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Digital development creates transparency and efficiency for air cargo

The next couple of years are going to bring many changes to the world of air cargo as digitalization progresses rapidly. Some of the major developments include the introduction of the new data sharing standard ONE Record and the new customs procedures in the EU. We at Finnair want to be an active stakeholder in these developments as well as create our own digital platforms to serve our customers better.

Digitalization supports a growing need for transparency and brings with it better data sharing and secure data management. To this end, IATA is leading the development of a new digital logistics and transport supply chain, ONE Record. It is a standard for data sharing and creates a single record view of the shipment. 

- Previously data was shared one to one, via messaging. With ONE Record the link to the original data can be shared to the entire supply chain easily, says Petteri Hellén, Development Lead for Systems at Finnair Cargo.

One of the major draws of ONE Record is that it is very easy to implement, and its structure makes it possible for businesses to either have it adjacent to their own system or to buy it as a DaaS (Data as a Service) product.

- Around 75 percent of air cargo is already using e-freight, but some of the smaller agents have been excluded of this. ONE Record could change this, since it makes different cost-efficient pricing models possible, Hellén states.  

In addition, Hellén sees that ONE Record has the potential to improve data sharing within multimodal transportation, ensure that shipping information can be changed flexibly along the way, and to speed up customs processes. 

- Sharing data in real time makes it possible to create a genuine digital twin, where all information, including that needed for customs, could be accessible even before the shipment has left its country of origin.

More precision needed with the updated EU customs process

Some changes to customs procedures are also coming up in the near future. In Finland, changes are seen in the messaging of temporary storage and its process is also renewed to a degree already during the final months of this year. 

The more significant change taking place, however, concerns all of the EU. The ICS2 (Import Control System phase 2) is being implemented and the most visible change is that the HS code information needs to be on a much higher level of precision than before. 

- When before you might list your main item as simply "a T-shirt", the precision level now needed would be "a yellow cotton T-shirt". Also, before you only had to list your main item, whereas now you need an HS code for each item of the shipment. 

For air cargo operators such as Finnair this means that more precise information is needed from customers, as HS codes cannot be created by air cargo carriers. 

- The other major change is that Europe is implementing a PLACI model, where shipments coming into the EU need a preloading permit before shipping. This enables the EU security screening beforehand, for example for anti-terrorist reasons. 

Hellén believes that customers must be informed actively of the changes to ensure all necessary data is included. 

- We will share information to our customers of the need for the detailed HS codes and also the EORI numbers identifying the consignee company as the importance of information correctness increases. With wrong or missing information, the shipment might stall, or the receiving customer might not be able to get it through customs.

The changes mean that there can be certain operative challenges ahead for the stakeholders in the cargo transport chain, but Hellén sees that ONE Record and other technical solutions can help tackle these.

- Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions could for example help us recognize packages automatically and cost-efficiently, he sums up. 

Finnair cargo advances in online services

Finnair Cargo is an active stakeholder in the development of joint industry efforts for digitalization, but a lot is done even regarding its own services. The air cargo industry has long been quite traditional, and bookings have been made via telephone calls or e-mails. Finnair has now systematically developed other sales channels to ensure more flexible and transparent, and faster digital service. 

- We have actively tried to find new options for sales channels so that co-operation with our customers would be even easier. We have developed our own online service, and we are also on several multicarrier platforms, says Anja Pöyhönen, Sales Director Europe at Finnair Cargo.

The online presence has many customer benefits. The customers get a view on pricing and capacity in real time and online bookings also improve the quality of data, as there are fewer touchpoints. 

- Of course, one of the major business benefits s that online booking service is available 24/7, which also hugely increases flexibility of our service to customers, Anna-Maria Kirchner, Head of Global Sales at Finnair Cargo adds. 

- Being available through multiple sales channels gives our customers the possibility to choose which one to use depending on their needs & preferences. We want to be where our customers want us to be so they can choose how they wish to make Finnair bookings, Anna points out.

- Online platforms increase the productivity of our customers as they get access to our real time rates and availability with the possibility to make a confirmed booking 24/7 in just 1—2 minutes compared to traditional booking process, which is very time consuming and lacks also transparency.

The level of digital service and online presence is still at different levels globally. Kirchner sees that one of the most exciting dimensions of the online development is introducing new geographical areas to online booking. 

- After starting the introduction in Europe and the US we continued with the launches in Asian countries during the past couple of months to onboard also our Asian customers to our online channels, Anja says. 

In the future both Pöyhönen and Kirchner think that improved customer experience, ease of service, reliability and access to transparent, correct information will be even more important. 

- We also think that offering choice is important, we must meet a variety of needs. For us as a company, we want to be at the forefront of the air cargo industry when it comes to digital development, and our online platforms and sales channels function as one element to this, Pöyhönen finishes.