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  • Writer's pictureTeam CargoTalk

Artificial Intelligence transforming air cargo



What place does AI have in the air cargo world? The primary benefit of an AI-powered system for air cargo is that it can offer predictive analytics and enable informed decision-making for businesses. Understanding critical events such as capacity and demand rise and slump is essential in the air cargo industry.


-Abigail Mathias


Many large air cargo service providers have started to experiment with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some of the most prolific cases include scanning to digitize paper air waybills, helping to price ad hoc shipments more accurately and dynamically, and forecasting to better manage resources and results.


Many innovative ideas for AI never make it to production, either because they do not have the high-quality and normalised data needed, or the data available is not well suited to the problem being addressed. Machine Learning (ML) is the most common entry point for AI. It uses huge amounts of structured data to identify patterns and learning. The broader description of AI though, includes the use of non-structured data such as text documents, newsfeeds, images, and speech.


Companies are also exploring how AI can help identify customs harmonised commodity codes in one record and cargo management systems. Some interesting industry experiments with AI include predicting no-shows to optimise load factors, enhance goods inspections, detect anomalies, and review air waybills to identify sanctions, safety, and security issues.


There is huge potential from analysing visual inputs, but maybe the biggest use case will come from better forecasting because of its obvious potential to optimise services across the supply chain. In all cases, results will multiply in value as more structured and unstructured data feeds are captured and used. We speak to a few professionals to highlight some of the benefits of the use of AI.


AI applications can improve safety by ensuring cargo is properly scanned


Thomas Schürmann, Head, Cargo Operations & Delivery, Etihad Cargo


The significance of AI in air cargo operations lies in addressing critical workforce challenges and enhancing operational efficiency. AI offers a solution to this problem by capturing, retaining, and transferring this knowledge.


Tools that use AI for dimensioning, load planning, ULD build-up, and contour checks demonstrate how AI can streamline operations. In partnership with Speecargo, Etihad Cargo has rolled out AI-powered solutions that have enabled us to optimise how cargo is measured, planned, and loaded, which has reduced time and effort required for these tasks.


AI: A boon or a bane

With its capacity to leverage various types of data analytics, AI can transform the industry into an efficient, proactive, and customer-focused sector. While there are challenges to be addressed, the benefits far outweigh the potential downsides. By enabling a more data-driven approach to operations, AI is indeed a boon to the industry, enhancing service delivery, operational efficiency, and ultimately, customer satisfaction.


AI applications in air cargo operations can improve safety and security by ensuring that cargo is properly scanned, checked, and loaded according to established protocols. Etihad Cargo utilises AI to identify potential security threats that might be overlooked by human operators.

This approach can help shift the perception of the industry from one that involves manual labour in challenging conditions to a more innovative and technologically advanced sector.


Diagnostic analytics

Diagnostic analytics goes a step further by pinpointing the reasons behind these outcomes, offering deeper insight into operational challenges or successes. This understanding is significant for troubleshooting issues, optimising processes, and enhancing service quality. It helps the industry not just to react but to understand them, thereby improving the decision-making processes. Prescriptive analytics takes the potential of AI in air cargo operations to another level by suggesting actionable strategies. Such measures can enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction.”


Optimise air routes, improve cargo loading to improve efficiency, cut costs

Dhruv Agrawal, COO and Co-founder Shipsy


AI is already bringing transformative changes to air cargo operations in the following areas:

Efficiency: Artificial Intelligence optimises route planning and cargo loading, improving operational efficiency and reducing costs

Agility: Leveraging huge amounts of real-time and historical data, AI makes accurate forecasts to avoid flight overlays or similar disruptions

Automation: AI automates processes from handling and sorting air cargo to customs and compliance, speeding up operations and reducing human errors

Security: AI improves security measures, using advanced surveillance to safeguard goods

Customer service: It enhances customer experience by providing real-time tracking and predictive insights about cargo shipments


Now, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to enhance operational efficiencies—optimising air routes, improving air cargo loading, forecasting maintenance, and speeding up customs processes. This reduces freight costs and boosts customer satisfaction with faster and more reliable services.


AI-driven analytics

AI-driven analytics can lead to improved decision-making and using real-time data to swiftly adapt to market demands as well as operational challenges.

Before implementing the advanced technology, businesses should make their plans well in advance, set up re-skilling programmes, deploy robust security policies, and adopt strategies in order to safeguard customer data.


Shipsy is weaving AI into the very fabric of our supply chain operations of the customers. Our AI co-pilot continuously analyses critical operational KPIs to unearth potential threshold breaches.


Using AI and ML-powered optimisation engines, businesses now-a-days are automating route creation and optimisation, order allocation, carrier selection, workforce planning, customer service, and more.”


Will AI become the new strategic partner for procurement?

Craig Hendry, Principal and Director, Engineering, Efficio


Artificial Intelligence technology is crowding global, regional, and local news cycles and conversations across all industries. Introduction of this technology can be used in nearly every industry and business has stirred up unprecedented interest among IT leaders and the C-suite. For procurement in particular, AI promises to drive efficiency and improve productivity in areas by performing administrative tasks, allowing the professionals to focus on priorities. As we start to enter a new era of smart buying, senior public and private leaders are seeking ways to enhance their operational prowess, while saving costs.


Impacting bottom line

Integrating AI into management strategies is a vital step forward in revenue and cost-cutting approaches, with 50 per cent of leaders agreeing that AI will impact their bottom line in 2024 and 56 per cent prioritising cases impacting revenue or costs. Despite the hype, AI opportunities have yet to be determined across the industries. However, for procurement, the value-add opportunities for AI models are emerging across the entire lifecycle. We are witnessing an initial wave of automation, including the streamlining of tasks such as document generation and data analysis.


Uses of AI in procurement

Take finding suppliers as an example, AI-powered platforms match procurement needs with a database of suppliers. AI can suggest potential suppliers based on past interactions and performance metrics. This apart, AI can also perform dynamic supplier evaluation on parameters such as delivery times, quality, and pricing.


Procurement leaders can also utilise AI models to accelerate the creation, distribution, and analysis of documents including Requests for Proposals, Request for Quote and Requests for Information.


Organisations either don’t have enough people or their existing teams don’t have the right skill set needed to elevate Procurement. AI-enabled systems can be vital in this situation by enabling teams to continuously monitor contract performance, KPIs, deadlines, deliverables, and compliance metrics.


As AI and large language model integrations extend beyond task automation and provide insights on key trends, supplier performance, and risk assessments. This will empower procurement to make swift data-driven decisions, enabling a shift towards a significant role emphasising nuanced decision-making, and relationship management. This transition will be an important factor in attracting and retaining the right talent in the team.”


Tech approach delivers detailed insights for better decision-making

Simon Watson, Founder, Aerios


Aerios’ vision is to link air cargo charter experts and carriers into a single digital workflow driven by real-time data. It is the first software solution to combine communications and air cargo charter operations into a single tool.


AI-driven data delivers actionable insights for better decision-making and market intelligence, enabling charter professionals, brokers, and carriers to connect and work together more efficiently and maximise revenue for all parties.


The charter industry is ready to be altered with the launch of Aerios, software specially designed to meet this sector’s complex needs. By replacing disparate systems and manual processes with a single digital workflow, Aerios aims to address long-standing inefficiencies that have hampered the industry.


We created Aerios in order to fill the gap in the industry. Our software does more than just digitalize existing ops; it alters them, giving access to operational data and market intelligence in real-time. This means fewer errors, informed decisions, allowing our clients and customers to scale their operation in a cost-efficient manner.”


AI has become a daily tool prompting us to rethink the way we work

Lionel van der Walt, Chief Growth Officer, Raft


The revolutionary development in freight forwarding is AI, which automates and optimises day-to-day operations in an industry that has been heavily manual. It is not just a buzzword, but an everyday tool prompting the industry to rethink the way we work. A major, time-consuming challenge faced by forwarders is the processing of messy, unstructured data that comes from different sources, such as PDFs, EDI invoices, Excel files, and emails.


AI-powered platforms such as Raft are managing the entire process, from extracting and understanding the data, to integrations with TMS’ and other operating systems that facilitate intelligent workflow automations, detailed management reporting, and improved visibility and decision making.


This results in an enhanced customer experience and improved profitability.

Another challenge is scalability, as teams work across many offices and branches. Automation can help improve collaboration, communication, and workflow by allowing the teams to work together, tag colleagues, maintain an audit trail, and receive notifications.”

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