Saturday, May 18, 2024
Investing in the future of airfreight

Investing in the future of airfreight

Air France KLM Martinair (AFKLMP) Cargo has been investing in its hubs and cool-chain infrastructure to support growth and optimise service levels for pharma and perishables. It has also fully renovated its Chicago hub, which is their third-largest station, making it a key investment. 

Apart from infrastructure and facility-related investments, the carrier is also heavily investing in a full, new IT system, our backbone. Implementation has already begun and is scheduled for completion at the end of 2024. This new IT infrastructure presents lots of options to further digitise operational processes and interactions in the value chain. It will also ensure more seamless data flows. 

“We have major projects underway to improve operational excellence at both our hubs as well as outstations, moving towards a more efficient and effective situation in terms of costs as well as customer experience,” GertJan Roelands, SVP Commercial Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, said.

Digital developments

Digitisation is one of the key enablers driving efficiency and quality in the airfreight value chain. In the past, for instance, customers had to contact customer service teams by phone or email during office hours to make or change a booking. Nowadays, AFKLMP Cargo’s digital platform myCargo makes it as easy to book airfreight online 24/7, as easily as booking an airline ticket.

“This saves our customers significant time and costs, and makes it very easy to do business with us. In fact, our B2B customers have basically the same expecta­tions in their work environment as they do when they’re consumers (B2C). They want things to be easy, fast, transparent and personalised,” Roelands said.

Based on these needs, AFKLMP Cargo has been developing its commercial strategy and specifically its digital programme. Within five years, they’ve seen online bookings growing from less then 20% to more than 80% at present. 

“Ultimately, we want to be where our customers are. This means we also offer our customers the option of connecting with us directly via an API. We also connect some of our base service with relevant third-party portals. This is all part of our channel strategy,” he added.

AFKLMP Cargo is currently teamed up with Salesforce to develop a state-of-the-art CRM platform, making it possible to connect their 65+ offices worldwide. On top of this, they’re building a Customer-360 module. This will lead to a situation where they’re using data to gain immediate insight into all relevant information as soon as a customer contacts them: bookings in the pipeline, needs, claims, status and so on. They’ll also offer customers with specific complex bookings access to product experts around the globe. 

On top of this, they can optimise reaction time to customers. All in support of their objective to offer customers the very best service. 

Digital and data will enable AFKLMP Cargo to approach their customers in a much more targeted way. Based on data and algorithms, they can determine customers’ needs and send targeted offers or information. This online growth strategy is already common in more B2C businesses, such a retail. They ran successful trials this summer and are now implementing this globally.

“To drive this digital transformation, you need to have the right experts on board. Over the years, we’ve adapted and hired experts in the field of digital, e-acquisition, data and so on,” Roelands stated.

“In operations, we’ve also initiated a wide array of digital developments. We’re currently implementing a whole new IT system, as mentioned above. This will enable us to build new digital solutions optimising our operations as well as the data flow with handlers and customers. Other solutions include ULD tracking, which ensures greater control and transparency,” he continued.

Sustainable strategies

Sustainability lies at the heart of AFKLMP Cargo’s organisation. As early as 2009, KLM became the first airline to operate a flight partly fuelled by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and began participating in the development of SAF and more sustainable, alternative fuels. 

In early 2023, AFKLMP Cargo renewed its 2030 vision for cargo to reflect the broader AFKL Group purpose. The carrier’s aim is now to become a leader in sustainable airfreight, while passionately delivering best-in-class customer experiences.

“As a leading airfreight carrier, we have a significant role to play in reshaping the industry. It is our responsibility to be at the forefront of a more sustainable airfreight sector and, consequently, to accelerate our environmental transition,” Roelands said. 

However, considering the challenges the carrier faces in this hard-to-abate sector, AFKLMP Cargo know there is no silver-bullet solution to abate the sector’s 2050 footprint reduction pathway. They are part of a complex ecosystem involving numerous stakeholders. 

AFKLMP Cargo recognises that reducing its environmental footprint is not a standalone endeavour. They must confront environmental challenges in close collaboration with their ecosystem partners.

“Our sustainability initiatives are centred and aligned with our Sustainability Roadmap. We’ve identified our contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 17),” Roelands explained. “Moreover, in 2022 we published our first AF and KL Climate Action Plan in which we outlined our climate strategy and the challenges facing the aviation industry. Our ambitions were validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), primarily revolving around reducing our direct and indirect CO2 emissions (e.g. scope 1 and 2), giving us a clear path towards 2030.”

For the Destination Sustainability Roadmap, AFKLMP Cargo’s main target is to achieve a 30% reduction in emissions per RTK/km in 2030. They determined two objectives to help achieve our main target: 1) 10% SAF by 2030, and 2) 64% next-generation aircraft in 2028. 

To achieve their environmental ambition, they identified three levers: 1) Fleet renewal, 2) SAF, and 3) operational measures. 

“We recently confirmed an order for four Airbus A350F aircraft for Air France and four for Martinair Cargo, replacing our current freighter fleet. From the second half of 2026, these new A350Fs will replace Martinair’s existing Boeing 747 freighters. These four A350Fs will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 40% and will generate 50% less noise than their predecessors,” Roeland outlined.

In 2020, AFKLMP Cargo introduced the Cargo SAF Programme. Since then, more than 100 partners have invested in this programme, which enables forwarders and shippers to fuel their flights with a percentage of SAF. Customers choose their own contribution level and we ensure that the investment is fully utilised to purchase SAF. When investing in SAF, customers receive an independently certified report specifying the amount of SAF purchased in terms of traffic volume, giving an indication of the resulting reduction in CO2 emissions. This year the Cargo SAF Programme has accounted for 60% of all contributions made by the Group’s SAF programmes. 

“At AFKLMP Cargo, we leave no stone unturned in seeking operational levers to achieve our overall target. We have two sub-targets for operations: 1) -50% non-recycled waste by 2030 (compared to 2011), 2) Zero-emissions ground operations by 2030. The best way to explain what operational measures we’re taking to reduce our operational footprint is by taking a tour of the cargo handling process,” he explained.

Picture of James Graham

James Graham

James Graham is an award-winning transport media journalist with a long background in the commercial freight sector, including commercial aviation and the aviation supply chain. He was the initial Air Cargo Week journalist and retuned later for a stint as editor. He continues his association as editor of the monthly supplements. He has reported for the newspaper from global locations as well as the UK.

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