European green fast lane helps accelerate cargo processes:
What opportunities for improvement did the European Green Fast Lane project address?
The European Green Fast Lane project sprang from the notion that we can reduce congestion at our warehouses by treating cargo in the way we treat passengers – in essence those with the correct paperwork and documents are sent straight through, and those with the incorrect destination on the ticket, for example, don’t.
We identified that no truck had priority, and not only did this cause congestion, but also there was no incentive for the forwarder to produce correct paperwork, as trucks would end up waiting in the queue in any case.
We saw the potential for using a data sharing platform. This would enable forwarders to submit shipment data to the Ground Handling Agent (GHA) at an earlier stage, so that they can prepare earlier for what checks and inspections need to be done.
How did you do this; what new processes have been implemented as a result of the project?
We developed two things that helped us improve our process – a new Acceptance Policy, and a Data Sharing Platform.
The new acceptance policy for the European Green Fast Lane states that if the cargo is not on time, it cannot be accepted by the GHA, and only once a new booking is made do they acknowledge receipt.
Our previous policy was to acknowledge receipt of all shipments irrespective of paperwork status and handle any compliance issues once it has arrived at the GHA’s premises.
We can only formally accept cargo if the paperwork is correct. This is a move towards how the passenger side works - be on time, with the right paper work, and with the correct number of items.
Our Data Sharing Platform has been set up to give GHAs, forwarders, and airlines real-time access to updated information. All parties share information at a much earlier stage, allowing them to anticipate, and streamline their own operations.
The KLM Cargo warehouse staff have also completely adopted our Compliance Checker into their processes. This tool uses algorithms to verify if the information on the airwaybills matches the Customs requirements for the route of the shipment, and warns us if there is a potential compliance conflict.
We have proof of concept and more industry partners joining are making use of the tool as more enhancements become available.
Our new truck scheduling process also allows us to connect certain cargo to a specific flight. We can establish patterns, for example. Cargo from Hannover is mostly shipped to Mexico.
Considering the whole European footprint and matching it to the capacity of the HUB, the truck schedules are now developed considering ‘the bigger picture’, which helps us to select and prioritise each truck that arrives at the HUB.
How has the EGFL project benefited the delivery of cargo to Schiphol?
Our Data Sharing Platform means we can devise trucking schedules to give preference to those adhering to our acceptance policy, speeding them through the European Green Fast Lane. Hence, the checked and verified truck is ‘cleaned’ and can proceed to the warehouse immediately.
We have much more accurate information on what is arriving to our HUB, and credible data benefits a whole organisation.
GHAs have more accurate information on what has been accepted onto their premises, and forwarders have the incentive to provide the correct paperwork, making for a much more cooperative working environment.
Previously, up to 80 trucks arrived ‘at-random’ in a short interval. We were able to handle six to eight trucks per hour, and it created a huge inefficiency.
Now, trucks arrive in a consistent flow, adhering to the HUB constraints, and peaks have diminished.
The warehouse is currently being modified to increase the capacity to handle 15 trucks per hour.
What have been the highlights in the project so far?
The EGFL project won the Cargo Award at the Schiphol Aviation Awards 2017, and it means a lot to be recognised by our supply chain partners as it shows that they are feeling the benefit.
Femke Sickler, a graduate of Delft University of Technology and one of our interns who worked on the project won first place in the IATA FACE-UP 2018 competition for her thesis on the project.
Swissport has become ambassador of the project, making it a joint process, and proving the value of the acceptance scheme as part of the service offering to both new and existing clients.
The amount of concrete information we now have is leading to real process change. For example, to obtain this data in the past, forwarders were having to call the airport, which then contacted the handler. Information would show the truck as having arrived, but practically it was not yet at the warehouse.
The data we now have is facilitating conversations about how things are working in the real world, leading to clarity, cooperation, and understanding.
Eighty per cent of KLM’s freight volume comes from outside the Netherlands, and 74 per cent of this is now covered by EGFL, what are the next steps?
Now the scheme is up and running throughout Europe, we are looking further afield to other regions.
The acceptance process will be modified depending the requirements of each region.
The EGFL is about continuous improvement of processes, what have you learned so far?
We have learned that for continuous improvement, each party in the chain needs to see how it will benefit them.
For example, GHAs currently weigh pallets in their entirety as they leave the warehouse. Compliance to our acceptance process, however, requires us to know the weight of each individual shipment when it enters the warehouse at the start of the acceptance process.
Asking GHAs to weigh shipments individually is a big ask, and by demonstrating the benefit of this to them - that shipments will make it onto the plane, and out of their warehouse all the quicker – we are now working together towards the common goal of continuous process improvement.
What are your ambitions for the EGFL project?
What I want to achieve is full collaboration in the supply chain.
Think of the auto routes in France - if you have an account, and your paperwork is there, then you can get into the priority lane. This is the green fast principle; if the data is correct, we can speed you through!
We have successfully implemented 25 of our European stations into the data sharing scheme, and the rest of our 89 stations will be implemented in the next 12 months.
Principles for this will be the same common principles as for AirFrance KLM, and Air France is beginning to implement the acceptance process this month in Milano.
We know we have a steep learning curve ahead of us related to data and the quality of that data, simply because of the number of parties in the chain.
Transparency and sharing information is the way ahead. For instance, if the quality and reliability of shipments and their information from the booking onward reaches 95 plus per cent, total new principles become possible.
The airline will be able to plan the flights and trucks much more effectively, and in return a much later acceptance, better rates, and possible on-load guarantees can be considered.
Shipments will be prone to spot-checks only. We know this is possible; we have a few customers who already deliver this quality.