Although the idea of a paper airplane transporting cargo from one end of the country to the other is ludicrous, utilizing an electronic workflow to process shipment orders seems like an economically beneficial option. However, the process remains slow, as many airlines and associated organizations have found they have to surpass a few bureaucratic hurdles to go 100 percent paperless.
The expected benefits
In light of numerous success stories related to document management software, it's no surprise that those partaking in air logistics procedures are looking to adopt the solution. According to Claims Journal, the digital option provides carriers with a comprehensive view of all shipments and allows fast scrutiny of individual orders. Knowing approximate details concerning distributed products can help air cargo personnel ensure that the appropriate inventory is being delivered.
In addition, an electronic workflow creates a digital footprint for each item throughout the distribution process. The task of sorting through endless filing cabinets, frantically looking for a document confirming when an essential product left an airport is eliminated. Instead, users can access a database containing a complete log of all processed orders, where they were transported to and in what aircraft.
One of the overlooked benefits associated with paperless document management programs is the ability to edit and change records and allow other users to view the revisions in real time. In the event that a client needs a particular item redirected to a different location, the logistics crew can enter the information into the software and notify those on the ground that another flight may need to transport the item.
Baby steps toward an impressive result
According to Supply Chain Brain, the International Air Transport Association is aiming to achieve 100 percent electronic transactions for air cargo, citing lower processing costs, more accurate data, increased operability and improved customer service as the motivation for doing so. However, the process isn't going to happen overnight. The news source noted that the IATA is aiming to transfer 22 percent of global shipment orders to electronic air waybills (eAWBs) by the end of 2014.
As of now, about 61 airlines and 774 freight forwards have agreed to abide by a multilateral eAWB accord that is expected to foster interest in document management workflow. Desmond Vertannes, global head of cargo for IATA, stated that the pact will eliminate the need for service providers to manage a complex collection of bilateral arrangements with separate governments.
Not an easy road to walk down
Although the initiative began in May of last year, airline executives and cargo carriers have been apprehensive about the switch. Supply Chain Brain noted security concerns associated with electronic document imaging. Just their luck, the IATA noted that the motion was incited at a point when major airlines were facing a third year of stagnation.
"That called for some very difficult decisions that they could not devote resources and investment into enhancing their I.T. platforms," said Vertannes, as quoted by the news source. "If you're not growing, you're not likely to get manpower resources to dedicate to something of that nature."
The IATA is also challenged with the prospect of getting legislators to sign its Electronic Consignment Security Declaration, which automates the transaction and archiving of security data on shipped cargo. Vertannes claimed that adoption of this policy would solidify digital protection standards across international air transportation specialists.
Forecasts appear positive
Although airlines were slow to adopt the solution, a recent boom in consumer confidence resulted in greater air traffic. In response, cargo executives have been considering making an initial investment in electronic solutions. The transition will be gradual, as the complexity of an air-driven supply chain requires numerous procedures to ensure security.