The traditional ULD control challenge has always been ensuring the availability of the correct container at the place and time required, followed by retrieval of the empty container by airlines. This has always been a labour intensive and costly process, prone to error and loss. Now there is a new tried and tested app from the Schiphol based, cargo IT solution provider CargoHub BV which not only saves time and errors but also significant costs.
The current method of ULD control management relies on forwarders returning containers within five days but this frequently does not happen and for different reasons some containers are lost and misplaced, which can involve financial consequences.
If a ULD is with a forwarder, its number, written down on a sheet of paper, is handed to the handling agent, then their control section checks the number is the same as the number on the ULD. If correct, then this number is typed into the handling agents own system from which they advise the airline that the ULD has been returned.
This decades-old process and is still being used in many cases and often leads to continuing errors, especially if typing mistakes occur, thus costing valuable work hours. To make matters worse, a forwarder may use its own system and many multiple messages may pass between the airline and forwarders different systems in an attempt to locate the missing pallets.
Whilst IATA and other companies are working to modernise the ULD process, many of these initiatives are still in the pipeline and not yet available.
Anaud Bilhari, previously regional ULD control co-ordinator of AirbridgeCargo Airlines commented that 15 to 20% of the airlines ULD fleet would be with forwarders with the details being typed onto paper documents. If, for example, some of the containers are missing, finding the missing items can be time-consuming for both airline and forwarder. Working closely, they set out to find a digital process to simplify the task for all parties.
Extensive research was carried out and resulting benefits are that airlines have fewer email or telephone contacts with the agent thanks to the systematic and automatic input. The agent no longer has to find out the owner of the container, as it is automatically registered in the app.
The handling agent can accept pallets and no longer needs to research as the systems states to which airline the pallet belongs thus the container can be accepted by a warehouse employee using the mobile app.
The driver’s job delivering the ULD to the handling agent is also completed more quickly. In the event of damage, a photograph can be taken using the app that is then immediately available in the system. All parties are aware of what is happening thus saving time operationally the ULD stacked list is produced with a couple of clicks in the app and paper documents are no longer need. The handling agent can also see when the ULD will be returned.
Digital products for greater efficiency
Raoul Paul founder of CargoHub explains: “All our energy and research are directed at giving our customers the best tools for the job. Our easy-to-use Cloud based digital products, have been tried and tested here at Schiphol by leading handlers and carriers.
“We have built a cargo community platform to enable logistics stakeholders to share data amongst themselves, providing transparency and predictability on cargo shipments and truck movements. On top of this platform, we have built in community products which are focusing on:
“Our approach is to offer a wide range of products and to display data in a single window with the possibility to share data with any external system. This offers a maximum flexibility on how data are used or disclosed. We collect data and offer operational process supporting tools to offer the ultimate digital process efficiency for individual stakeholders.”