Air Cargo Conference brings together over 300 key players in the air cargo industry

Around 30 presentations awaited visitors. The main focus was on “new agility”

Lively discussions on current developments in air cargo and interesting insights into new technologies: the seventh Air Cargo Conference on 7 and 8 September 2022 in the Frankfurt “House of Mobility and Logistics” (Holm) provided the perfect opportunity for key players in the air cargo industry and experts to discuss and generate new ideas. The response was outstanding: this year over 300 participants attended the event organised by the Air Cargo Community together with its cooperation partners Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, Fraunhofer IML, Haus61 and Hessen Aviation.

The main focus was on “new agility”. After all, the air cargo industry has faced countless challenges since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Flexibility and the capacity to respond were in high demand. The Air Cargo Conference also gave researchers and start-up founders the opportunity to present their innovations and projects to a specialist audience. What’s more, participants were updated on all the latest news on digitalisation projects at the Frankfurt site. A brief overview of the key insights are provided below.

The greatest strength of the air cargo industry is and remains its agility

“We have been in crisis mode for the past two-and-a-half years,” stated Timo Stroh, Head of Global Air Freight at Dachser, in his speech. A statement that will likely have hit close to home for many of the conference participants. Countless challenges demanded fast and flexible action. The coronavirus pandemic, disruptions in the global supply chains, staff shortages, Russia’s war in Ukraine, inflation and rising aviation fuel prices have all had an impact on the entire air cargo industry. Agility is a daily reality for those operating in this environment.

Turhan Özen, Chief Cargo Officer at Turkish Airlines, reported how the company was able to rise to become Europe’s largest air cargo enterprise: with agility during the coronavirus pandemic, the use of automation and modern infrastructure. In February, Turkish Airlines moved into the new Air Cargo Hub at Istanbul Airport.

But, it wasn’t just the big players that needed to be agile. heyworld case study: The start-up founded in 2017 specialises in e-commerce transport. While the initial plan was to make use of belly capacities on intra-European transport routes, the coronavirus pandemic forced the company to completely rewrite the business model. “We had to be agile. As a small company, you simply don’t have a choice: you are either successful or you collapse,” said Daniel H. Otto, Head of Business Development at heyworld.

The figures don’t lie: air cargo came through the crisis very well

Charles Schlumberger, Lead Air Transport Specialist at the World Bank in Washington, and Niall van de Wouw, Air Cargo Specialist at market analyst Xeneta, provided a review of the past three years with a look at the numbers. Following a collapse in 2020, air cargo enjoyed a strong year in 2021. The cargo business has once again declined slightly since the start of 2022. Schlumberger referred to the IATA data. Its latest monthly report shows that CTK volumes fell by 9.7 percent in July compared to the previous month. But market participants continue to profit from high prices, reported Niall van de Wouw. Prices were up 113 percent in August compared to August 2019 and up 4 percent from the previous month.

Where to now? The mood is gripped by uncertainty

How will the global economy fare over the coming months? What risk does high inflation bring? And what will be the outcome of the war in Ukraine? Will air cargo capacities exceed demand? A lot of question marks. The panellists were also quite restrained in their assessments. But one thing is certain: agility will remain in high demand across the board.

Start-ups drive agility in the industry

The ability to transport high volumes from A to B requires efficient processes. This is one area that still offers potential in the air cargo supply chains. New technologies can accelerate the work in warehouses as well as the processes across the entire supply chain. A range of start-ups that attended the Air Cargo Conference showed just what this could look like:

But air cargo companies don’t just benefit from these developments by making use of the services and products offered by start-ups. They also have the opportunity to invest in them. Just how this can work was demonstrated by Senior Venture Architect Ole Poppinga, using his employer Fiege as an example. The medium-sized enterprise currently holds interests in more than 30 logistics start-ups.

The industry is committed to sustainability

Sustainability is the greatest issue of our time. The air cargo industry, just like countless others, is pursuing the goal of reducing and offsetting CO2 emissions. A range of specific examples and approaches were presented at the conference.

Lufthansa Cargo, for instance, is investing in a modernised fleet, as Dietmar Focke, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Human Resources Officer, explained. The airline recently ordered ten freighters, including seven Boeing 777-8F, which consume less fuel.

Bernhard Dietrich, Head of the Centre of Competence for Climate, Environment and Noise Protection in Aviation in Hesse, presented a sustainable project: the construction of a power-to-liquid plant in Hoechst. Production is slated to commence in 2023.

Vienna Airport is investing in hydrogen production over the coming years. As soon as next year, operations at the airport will be CO2-neutral, explained Wolfgang Scheibenpflug, Senior Vice President Real Estate and Landside Management at Flughafen Wien AG.

Riege Software wants to create greater awareness of the CO2 emissions of transport operations amongst carrier employees. A CO2 calculator integrated into the software shows the values for individual shipments.

The race to catch up in digitalisation: new solutions promise greater efficiency

“The digitalisation of air cargo logistics is an absolute priority for us all,” stated Stefan Schnorr, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, in his welcome. With the seven million euro “Digital Test Field Air Cargo” project, the federal government is supporting industry and research partners at seven aviation locations in Germany. The Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics are involved as research facilities. They presented the individual sub-projects at the Air Cargo Conference. Among other things, the goal is to use the NE:ONE open source solution to standardise the data exchange between the participants in the logistics chain.

In addition, the companies involved in air cargo at Frankfurt Airport are implementing their own projects with the aim of accelerating customs clearance in order to gain a competitive advantage. An example of this is FRA-OS/Import that allows carriers to present their imports to customs and save on import time. Martina Schikorr, responsible for Digital Transformation Cargo, and Anne Ebeling, IT Team Lead at Dakosy, reported on the where things currently stand. Cargo City Süd is fully implemented, they explained. Next, the data acquired could be used to analyse the import processes at the airport in greater detail.

The Air Cargo Community is working intensively on optimising the processes at the Speedgate and introducing the Common Pre-Check, a central check-in for lorry drivers at Cargo City Süd. The human resources needed to advance these projects are finally available: Lea Walther has further strengthened the Community as Head of Process Development since August. As Head of Strategic Product Development, Murat Karakaya joined the Community in May. The two will work together with the Community to develop concepts for these projects by the end of the year.