Glyn Hughes “Technology and automation are critical for success”

As 2021 drew to a close we looked back on 22 months of a Covid impacted world. Family and social interactions, business operations, end of year celebrations were all still far from what we would consider normal and with complex travel restrictions in place around the globe, traditional international air operations are still heavily disrupted.

The subsequent consequence for air cargo means the situation of demand far outstripping capacity continues to persist. Despite the Covid scenario, the global economy remains robust with extremely strong consumer spending in most developed economies. This fueled strong double-digit growth in ecommerce demand with all major online shopping events again setting new records and this strong demand could be seen in most air cargo sectors.

Strong demand with less capacity placed considerable stress on supply chain management with many aspects experiencing significant challenges. Many facilities were running at near or even in some cases beyond optimal capacity and we even saw temporary embargoes to allow backlogs to be cleared. The maritime sector also experienced many similar challenges and the consequence of supply chain disruptions resulted in historically low inventory levels, placing pressure on the global inflationary outlook.

So, as we look ahead to how the 2022 scene looks, we can see some familiar themes remaining: Capacity will continue to rely heavily on freighter operations, with freighter conversions and new deliveries expected to remain buoyant. Demand will continue to be strong, with Covid vaccine boosters and continued growth in personalized healthcare adding new demand. Global production remains very positive with the OECD forecasting 4.5% growth in global GDP for the upcoming year.

Unfortunately, we can still expect workforce challenges as quarantine, restrictive work practices and challenges in people movement all impacting the supply chain workforce. The shortages experienced in truck drivers can also be expected to remain.

With these and other challenges no doubt waiting over the horizon the industry must embrace the full array of innovative technology and automation solutions that are available. As efficient, optimized and transformed processes and practices are the only way we can handle more with less. Over the past 22 months the industry has turned more and more to technology to address issues being faced. Physical document handovers were replaced with digital data transfers and the fluid capacity situation resulted in dynamic pricing increases which necessitated multi-channel digital distribution networks. With this backdrop, IATAs ONE Record project gained momentum as pilot programs expanded and a more holistic approach to supply chain digitalization saw multi modal focused industry groups looking at interoperable standards.

These are just a few of the issues which arose and required the industry to respond with innovative solutions. For many issues, technology became the answer and we can confidently project that enhanced digitalization and automation will accelerate in the post covid area.


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