By Adina Solomon
Tom Shepherd, supply chain team at Driscoll’s, has a message for the air cargo industry.
“If you’re trying to compete with ocean carriers, you’ve already lost the battle,” he says.
Shepherd says customers such as him expect air service to be far superior to slow ocean freight.
Shepherd, along with two other company representatives, speaks from the point of the view of the customer at the CNS Partnership Conference Monday. John Frasca, director global SC network optimization & global logistics procurement at Hewlett-Packard, and Tom Blake Bowlin, global transportation procurement manager at Caterpillar Logistics, also were on the panel.
The air cargo industry is too manual, Bowlin says. He points out that there are mobile phone apps that update passengers with flight information; that technology needs to be on the cargo side.
“We want to see milestones from the time it’s picked up to the time it’s delivered,” he says. “That’s crucial. We got to automate this.”
The many emails floating around increase the chance for error, Bowlin says.
Frasca says data is power, and the air cargo industry should better control that information by improving the accuracy of its forecasts.
“Compliant invoicing from our providers seems to be a struggle in the industry,” Bowlin says.
Sometimes, he says customers are under-billed.
Shepherd says he wants forwarders that work with him to understand Driscoll’s business. The company goes through thousands of trials for a single variety of berry before it hits the market. With so much work that goes into making the berries, Driscoll’s wants a smooth operation with its forwarders.
“Every piece of fruit starts as a seed in our lab,” he says. “The transport to the consumer is kind of the last step…If we mess it up the last step before it gets to the hands of the consumer, it’s a big deal.”
When asked about the possibility of someday moving freight without paper, Frasca echoes Bowlin’s call for less email.
“I think it’s got to be ingrained,” he says.
Texting and social networking will help the industry move toward the reality of paperless shipping, he says.
Another topic that was discussed by the panel of customers was environmentalism.
Frasca says HP is looking at what aircraft are being used for its products and has met with companies such as Boeing to understand aircrafts’ emission usage.
“Are we there yet?” he asks. “No, we’re on a journey.”
Driscoll’s is not as far along as it should be with environmental on the transportation side, Shepherd says.
“We’re actively looking to bring orders together so when we’re shipping them, we’re trying to minimize space on trailers,” he says.
Bowlin repeats a prevailing sentiment of the panel: the air cargo business needs to further embrace technology.
“This industry is still very manual,” he says. “We’ve got to modernize this industry.”