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It’s time to complete the digital chain

Swiss WorldCargo has always been a dedicated promoter of paperless shipping processes. A lot has been achieved since IATA’s first digital initiatives in 2005. And yet, many participants in the air logistics supply chain have not yet adapted their processes to tap the full potential of the digital age.

During the course of the last 20 years, the development of computers and digital technologies has brought about revolutionary changes in our global society. Today, we have the entire world at our finger tips – we can check the current news within seconds on our smartphones, contact friends and business partners in the most distant parts of the world in an instant. We can order almost any product via the internet and sometimes even have it delivered to our door within a few hours. However, more and more aspects of our lives are becoming deeply affected by the ongoing process of digital transformation – the infrastructures of our cities, the way we communicate, do business and spend our leisure time. Without any doubt, digitalisation will have an even greater impact on our civilisation than the Industrial Revolution that took place in the 18th and 19th century.

Digitalisation demands a joint effort

Today, most businesses must develop their individual strategies to adapt their processes to the requirements of the digital world in order to maintain their long-term competitiveness. Digitalisation helps to efficiently interlink manufacturing, logistics, service and administrative processes for increased efficiency. However, it is still a long way to go until the vision of the “paperless office” will be fully realised in all industries globally. Yet, it is essential that all stakeholders involved in a specific value chain implement digital processes to be able to achieve maximum efficiency and offer the best possible customer experience. The air cargo industry has taken the first steps towards the implementation of digital processes worldwide in 2005. Numerous projects and initiatives such as eFreight, eAWB, eCSD, have been brought about by IATA to promote digitalisation across the air logistics industry.

Digitalisation – a rewarding invest- ment even for small stakeholders

However,  despite  IATA’s  activities,  the  air logistics industry still largely depends on pa- per documents. This is mainly due to its multifaceted network of airlines, ground handlers, forwarders, and administrative bodies. Many of them have not yet adapted their business to the requirements of the digital future and still rely on traditional handling processes. This prevents the establishment of a consistent digital value chain across all stakeholders involved in the entire air cargo logistics process.

In fact, there still seems to be quite a lot of confusion, particularly among small and medium-sized forwarders, regarding the demands and required investments to get ready for the digital age and catch up with competitors – even though the market already provides several powerful IT systems, which are available at reasonable prices and offer substantial returns on investments as well as improved process quality.

Today, efficient industries must rely on the countless advantages of paperless process- es and smart data sharing. A proper electronic data exchange helps to prevent:

  • higher costs due to complicated and time-consuming bureaucratic processes or incomplete paper documentation
  • difficulties with customs authorities and fines thanks to standardised processes and instant availability of all required documents
  • shipping delays and irregularities
  • security, quality, and compliance issues

Swiss WorldCargo acts to establish a consistent digital supply chain

As one of the leading providers of air freight services worldwide, it is Swiss WorldCargo’s aim to provide customers with the most efficient and consistent digital shipment processes.

“In our daily business, we have already reduced the amount of paper air waybills to a minimum, but we would like to completely eliminate cumbersome paper-based processes in favour of e-AWB as soon as pos- sible,” says Ashwin Bhat, Head of Cargo at SWISS.

Besides being one of the driving forces behind the adoption of e-freight in Switzerland, Swiss WorldCargo has promoted e-AWB as the preferred means of shipping cargo from early on.  A key participant in the proof of concept activities for IATA’s multilateral e-AWB agreement in Switzerland, more recently, Swiss WorldCargo has been playing a leading role in IATA’s e-AWB 360 initiative, an industry call-to-action aiming at rolling out e-AWB across airports globally. Moreover, the cargo division of SWISS is an active participant in IATA initiatives, such as e-Cargo, Message Improvement (MIP), and Electronic Consignment Security Declaration (e-CSD).

“We are convinced that e-AWB will not only accelerate and simplify shipping processes but also have a positive impact on our environment. Therefore, we would like to further encourage our customers and partners to switch from paper-based air waybills to e-AWB as soon as possible,” explains Ashwin Bhat, Head of Cargo at Swiss WorldCargo.

As of 28th October 2018, Swiss WorldCargo will charge an additional fee of CHF 12.00 for each non-e-AWB shipment due to the higher administrative workload compared to efficient e-AWB processes. “We are sure that our cus tomers and business partners alike will welcome our initiative as the next logical step into a more streamlined, customer-oriented, and environmentally friendly paperless future,” says Ashwin Bhat.

Digitalisation at Swiss WorldCargo is in full speed.

The benefits of paperless processes and smart data sharing

  • Lower costs: according to estimates, the global airfreight industry can save up to U.S. $4.9 billion per year due to higher efficiency
  • Faster transit times: the possibility to send shipping documents in advance helps to reduce cycle times
  • Increased accuracy: allowing the entry of electronic data at the point of origin reduces shipment delays due to inaccurate or inconsistent data
  • Regulatory compliance: e-freight meets all international and local regulations relating to the provision of electronic documents and data required by customs, civil aviation, and other regulatory authorities
  • Increased security: electronic documents are only made available to parties who require them for the completion of a shipment
  • Environmentally friendly: e-freight can help to avoid more than 7,800 tons of paper documents. This will also diminish the weight of shipments and, as a result, significantly reduce CO2  emissions
Hans Schütz

“When we started with e-freight, we were expecting a paperless workplace within a few years. However, the complexity of the matter, legal constraints, new customs requirements, EDI  standards,  etc.,  have  delayed  the  process. Today, the majority of our shipments on e-freight-enabled lanes are processed paperless. Our staff is actively looking for opportunities to reduce paper. Rather than one big milestone, I see a sequence of small steps in order to move towards a paperless cargo industry. Mindsets need to be changed and reliable EDI services need to be established; hardware upgrades would also help operational staff to get used to the digital workflow.”
Hans Schütz,  Head of Air Freight, Schenker
Switzerland Ltd

Peter Somaglia

The biggest challenge to achieve a completely paperless environment are to…
– convince all countries and authorities to accept digital data transfer
– find digital solutions for the types of special cargo still requesting paper copies
– offer a door-to-door paperless process for air cargo shipments

The next important milestone must be the implementation of the ONE Record project of IATA replacing all the message switching between the stakeholders by one central data record covering all transactions and requirements. This will ultimately translate into benefits for all parties along the logistics chain.”
Peter Somaglia, General Manager eFreight
Switzerland/IG  Air Cargo

Martin Theiler

“There is clearly room for further improvements in our industry. But rather than focusing too much on the next big ‘milestone’, we should first consistently work with what we already have.
We have tried and tested solutions to address all the remaining issues related to going paperless – the industry simply needs to adopt standards and best practices faster. That’s it. In air freight we sell speed and execute fast, but the industry can do a much better job of applying that speed to process improvements and tools as well.”

Martin Theiler, Senior Vice President, Country

Bevery Seebach

“Today’s digital transformation is affecting all businesses at an unprecedented pace. Now it is time for the airfreight industry to embrace new technologies to help transform the cargo business for the digital age. IATA is working on the ONE Record project, which will enable the industry to embrace and adopt digital and paperless processes. Nevertheless, to make the digital transformation work, we need more than apps or connecting devices to bring information together. The key is to develop a true digital mindset in the air cargo community. Only a new ‘corporate culture’ will enable a digital transformation and will drive paperless processes.”
Beverly Seebach,  Manager Airports, Passenger, Cargo & Security, Europe, IATA