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FedEx, the world’s largest cargo airline, shipped 16 billion freight ton-kilometers (FTK) in 2014. That’s a lot of weight. Simply put, air cargo is one of the quickest and most used ways of transporting goods from warehouse to customer, and its efficiency is crucial to the success of the global economy.

More than ever, now is the time air cargo supply chains need to be nimble, as competition is fierce. To do so, cargo carriers need to make use of the technology that has arrived with this Fourth Industrial Revolution. From drones and artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things (IoT), disruptive technology is arriving everywhere in the logistics world, and those that don’t use it will be left in the dust.

Using the best and most suitable technology will ensure the entire air cargo supply chain is connected, and thus adaptable and flexible. Additionally, thanks to modern technology, data can be synchronized and air cargo analytics can be analyzed to find problems and take action.

However, to truly optimize the entire process, both quality analytics and great decision-making is required. Hence, those that can dig through all the data provide and create actionable plans are going to win out in the long run.

Addressing Traditional Logistics Issues

Innovations are certainly enhancing the inter-connectedness of air cargo carriers and processes across the globe, but it takes more than just great technology to maximize efficiency in the industry. Traditional challenges still exist.

Businesses operating within the air cargo world need to collaborate so that data can be easily shared and common problems, such as a delayed delivery, can be easily and promptly handled. This will guarantee seamless supply chain function, from initial warehousing to last-mile delivery.

Another common hassle is data disconnect across various steps in air freight shipments. Data is housed in different formats and structures, which limits access for all involved parties. This can make it difficult to get the full picture of what’s going on, and thus make it nearly impossible to utilize analytics to its utmost potential. Bringing all data from each step of the shipping process into the cloud is the clear answer, because this will bridge application silos and provide stakeholders with information in real-time.

Accessing All The Data

As noted above, the big challenge with analytics in the supply chain for air cargo shipments is that data is held with a various number of enterprise software systems and external databases, making it hard to even fully view.

In fact, during analysis projects, up to 80 percent of the time can be spent handling data issues. With the intelligence available in today’s world, that is unacceptable. Boosting efficiency is simply a matter of integrating processes and improving collaboration between the involved companies.

Firstly, business users should employ data connectors to tap into outside systems. While the amount of data collected may seem large, data profiling can help locate patterns and common trouble points. After finding important patterns, analyze those data sets to detect meaningful insights. From there, put those ideas into actionable strategies that are able to manage the entire air cargo shipment, from  shipper to receiver. If you need inspiration on how to do this, look to the e-commerce giant Amazon. The company is in the process of building a global delivery system that controls product flow from factories and stores all over the world to customers’ doorsteps.

While leasing planes isn’t possible for most companies, like Amazon plans to do, you get the idea: you want the whole process to be as transparent as possible and you want to have instant access to all the important data. This way, there is no prolonged stoppage or repeat problems in the supply chain.

Using Analytics to Respond Quickly

If you encounter challenges in the supply chain, having real-time  and unified data will be useful. That’s because you’ll have the technology and big data management capabilities to address that tough question and provide a quick solution. But just having the tools and the information is not enough. You need a quality analytics strategy that is able to accurately describe, predict, and prescript.

Make use of descriptive analytics to mine through the data and highlight the important details of the strategy and/or problem. Employ predictive analytics to forecast what will happen next, from estimating future demand patterns to encountering bad weather; this requires use of historical data as well as referencing current internal and external data. Lastly, utilize prescriptive analytics to optimize the entire process and find a solution; prescriptive analytics calculates millions of options to find the best solution, and therefore is the best way to ensure prompt and safe delivery.  

Never Be Satisfied

Even if your company has seemingly perfected air cargo shipping, and your customers are absolutely impressed by your shipping efficiency, don’t sit still. New data is always arriving; new technology is always being created. You have to be ready to make  adjustments when the time comes.

Thus, harnessing the power of air cargo analytics to master the supply chain is not a set-in-stone process. It requires staying up-to-date in terms of technology and data, using analytics effectively to connect the pieces and facilitate decisions, and always being prepared to respond and adapt.


Learn how air cargo carriers can leverage technology and customer-centricity to deliver outstanding service and real-time intelligence across the supply chain.

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