Going mobile for airline cargo terminal operations

Naveen Jacob looks at how various processes of the airline cargo supply chain can be streamlined and improved by way of increased automation and usage of mobile apps.

air cargo mobile technology

With the advent of mobile applications and the increasingly favourable disposition of customers towards mobile technology, the increasing availability and ease of performing software upgrades, mobile devices seem to be the most likely candidate to drive this inevitable change.


The freight industry has always been characterized by a continuously mobile workforce requiring workers to access and act on real-time information.
However, even in today’s environment, many of the processes on the ground are still captured after the physical transaction has happened. This is usually done as a post system update activity. Some functions even tend to be based on tools as simple as a piece of paper and a clipboard.


With the right tools however, processes in the cargo supply chain like data capture and acceptance of cargo, load planning and build-up of shipments on the flight, the checking in of shipments to warehouse locations and delivery of the same can be dramatically improved. This is if applications are able to deliver the precise information field workers need straight to their mobile devices exactly when it is needed.


Streamlining these processes using these mobile workflow solutions will enable workforce to perform activities with increased productivity, minimal paper work and curtailed costs.


Problem, challenge to the customer


The majority of the current systems that support cargo ground handling currently perform the role of a database, where information pertaining to any activity already performed manually is stored and retrieved at a later point in time. These legacy systems do not drive the business process or prompt the user to perform a particular function when it is required.


The downside to these systems is that the cargo terminal operations will remain as labour intensive as ever and will never be able to scale up to improve customer service or employee productivity. To support increasing business requirements, the freight department will still need to employ a proportionate number of staff unless more intelligent solutions are deployed.


The second major problem currently faced by cargo handlers is the inability to provide real time information to end customers. For example, even if cargo is checked in and made available within the specified timeframe, the post system update happens after a considerable period of time. This results in Service Level Agreements not being met, ultimately resulting in revenue leakage. Currently the system input is always done by the airline staff and any resulting data inconsistency gets attributed as a mistake of the airline staff . Opening up the solution by way of mobile devices and
enabling the end customer to perform data capture puts the onus back to the customer and makes him or her responsible for any data provided with regards to the freight that is brought in.


Products like iCargo which have been in the industry for more than a decade, have got these new generation mobile frameworks in place. They have been successfully piloted and rolled out to various customers. Post implementation studies/Projected Savings Report done at these sites have showed that these mobile solutions have helped minimize costs, enhanced the quality of service offered and improved the overall profitability of the freight terminals drastically.