Why Complete Digitalization of Air Cargo Remains a Distant Dream

In an age where digital transformation has become the norm across various industries, the air cargo sector has long been touted as the next frontier for complete digitalization. Yet, according to industry experts like Adrien Thominet, Executive Chairman of ECS Group, achieving full digitalization in air cargo may be a lofty goal that remains out of reach for the foreseeable future.

Thominet’s perspective, shared recently with aircargoeye.com, offers valuable insights into the challenges hindering the complete digitalization of air cargo. He acknowledges that while there has been a significant transformation in the industry over the past two decades, there are fundamental differences between passenger and cargo operations that make full digitalization unlikely.

“Twenty years ago, people were saying it [the industry] will be digitalized,” Thominet recalls. “But on the cargo side, you cannot put pieces of cargo alone in an aircraft utilizing only digital tools, plus the commercial relationship – logistics – cannot be automized.”

This sentiment underscores a critical point: the complexity of air cargo operations, which involves not only the movement of goods but also intricate logistical arrangements and commercial relationships, poses unique challenges to digitalization efforts. Unlike the passenger business, where processes can be streamlined and automated more easily, the cargo industry requires a delicate balance between digital tools and human intervention.

Thominet predicts a future where a hybrid system, blending digitalization with traditional practices, will emerge as the predominant model in air cargo operations. ECS Group, a frontrunner in promoting digital processes within the airfreight sector, exemplifies this approach by implementing incremental digital transformations while retaining essential manual practices.

While digital tools offer increased transparency and efficiency, Thominet emphasizes that certain aspects of the industry, such as safety, security, and human management, cannot be fully replaced by technology. This recognition underscores the need for a nuanced approach to digitalization that preserves the essential human element while leveraging technology to enhance operational capabilities.

The recent partnership between ECS Group and CMA CGM Air Cargo highlights the strategic importance of understanding the unique needs of airfreight operators and tailoring solutions accordingly. By combining their respective digital expertise, both entities aim to create advanced digital tools that optimize revenue management and operational efficiency.

However, Thominet cautions against viewing digitalization as a panacea for all industry challenges. While digital tools can facilitate sustainability efforts by providing insights into carbon consumption and advancing initiatives like e-bookings, they are not a substitute for broader sustainability measures such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and electric aircraft.

In a nutshell, while the air cargo industry has made significant strides towards digitalization, achieving complete digital transformation remains a distant dream. The intricate nature of cargo operations, coupled with the essential role of human expertise, necessitates a balanced approach that harnesses the power of technology while preserving the core principles of the industry. As stakeholders continue to navigate this journey, collaboration, innovation, and adaptability will be key drivers of progress in the quest for a more digitalized future.

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