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One of the most basic changes e-commerce has made to the air cargo industry has been the migration of services to online portals. While there are dozens of examples, one of the most recent has been the collaboration between Freightos and Lufthansa.

One of the most basic changes e-commerce has made to the air cargo industry has been the migration of services to online portals. While there are dozens of examples, one of the most recent has been the collaboration between Freightos and Lufthansa.

In an effort to hasten the digitalization of the airfreight industry, online cargo marketplace Freightos has teamed up With Lufthansa Cargo to create a new online portal through which forwarders can compare rates and book air cargo space nearly instantly.

By combining Freightos Web Cargo and Lufthansa Cargo's application programming interface (API) services, forwarders can instantly look up contracted rates, assess capacity and book cargo on specific flights in real time.

The new system, rolled out in July, can save money and time, Freightos said, considering that e-commerce sales helped lift airfreight demand by 9 percent in 2017. At that time, the company said, "manual airfreight management and sales continued to cost the industry billions annually in changing fees, untapped capacity and manual labor."

The Platform enables hundreds of forwarders to access accurate, calculated prices and book capacity within one portal, Freightos said. Lufthansa Cargo's main contribution was the application of APIs, which combine Freightos' pricing database with the instant ability to find capacity and book it. If capacity is unavailable, the companise said, the system can be switched to support manual, online adhoc pricing.

With the new e-booking system, Lufthansa Cargo and Freightos said they can now enable customers to view their contracted price and secure airfreight capacity instanly. As their customer, Drik Schneider, global airfreight director of rohlig Logistics, explained via a statement, "The new functionality enables rapid quoting and booking of our shipments. rohlig Logistics customers benefit as one of the first through improved information flow and handling of their consignments. We are happy that we joined the pilot and look forward to extending this service further within our network."                    

ــــ Nina Chamlou


Agiant mechanical spring sandwiched between two platforms is hoisting a container into the belly of a 777-200 scheduled to take off for shanghai pudong (PVG) in 45 minutes. Although the operator of the cargo loader commonly referred to as a "K loader" finds herself shuffling more and more ULDs into the cavernouso passenger aircraft bellies, the growth of e-commerce has not yet chenged this routine task. Only upon return to the airside terminal does the driver see the real effects.

Passing throgh the massive terminal door, mailers containing locally made leather shoes are seen whirring around the facility's towering parcel sorting machine. Although forwarders have long shipped bulk consolidations of the artisanal cordwainer's goods through the facility, the merchant's decision to setup an online shop is recent, and in some cases, orders are shipped directly to the customer.

"E-commerce handling require ments differ greatly from general cargo handling" said Ray Jetha, senior vice president of sales and business development for Worldwide Flight services. "E-commerce requires more headcount, more sorting processes, more cargo from feeder locations [spokes] and extremely tight schedules due to the end customer's delivery time requirements."

Adequately addressing the growing number of e-commerce shipments often requires facility upgrades and new equipment. "Due to the expected growth, it is almost impossible to integrate with our existing operations and hence it requiers a dedicated facility, equipment and manpower, added Jetha. Yet adequate space is not always available at some of the world's busiest hubs for e-commerce.

When Amesterdam Airport schiphol (AMS) requisitioned a portion of one of home carrier KLM Martinair Cargo's warehouses to make room for expanded passenger baggage facilities, KLM seized the opportunity to take a page out of the intergator handbook and construct a new parcel sortation facility to accommodate post, express and pharmaceutical consignments.

Now opertional, the fully automatic sortation machine uses nearly 400 machines, 108 slides and thousands of anchors that route up to 2,000 parcels per hour to various containers, by destination. Similar facilities are springing up at airports worldwide.

Across the Eurasian continent in Singapore, gateway services provider SATS erected a 5,000 square meter E-commerce Airhub to more than triple mailbag processing capacity to 1,800 per hour. The facility also integrates with SingaPost's data interface for increased visibility during the shipment.

Planning ahead for the continued growth of e-commerce volumes is key. "SATS has deliberately designed this E-commerce AirHub to be modular so that we can increase throughput even further with only incremental investment," said Alex Hungate, president and CEO, SATS.

modern facilities are also preparing for continued pharma growth.While most shipments are business-to-business, "Straight-to-patient is the future," said Ryan Viegas, head of logistics, APAC, for TEVA Pharma ceutical Industries to HACTL's Hactlink. "If a patient is taking a particular medication on a regular basis, he should be able to go online and re-order."

KLM's sorting machine also handles containerized pharma cargo, but unlike parcels and mail, employees operate the otherwise automatic cargo trains carrying pharma, and intervene when additional dry ice or cooling materials are required.

Most  pharma shippers requier temperature conditions to be maintaned between one of two common ranges, either between 2° to 8°C or 15° to 25°C, depending on the sensitivity. Dry ice, gel packs and thermal blankets ـــ passive solutions ـــ generally suffice for regulating temperatures in the upper band, while shippers often use active cooling systems like those from Envirotainer or CSafe for more sensitive cargo.

Back on the tarmac, automated sorting facilities may be changing how shipments are consolidated into containers, but on the surface, ULDs still slide across K loader rollers on their way to the aircraft, like they always have.           

 ـــــ Charles Kauffman