Innovation alters airfreight operations

Singapore freight forwarders – Star Concord

Over the past 25 years, there has been a generational shift in the attitudes around technology, moving it from an element of operations to an integral part of businesses. As this change has occurred, discussions looking at how impactful technology can be has opened the door to a surge in innovation.

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This has been met with a notable increase in players entering the space, almost double the situation just five years ago. While this has intensified competition, it has also infused a landscape with exciting advancements and dynamic attitudes, building an ever-evolving ecosystem.

“If you look at the need for infrastructure and modern technology, we’ve been able to leapfrog into this with a knowledge-built economy,” Ashok Rajan, Senior Vice President and head of Cargo and Logistics Solutions at IBS Software, said. “That’s what drives India when it comes to logistics. There is a lot of headroom and opportunity. Asia is one of the largest, fastest-growing spaces in this sector. All of this has created a perfect storm for logistics.

“This region has a perfect and rich talent base. Suppose you look at where we come from. In that case, the amount of engineers coming out of our universities is probably one of the largest in the world,” Radhesh Menon, Vice President and Head of Strategy and Product Management at IBS Software, added.

Step by Step

IBS Software has looked to build a robust digital foundation for cargo operations, influencing the industry through its relationship with top carriers.

Their platform seeks to serve a dual purpose: facilitating digital transactions and ensuring data quality, enforcing standards, and providing the groundwork for innovative advancements.

“We aim to act as a glue, connecting various stakeholders, be it airlines with airlines, airlines with customers, etc,” Rajan highlighted. “Recognising the challenge the industry’s siloed nature poses, we have implemented initiatives to foster better engagement.”

IBS Software has approached its digitalisation journey in three distinct stages. The first stage involves the intra-enterprise aspect, focusing on incorporating digital processes and reducing manual efforts within the organisation. The second stage is more complex and revolves around building a digital ecosystem. It entails getting various parties to collaborate seamlessly, working towards a common goal. The third aspect is the abundance of data resulting from the opened-up processes. With numerous data inputs, the challenge is to derive meaningful insights and put that data to practical use.

“We’ve got things going on in all three areas, so the idea is to grow these parameters as time passes,” Menon continued. “The fact that digitisation is not as high as it could be allows us to make a far more impactful change.”

Simplifying the complex

To assess whether progress is on the right track, defining the destination is essential. As a corporate entity, outlining what the ideal digital ecosystem should look like sets the benchmark. The measurement of speed then becomes relative to the destination. Therefore, the speed of progress hinges on a shared understanding of the ultimate goal.

“The relevant question is not – ‘Am I doing enough with artificial intelligence ( AI)?’ It’s ‘Are you delivering value out of AI?’” Rajan affirmed. “There are ten different ways you can probably get your goal. You have to find the best way for your organisation.”

IBS Software recognises that the critical point in delivering digitalisation across the entire logistics industry is removing the confusion that those who aren’t tech-savvy might face.

For example, when looking at artificial intelligence (AI), there might be some reluctance from those who aren’t clued up on the process to embrace the full potential it presents. However, IBS Software is keen to emphasise that it is significantly more accessible now.

“A kid with a laptop at home can create an AI programme. That’s the level of access that exists,” Menon explained. “We have to show the problems it can solve and the value it can add, whether cutting down waiting times or removing unnecessary manual processes. It’s about finding the right product at the right price point.”

Industry cooperation

While collaborative digitalisation is consistently discussed, the joint desire often leans towards a hope that everyone can communicate in the same language. However, this can prove challenging, given the complexity of aligning approaches across multiple parties, which may result in the lowest common denominator being adopted rather than the most innovative option.

Instead, the IBS approach envisions progress towards standardisation through a more practical route, striving for a shared objective, such as airlines aiming for seamless connectivity with their customers, leading to uniform practices. In this perspective, the focus is on driving outcomes.

“If you try and set standards, it can be counterproductive, like putting the cart before the horse,” Menon stated. “Whereas, if you’re all driving towards a common goal, then people connect to ensure it’s delivered, almost effectively providing a standard.”

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Author: Edward Hardy