The power of connected cargo communities - a freight forwarder’s perspective
How DHL Global Forwarding is benefiting from collaborative, connected work
Airport cargo communities are reaping unparalleled efficiency and visibility gains when they operate in a coordinated, collaborative way instead of in silo’s. DHL Global Forwarding was one of the first to join BRUcloud, the award-winning Cargo Cloud facilitating such collaboration at Brussels Airport’s cargo hub. David Bellon, Head of Airfreight Belgium, shares his insights, zooming in on questions such as ‘What’s to expect from such a Cargo Cloud as a Freight Forwarder?’, ‘What’s the role of the airport?’, ‘What are the do’s and don’ts?’, and ‘What about data sharing?’. A candid interview that helps future users get the most out of their Community Cargo Cloud.
"Having data readily available on the status of your cargo is beneficial in the short and in the long run. It immediately generates operational efficiency and allows you to shift from reactive work to pro-active monitoring, so you can ensure faster follow-up and deliver a better service."
DHL Global Forwarding was one of the first companies to join BRUcloud. What made you step in?
"Digitization of logistics processes is not an option anymore, it’s a must. As the largest forwarder at BRUcargo, Brussels Airport’s cargo hub, we had to take up a leading role in this matter. Entering a digitization process from the very start brings important benefits, as you sit at the drawing table when the processes are designed. You can influence the project and have more time to adapt your own processes and do change management, which gives you a competitive edge."
What benefits did BRUcloud generate for you?
"The BRUcloud platform and applications have already generated a lot of benefits, which are incremental as we keep on adding more apps and functionality over time. Some of the first benefits we noticed were the following:
Performance measurement based on single version of truth
As a forwarder, for me this is key. We all try to attract (future) customers with data that highlight our performance, but everyone tends to present the data that fits his own purpose. In a collaborative data sharing platform such as BRUcloud all actors use the same dataset, which is the single version of truth. This allows both the individual companies in the community and the airport to attract more business based on hard facts about performance.
Having data readily available on the status of your cargo is beneficial in the short and in the long run. It generates operational efficiency immediately, as you can stop spending hours on the phone with airlines, stop running needlessly back and forth to handlers, and stop digging through piles of paper piles to find the right information. Having full visibility ultimately allows us to shift from reactive work to pro-active monitoring, meaning staff no longer need to chase 100 shipments a day but can focus on the ones where something goes wrong. Which allows us to ensure faster follow-up and better service.
"Entering a digitization process from the very start brings important benefits", says David Bellon, Head of Airfreight Belgium at DHL Global Forwarding.
We still work in a heavily paper-based industry. A Cargo Cloud dramatically reduces paperwork and the related administrative work.
Reducing waiting times
Time is money. Waiting time means idling time, and it’s extremely costly. Applications such as Slot Booking eliminate those waiting times for our truck drivers."
"Time is money. Waiting time means idling time, and it’s extremely costly. Applications such as Slot Booking eliminate those waiting times for our truck drivers."
Why would you use external applications instead of your own internal systems?
"The applications in BRUcloud are complementary to our legacy systems, they offer us features and functionality our own systems don’t have. Building these ourselves would cost a lot of time and money. They also enable interconnectivity with other stakeholders (such as carriers and ground handlers), instead of the one-on-one connections our systems typically provide."
What convinced you to share your data?
"It requires a certain level of trust. You build this trust within the community with the right charter and agreements. And you get this trust by working with a reliable provider who understands the dynamics of a cargo community and who can guarantee the right levels of data security and control. In our case, this is Nallian."
"The applications offer us features and functionality our own systems don’t have. Building these ourselves would cost us a lot of time and money."
As a member of the community, what actions do you expect from an airport?
"The airport should first establish a “coalition of the willing”. This is a small group of companies that are the most motived and eager to get started. Don’t necessarily try to involve the biggest companies from the start or to get all actors in the hub on board right away. Start with a small group instead and lead by example.
The airport should also keep the momentum and pace. At some point we thought ‘are we launching yet another app already ?’, but the apps are mutually reinforcing each other so it’s important to keep on moving forward. Also, we’re all confronted with the likes of Alibaba and Amazon so we cannot afford to stay behind - we need this sense of urgency.
And it should promote the initiative. It is very important to market what you do, internally within the hub and externally within the wider air cargo world. Every single success should be highlighted, as this sparks the curiosity you need to get more companies on board."
"The airport should first establish a “coalition of the willing”. This is a small group of companies that are the most motived and eager to get started."
What is expected from you as a freight forwarder in the cargo community?
"First and foremost, we should be “the willing”. We should dare to jump and not be afraid to fail. In the end, there is nothing to lose.
We should also dare to expose ourselves. When getting together in meetings, e.g. to brainstorm on new applications, we should be willing to provide insights in our operations, even with other freight forwarders around the table. It also pays to listen to these friendly competitors, who might have good ideas on process improvements you might not yet have considered yourself.
It’s also critical to involve operational people from the start. Once you have you management on board, bring future users of the apps to brainstorm meetings and involve them in testing and training – they are the ones who know your processes best and will bring valuable insights to the table.
It's also imperative to prepare for change – a project as this requires change management as it will impact your processes. Don’t pretend it will be “business as usual” but embrace the change and the positive effects it will bring.
And last but not least, don’t criticize the entire project at the first glitch. There will be some bumps in the road but that is inevitable. Don’t give up too quickly, instead take a good look at what went wrong and then learn from it."
"It’s critical to involve operational people from the start. They are the ones who know your processes best and will bring valuable insights to the table."
This is how at Brussels Airport we managed to build a rich ecosystem of applications that is driving efficiency and visibility in a wide range of processes. A nice example is our fully Digital Green Lane for the Landside Management Operations. And we keep on working closely together with the different stakeholders to continuously improve and expand the ecosystem to further enhance our cargo handling processes.
BRUcloud is the award-winning Cargo Cloud of Brussels Airport's cargo hub, powered by Nallian’s data sharing platform and open ecosystem of collaborative apps. The Community Platform empowers the different stakeholders at the hub to streamline landside management operations, gain granular insights in real-cargo flows, facilitate regulatory processes and enable end-to-end track and trace.
About Nallian's Cargo Cloud
With its unique approach, Nallian for Air Cargo empowers the different actors at the cargo hub (airport authorities, ground handling agents, freight forwarders, trucking companies, regulatory institutions, ...) to work in a coordinated way instead of in silos. This empowers them to generate unparalleled levels of operational performance and transparency, and attract more business with a reliable, predictable service.