AIR CARGO BENEFITS
FROM INNOVATIONMark Lyon's most recent Data Link column, ''Cargo 2000: Forwarders aren't holding up their end,'' (May 26, Page 5A) merits a response.
Contrary to what may have been stated at a recent industry conference, I see that many of the larger multinational forwarders are labeling their packages with bar-code lot labels. Whichever carrier made the statement, ''Don't worry about bar codes . . . We're not Cargo 2000,'' are air cargo traditionalists who are showing their ignorance in understanding the benefits of technology. As an air cargo industry analyst with a diversified background in import brokerage, freight forwarding and air carrier operations, I find myself more and more involved with the integration of technology into air cargo handling.
One of the big misconceptions in this industry is that the cost of investing in technology outweighs the return in value. This is the result of unfamiliarity by some in this business with technology applications. It is here the air freight industry has difficulty envisioning how to integrate bar coding to maximize efficiency. This, in turn, feeds the perception that technology is just an added expense.
Some blame should be directed to the International Air Transport Association's Cargo 2000 committee; it should have looked into existing bar code applications in other industries, like less-than-truckload trucking, which has integrated bar coding into its operations. LTL trucking has some significant similarities with air cargo.
To the naysayers, I say this: The most sophisticated bar-coding technology available today, in conjunction with some modified existing freight forwarder software, can reduce data entry staff by over 25 percent. Not only could it reduce staff, but bar coding will help integrate data into the Customs Service's Automated Export System. There are other benefits, too, including warehouse inventories that can be done regularly, reduction of misdeliveries, and the real-time recording of handling events. Proper investment in technology today will not only add value to service, but reduce overall costs.
As for Henrik Ambak's three-part problem, I've already developed a conceptual solution - conceptual only because both carriers and forwarders would have to modify their existing bar-code systems, and electronic data interchange message sets would need to be created or modified. The solution allows the forwarder to do piece-level tracking of the house air waybill through the carrier handling of the master air waybill.
Example: ABC Forwarder - Hawb 123456 consisted of five pieces at 280 kilograms. The shipment was transferred to LH in a consolidation. The EDI information from the master air-waybill handling of LH would allow the forwarder to know exactly the container number into which LH loaded piece No. 3 of Hawb 123456.
The tracking information can all be linked from the shipper invoice number attached to the forwarder house air-waybill number, which is then attached to the carrier master air-waybill number. An integrated solution for the non-integrated air-cargo industry.
Robert F. Caton
St. James, N.Y.