As simple as it may seem, air cargo isn’t just about moving boxes in planes. Flying is just 10% of the whole journey of your air cargo, the remaining — the more crucial part — is when it sits at the airport before boarding, after landing, waiting for approvals and paperwork at the customs, and while traveling on the road to reach its destination. In short, your air cargo does more waiting than flying.
To monitor the flying as well as the waiting, IATA came up with a solution called Cargo iQ — An EDI-based platform that keeps each stakeholder in the loop throughout the supply chain; it’s like the ERP for the air cargo world. Although it pretty much does the job, Cargo iQ still relies on data inputs from external sources, sources that may not be real-time or reliable enough to base important decisions on. To make the most of cargo tracking systems like Cargo iQ, you need an all-inclusive air cargo monitoring solution that brings real, real-time, and relevant data to the table.
Let’s see what Cargo iQ can and cannot do, and how you can fill this gap.
What Cargo iQ Can Do
Cargo iQ is the first EDI-based platform that digitizes communication between airlines, airports, customers, freight forwarders, and shippers. It updates everyone in the loop as each stakeholder uploads or feeds information into the platform, which is why it is like the ‘crowdsourced’ ERP of the air cargo world.
The updates range from an air consignment checked in by the airport to an airline updating that it has been loaded onto the aircraft. Like with any ERP, the platform itself doesn’t automate data capture, it’s only a repository of digital data. However, Cargo iQ in itself is a big step towards digitization of the air cargo world, and it has its benefits:
- Helps all stakeholders — airlines, airports, shippers, customers, forwarders — stay on the same page and view the same data.
- Enables proactive notifications, which in turn facilitates timely corrective actions.
- Enables quality reporting as per standardized quality standards as per the Cargo iQ Master Operating Plan (MOP).
- Promotes transparency of the operational performances of stakeholders while respecting data privacy.
- Measures ‘Milestones’ — critical processes like RCS (Cargo Received from Shipper), DEP (departure points), ARR: (arrival points), RCF (cargo receipt points), NFD (cargo delivery readiness notifications), DLV (cargo delivery points).
- Serves as a global 'live' tracking & tracing tool.
- Keeps a continuous check on planned performance vs. actual performance.
What Cargo iQ Cannot Do
Although Cargo iQ is the best way to maintain quality standards for its members on a global level, it falls short of being the best technology out there. This is because it cannot provide the level of detail that the latest, more technologically sound systems can — like with any ERP, where data capturing is a manual process. In short, Cargo iQ still hasn’t completely transitioned to automatic data capture. The more the manual intervention, the higher the chances of gaps in data capture and processing, which means Cargo iQ as a process isn’t completely automated and cannot do the following:
- It cannot provide real-time updates — which means you can’t get information on your shipment on a real-time basis.
- It cannot provide actionable data — which means you don’t get insights enough to make timely and informed decisions, but only post-event data that you can practically do nothing about.
- It cannot enable end-to-end shipment tracking — which means it lacks complete first mile to last mile coverage, and only provides data in bits and pieces that you have to make sense of.
- It cannot provide condition tracking information — which means it cannot tell you how your shipment was treated during its journey, only its location.
- It cannot help with package-level monitoring — which means the tracking is limited only to the shipment, which is a big loophole, especially when you want to track a single consignment that may be split into different loads that are routed via different airlines.
- It cannot help with dynamic route optimization — which means it cannot provide information that can be used to make decisions about the route, airports, etc.
- It cannot provide analytics — which means it isn’t at par with the latest tools that can provide AI-driven prescriptive analytics.
- It cannot resolve inventory management issues — which means it lacks information about the stock situation like dependable ETAs and shortage alerts.
- It cannot prevent delays — since the data isn’t real-time, the delay has already occurred, and the cause of delay is unknown. So, there’s no telling if the shipment is at the first mile, the airport, or the last mile.
Considering that while being a fairly well-designed system, Cargo iQ still doesn’t enable handsfree data collection and the live analytics required to flawlessly monitor an air shipment, a much more technologically advanced solution has recently been developed — a comprehensive air cargo monitoring solution that clubs AI, RPA, and IoT — one which provides live streaming of data into Cargo iQ to automatically capture and validate milestones.
The Ultimate Solution
There are now air cargo monitoring solutions that not only solve the problems that Cargo iQ can’t, but also don’t require setting up a heavy infrastructure. If implemented well, an on-demand air cargo tracking system doesn’t just provide real-time end-to-end tracking information, but also helps limit the overall losses by solving inventory management, route decisions, and delay-related issues. What you need is a solution that gives you:
- Real-time location updates on your cargo — which includes tracking information in air, as well as other modes of transportation in multimodal operations.
- Condition tracking — which is most useful when dealing with condition-sensitive products like pharmaceuticals or food & beverages.
- Pre-emptive alerts — which helps you act on the information without delays.
- Automated data capture — which eliminates the risk of human error.
- Verifiable information — which means getting real-time, reliable, and verifiable tracking data since it is uniquely identifiable unlike in other systems where it is comparatively easier to duplicate data.
- Easy integration — which means it is a fairly simple process to integrate it with your existing ERP system.
- Predictive analytics — which means having a 24*7 control tower that enables actionability. Moreover, you don’t need to rely on data from external resources.
Your cargo is too precious to lose track of, and while it is all sorts of difficult once it takes off, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose its whereabouts. Technologies like on-demand air shipment monitoring solutions have made it possible to be on top of your air cargo without having to set up a heavy infrastructure which demands capital expenditure. Although there’s a lot that could go wrong with your cargo up in the air, there is also a smart way to not just take precautions about events, but also prevent them before they even occur.