Leaving Paper in the Past
WIN Works with BFS to Make e-AWB Simple and Accessible for All
Looking back, who would have thought that technology would take us to where we are today? Cellphones and tablets, electric cars, digital cameras and the internet – they’ve all changed our lives in fundamental ways. Children in this generation are growing up with technologies that we couldn’t even have imagined during our childhoods. In just a few decades, technology has changed so dramatically. We’ve gone from computers the size of rooms to ones that fit in the palms of our hands. We’ve transitioned from film and paper to digital everything – photos, movies and books are just the tip of the iceberg.
The world around us has changed, so why hasn’t the air freight industry changed as well? With the Multilateral e-Airway Bill Agreement, IATA has tried to help simplify the process of taking the paper out of air cargo, but the majority of operations are still fully reliant on paper – as they have been for decades. IATA reported that as of February of 2015, global electronic airway bill (e-AWB) penetration is at just 26.9 percent. And e-AWB penetration in Thailand is even lower than that.
There are many reasons to make the transition to paperless – lower costs for sending data, faster and more accurate data transfer, and environmental benefits are just a few examples. So why has the industry been so slow to make the change?
Well, in some ways, going digital presents a few unique complexities – especially here in Thailand. It can also require an initial investment in IT systems and close cooperation from operators such as airlines, forwarders and ground handlers. This can make some reluctant to go the paperless route.
But the Worldwide Information Network (WIN), a Thailand-based provider of global connectivity solutions for freight forwarders, wants to show that e-AWB can be simple, affordable and beneficial for everyone – from independent freight forwarders to multinationals. WIN’s e-AWB services are already being used in nearly 25 countries around the world, but e-AWB adoption has continued to be slow in Thailand. That’s why WIN has just launched a new partnership with Bangkok Flight Services (BFS) to promote and facilitate e-AWB usage in Thailand.
Mr. John DeBenedette, Managing Director, Worldwide Information Network, spoke to us about how WIN can make e-AWB easier than ever before.
Bringing Air Cargo into the Digital Age
Mr. DeBenedette has worked on information technology in a logistics context for more than 20 years, so he understands how the industry has changed, and what a boost the latest technologies can bring to your business. From the early 90s to 2000, Mr. DeBenedette worked for DB Schenker in the US, handling major accounts as well as managing the company’s IT for the Americas. In 2001, he saw an opportunity to bring new technology to ocean shipping by joining Inttra, a leading electronic ocean shipping platform. Mr. DeBenedette worked with Inttra for 12 years, until he was invited to join a project that would help make e-AWB a reality in Thailand. He explains, “I’m glad I had the opportunity to contribute to bringing ocean shipping into the digital age with Inttra. Now I hope to do the same with air freight. WIN’s goal is to ensure that it’s easy for independent freight forwarders to make use of all the benefits of e-AWB.”
Though e-AWB penetration is beginning to pick up steam around the world, implementation in Thailand has unfortunately been very slow. WIN wanted to find out why. “WIN is based in Thailand, but we offer our services globally, and we also have offices in China, India, the UK, Amsterdam and Florida. So from our global network, we could see that e-AWB adoption was going very slowly in Thailand. We had to figure out why. We talked to several freight forwarders and to BFS and learned that Thailand is a very unique market with complex air export procedures. Agents deliver cargo to the ground handler, who provides a certified weight slip. The forwarder must take the weight slip back to his office to be updated into their system. Then the final document with approved weight is printed, given to the ground handler, and finally sent to the carrier,” says Mr. DeBenedette. This process adds some unique inefficiencies, but WIN has found a way to eliminate them, saving forwarders both time and money.
With WIN’s automated process, forwarders can simply load a draft e-AWB into WIN and send the cargo to the ground handler. Immediately after weighing, the ground handler will send an e-weight slip through WIN. The forwarder then gets a notification that their draft e-AWB has been updated. They can review the information, such as number of pieces, weight and dimensions, and then send the e-AWB to the carrier, who instantaneously copies it to the ground handler.
“Doing it electronically means forwarders can take advantage of lower fees, because carriers charge much more for sending paper master and house bills than for sending the data electronically.”
“And because WIN’s process is automatic, it’s also more accurate – there’s less room for mistakes because the data doesn’t need to be keyed in multiple times. Forwarders can also save a lot of time by not having to drive back and forth to deliver the draft AWB, update it, then deliver the final AWB. Through WIN, the entire process can take just a few minutes,” Mr. DeBenedette describes. For those forwarders who are not ready to go fully paperless, WIN offers benefits for them as well. Through WIN, they can print airway bills and certified weight slips, leading to substantial time savings.
One might think that a sophisticated data transfer system such as WIN requires forwarders to make a huge investment in IT and install incredibly advanced systems of their own. But that’s actually not the case, according to Mr. DeBenedette, “To use WIN in its simplest form on the web, you just need a web browser and an internet connection. And if you want to connect into WIN, we make it really easy through what’s called web services, which is just a modern way of linking computers together. WIN is a great solution for independent forwarders, who might not have the resources or manpower to invest in building their own IT systems. For those, WIN provides them with modern technology and cloud-based systems. For forwarders who already have their own airway bill print systems, WIN makes it easy to add connectivity to the airline without rewriting or throwing away their old systems. Through a small enhancement, they actually get even more value out of the investment they’ve already made.”
With WIN, a big change that once seemed daunting or overly complicated has become a bit more accessible to operators around the world. WIN has made it much easier to send e-AWBs than it has been in the past. Hopefully, innovations like this will encourage more and more operators to adopt e-AWB, and help the industry move forward together. Times have changed – now it’s time for the air freight industry to finally catch up.
Mr. David Ambridge, General Manager at BFS Cargo commented, “e-freight is a topic that I feel very strongly about. The air cargo industry hasn’t changed in more than 40 years, which means we’re missing out on all the benefits that e-freight can offer. As an industry, we could be saving an estimated one to two billion dollars per year just by eliminating paper airway bills. If we went entirely paperless, that number would go up to five billion dollars each year. The savings in terms of cost and efficiency are tremendous. So BFS and WIN have formed a partnership to promote e-AWB in Thailand – to educate people about how it works, its benefits and just how simple it can be to get started. Service providers like WIN can make it so easy to use e-AWB, there’s just no reason not to make that change.”