ECS Group optimizing opportunities and technologies in a globalized economy
Imagine handling more than 2.3 million kilos of cargo (about 2,500 tons) everyday for 365 days in different cities and airports, under different circumstances, time zones and rules, for different owners. Only the toughest and the most efficient can do such tasks with stakes so high in this digital age where dissatisfactions are openly aired with full consequences.
ECS Group overcomes those challenges day-after-day, successfully transporting more than 902,000 tons of cargo across the world in 2017. And it continues to work and prepare for the changing and challenging demands of the foreseeable future.
Adrien Thominet, the CEO of the Paris-based ECS Group, one of the world’s top GSA companies which has 69 subsidiaries and 137 offices in 47 countries, said their success comes with a lot of investments on people and technologies that require many counterchecks to ensure a seamless process in the competitive air freight industry.
“In 2017, we transported more than 902,000 tons around the world. It means almost 2,500 tons per day. The only way to be successful is to invest in high performed and advanced IT system in order to monitor our operations in time, no matter the time zones. The Group’s information and reporting systems, KPI, dashboards allow us to monitor the performances contributing to fulfillment of our objectives regularly and precisely,” shared Thominet.
It also helps that the company has the right partners and new intelligence tools to offer its principals the best services and industry practices.
“Centralized stations to coordinate bookings, dedicated offices to care for our customers products from A to Z and being able to reply in due time to any setbacks, support from ECS HQ top management: being part of an integrated GSA means that you have the capability to secure all your business, financially and humanly speaking,” Thominet pointed out.
“We bring synergies, solid and global network, security, and of course, more technologies: business intelligence, tracing, any kind of information regarding the cargo. The expertise is tenfold and boosted.”
After lackluster years, the air freight industry, with windfall to the supply chain, started picking up last year, many made historic volume growths and profits.
Thominet said 2017 was indeed one of their strongest and most intense with record high activities in the industry. Not only did ECS Group performed well but it also created jobs for 200 people during the year.
“The air freight activity had been very intense in 2017, especially last Quarter. About ECS Group, in 2017 our managers have shown of strong involvement. This year was tremendous and people were really happy to be part of this mix of opportunities and new challenges to face. Almost 200 people joined ECS Group in 2017, mostly in Asia with the acquisition of AVS,” shared Thominet who described the company as like a family where everyone works as a team.
ECS acquired AVS last year and among its immediate impact is enabling the company access to 11 countries in Asia.
In Latin America, ECS also expanded its footprint setting up offices in Chile, Peru, Colombia and Equador.
Still in the Americas, the company made an alliance with Exp-Air Cargo in Canada, sealing its position as a key general sales and service agent in the continent.
“This is part of the strategy of our network deployment and of course in line with the market we are active in,” said Thominet who continues to break new grounds for ECS Group. “In 2017, more than expansion, we did integrate all those subsidiaries and developed all the synergies we set up already. In 2018, we provided our principals an extensive network. The only integrated GSSA network.”
Africa, with its vast mostly untapped natural resources, also remains a huge potential market for various industries, including air cargo. And ECS, which counts Niger Air Cargo as among its clients in the region, is cognizant how efficient air transportation can dramatically change an economy.
“There are still lots of challenges in Africa but we see many opportunities in the air cargo industry. With the development of new services, the importance of e-Commerce and digitization, we are exploring new opportunities in this region. Regarding the figures, the Airports Council International (ACI) World reported high growth momentum in global air freight in January, posting 8 percent increase as compared to the previous year, in line with the rolling year-end figures,” said Thominet.
In Southeast-Asia, ECS Group forged alliance with Royal Brunei Airlines to pool synergies in cargo sales for Europe as well as North and South Asia.
“The collaboration with ECS enables Royal Brunei to control 19 stations in different parts of the world and benefit from a network filling space where required, and thus, providing the highest yield to the airline. Royal Brunei is a vibrant and growing airline with a great diversity of customer-oriented and reliable services,” said Thominet.
“Its values and network perfectly match ECS’s setup in Asia, allowing synergies that no other GSSA can offer. We are looking forward to playing a key part in promoting the further success of Royal Brunei,” he noted.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, Thominet said ECS is also working on something to penetrate China, now the world’s biggest economy with unrivaled appetite for online sales.
“We also have some plans in China that are about to materialize. China’s continuous economic growth was particularly strong in the previous year. Year-on-Year, it saw growth of 23%. East China saw a volume increase of 35% y-o-y. Same for North of China. High technology and consumers goods (+55%) keep on rising,” explained Thominet.
Thominet who has been in the industry for over 20 years says “deregulation and liberation” are mainly driving growth in many ASEAN countries complemented with the introduction of low cost carriers in a lot of key routes.
“Development and change has been driven, however, by a new breed of low-cost airlines serving domestic and short-haul regional routes. The development of new routes and more connectivity always give a boost to the economy. Those regions are very interesting in term of Total Cargo Management. For instance, as a TCM contract, we represent Jetstar Asia in all countries in the region,” the ECS Group CEO said.
Middle East & South Asia
The Middle East and South Asia, India in particular, remain an important market for the industry.
In February, air cargo volumes in the region rose by 7 percent and capacity jumped by 7.6 percent.
Thominet said this is a good indication of a vibrant trade and economic activities in the region which are further enhanced by e-Commerce, particularly in India, home to over 1.4 billion people.
“More goods are being traded in this region and that is driving growth in air freight. Despite an escalation of protectionist measures, the demand for air cargo continues to be strong, with 6.8% growth last month. India is one of the top markets for our industry,” Thominet said.
Adding: “e-Commerce is transforming the landscape of our industry, and hence, we need to develop our capabilities to optimize new technologies. India is a real Eldorado for all technologies development, hence, our two brands — AVS and Globe Air Cargo — are connected to this fast increased trend. Recently, Globe Air Cargo India just won the representation of Ukraine International. ECS is already representing PS in most of the region of the world.”
Finnair has chosen ECS subsidiary Globe Air Cargo to represent it in the United States from May 1. The airline, which serves major gateways at Chicago, Miami, New York and San Francisco directly from Helsinki, will utilize an Airbus 350 on the routes.
Despite controversial political issues in Europe, the continent remains an important trade route for the majority of regions across the world and Thominet is of the opinion it will continue to generate growth and demand for the air cargo industry.
“GSSA core business is most accomplished in Europe in comparison with other continents. De facto, ECS Group most important set-ups are based in Europe since more than 30 years. Hence, our subsidiaries are very strong there and most of them lead in their respective countries,” said Thominet.
In recent weeks, ECS Group secured important partnership agreements in Europe, boosting further its clout in the continent.
“As a matter of fact, we finalized many very precious partnerships during the past few weeks. Globe Air Cargo NL (GAC NL), one of the leading Cargo General Sales Agents in the Netherlands and member of the ECS Group, has forged an operative partnership with IAG Cargo to expand and optimize its services for freight customers. ECS Group is already representing IAG Cargo in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia before IAG Cargo has formed the partnership with GAC NL,” he said.
The company also secured deals to represent Hainan Airlines in Spain, Georgian Airways and Air Armenia Airlines in France.
More than two decades ago, an adventurous and young Adrien Thominet was selling wines in the United States. As fate would have it, the French national was then introduced to the General Services Sales Agent (GSSA) industry and moved to the ECS Group in 1996 devoting countless hours and taking on various management positions and eventually becoming its Chief Executive Officer in 2017.
The CEO says he never thought he would reach this far though he described himself as “ambitious.” As head of one of the most trusted and top GSSA companies worldwide, Thominet currently oversees 1,000 employees across ECS Group’s 37 offices in 47 countries and burdened with the task of stimulating further business growth.
Some days he would be in Asia. Other days, he would be in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa or anywhere in the world. But this busy father of four still takes time to nurture his family, endearing him more to the ECS Group which he also treats like a family.
Read on the rest of Air Cargo Update’s Q&A with Thominet who is not only highly regarded for his proactive business sense but also for his penchant for giving people a chance to grow in their career where possible and helping the younger generation, the so-called “Millennials”, get employed in an industry predicted to grow even more.
Please share with us in details the services that you currently provide to clients and the innovations that you have introduced as value added incentives for them?
ECS Group likes to provide tailor made or customized services. We feel that under no circumstances would there be only one or a sole way to do business. When we represent an airline, we’re cognizant of the fact that there is not one sole offer to suit a supposed client. We offer them flexibility tailored to their needs.
At ECS Group, we adapt the contract to match our prospects’ expectations. From CSA to Total Cargo Management, from back office support to supervision of the ground services, we have the capabilities to offer any kind of services.
And of course, digitalization is another “area” of maximum involvement for us. Our customers, different airlines, are expecting more advanced tools to optimize the yield, to develop pricing strategy and to manage the capacity.
Today, we are able to provide our customers with those new expected IT solutions. We got a global new team just hired to bring expertise and stronger added value to this IT system. We keep on working on providing and developing such new kind of services, new dynamic and new proactive supports.
Although China remains the world’s factory, it is increasingly becoming more popular as the top market for consumers, especially for e-Commerce. What are your thoughts about this?
Digitalization is mainly driven by e-Commerce. As a matter of fact, e-Commerce is pushing for more traceability and more efficiency on the delivery. More than e-Commerce, IoT is running the world today.
By 2020, there would be 25 billion connected things. Internet of Things (IoT) will definitely transform the world, and of course, our industry.
Everywhere, IoT runs the world’s economy. Even becoming vital. There is no other way to proceed and as a matter of fact, it will keep on being more and more inescapable for all the actors of the air cargo industry.
Today, transparency brought by Internet of Things is already impacting the sky ( tracking , temperature control, the Cloud, etc.) and all the supply chain can already benefit off its non-disruptive impact.Data efficiency, capacity management, routes optimization, new software solutions, time-saving, performances maximization. Yet,
this is not and won’t be a magic solution until all in our industry dares to embrace and to invest money, people and time into this blessing reality. The point is how to deal with it.
As G S S A , we are part of this transformation. And we deal with it for long time but we still have to go faster. Hence, in the next two months our Revenue Management Department will have three more people. This is important to deliver and develop sophisticated services and innovative GSSA solutions over those regions as airports and
regional careers have developed tremendously.
In fact, for example, today the three main airports of China are totally choco-bloked and we can observe a
real need to find new solutions for passengers and cargo business also.
The region of Sichuan is becoming a new platform for the Cargo. Chengdu airport is becoming the 4th main airport.
Hainan Airlines is now getting online in Shenzhen. Provinces are now bourgeoning and as a G S S A we have to adapt
ourselves so that to get aligned with this transformation. This is so challenging!
How do you prepare your staff to handle e-Commerce products and have you made or asked any airlines for physical adjustments to maximize space on aircraft when carrying such individualized packages?
At E C S Group , each of us i s concerned by e-Commerce. But beyond feeling involved in this economic transformation, we have to be able to provide the right services to match with it. Hence, for many months now, new technical experts have joined our group. For instance, in China we worked with local experts with proven track record of creating e-Commerce solutions. His strong partners portfolio associated with the ECS’s
network is highly productive in terms of original option to maximise capacities and revenues of our principals.
Same, at the HQ, we hired a team fully devoted to revenue management. When they happen to work all together, the result is just astonishing and super brilliant. This is what led us to create an e- Commerce cell. Working in line
altogether, we try to give the most appropriate reply to the market’s demand.
And above all, the relation we have with the airline we represent based on trust and transparency allows us
to multiply the partnerships in our portfolio.