargo in the belly of passenger aircraft was up 10.2% due to more scheduled passenger aircraft flights.
However, this count was somewhat down compared to previous months. Consequently, the share of cargo on freighter aircraft in June was up slightly to 72 %.
“Inbound cargo [in June] was down by 11.8 % and outbound cargo decreased by 12.8 %,” Fraport added. “Despite the still relatively strict Covid-19 regulations in China the tendency to open up did noticeably impact cargo development in a positive manner.
“Consequently, [Asia] tonnage was only down by 2.9% compared to June 2021. Cargo traffic connected to East Europe was almost at a standstill (-91.9 %). North America traffic continued on a downward slide (-15.3%). Latin America was only 3.9 % below the count in June 2021. Only cargo traffic connected to Africa was up by 13.2 %.”