The air cargo industry has benefited from sky-high demand in recent years. It has helped businesses respond to the e-commerce explosion caused by the pandemic, disruptions to ocean freight transit, and urgent delivery needs of PPE and other critical medical supplies.
Now, as the cost of container shipping comes back down and economic developments unfold, recent figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicate that the air cargo market has levelled off. The global volume of air freight, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres, fell 9.7% compared to July 2021, and at -3.5% compared to July 2019.
Meeting air cargo demand has not been easy, which will have undoubtedly contributed to today’s shift back to ocean. But how will ports respond? Can they prevent repeat disruption? And, with the peak season ahead, what can airfreight forwarders and logistics providers do to better prepare for future spikes in demand and unlock new opportunities to increase profit?
The air cargo industry continues to navigate several challenges triggered by the pandemic. The number of people working in air transport remains low and airlines continue to operate a reduced number of flights. Now, new political and economic developments are adding to the mix, causing rising costs, and contributing to fluctuating demand.
But, for companies that can address operational challenges, the outlook for air cargo in the short and long term is strong. To do so, they require more agile strategies to react quickly to what comes next – starting with this peak season.
Reliable and flexible operations are key here – and not only to business agility, but to delivering a satisfactory service, retaining a talented workforce, and achieving the margins to explore new growth opportunities or ways to become more efficient.
For logistics companies that offer airfreight services, this means finding new, sophisticated ways of making operations more cost-effective and efficient at every stage of the journey – from loading up at the warehouse of point A to unloading at the destination point B, and at multiple points in between.
Loading and unloading solutions have come a long way, and they are great examples of how a move away from traditional processes can speed up the whole process considerably while making it more efficient.
With less or no reliance on other equipment, such as forklift trucks or strenuous manual processes, schedules are easier to keep to and delays can be significantly reduced for everyone involved. Cost, time and space savings can be transformative for a business, as can a working environment that is safer and more enjoyable for employees.
The best fit solution will of course vary depending on the application. One air cargo logistics specialist, for example, recently fitted a pneumatic rise and fall rollerbed solution to its warehouse at Leipzig/Halle airport. The system converted the warehouse floor into an air cargo handling station so that operators can directly transfer the cargo by rolling it in and out of the trailer.
This has helped to speed up freight transfer between warehouses and vehicles to build in greater flexibility: the company wanted the option to remove the system and refit it to other premises should freight volumes at the airport significantly increase or decrease, without having to undertake civil works.