Johnston, CEO of IT company Champ Cargosystems, is sitting inside a
big company display placed in the center of the action at an air cargo
CHAMP Cargosystems, is a partnership between
the former IT Division of Cargolux Airlines and SITA Cargo, but today
stands alone to offer IT support from PC maintenance to complete system
design and development. CHAMP is one of the largest ASP providers to
the global air cargo industry.
John Johnston wastes very little time
getting down to business.
"When was the Bar Code invented?"
he asks FlyingTypers.
We say 1960—Johnston smiles and
"So when do you think air cargo embraced
This time he follows the question with
an immediate answer:
"Air cargo adopted the Bar Code in
1995 with IATA Resolution, 606," says Johnston.
What Mr. Johnston, the Bard of Bar Code,
leaves up in the air is that a resolution has a long way to travel from
saying to doing.
But his question and recent actions give
rise to the belief that this is one executive who is out there to change
He wants every part of air cargo, down
to the smallest mom & pop company, to embrace IT as matter of good
business and survival.
"But back to my original question;
we can wonder endlessly why Bar Code has taken over 50 years to finally
come into the spotlight, however, no one can deny that, with globalization
and airline financial crises, everyone needs better processes, cost
reduction, better customer service and the ability to compete on a global
“With globalization has also come
movement of the goods creation process with greater component based
manufacturing and assembly. That has led to volatility in the life cycle
of manufacturing facilities and a huge demand for efficient logistics,”
"Of particular interest right now
is the EU ICS—it seems perfect timing to bring more and more countries
into the electronic process.
“We are fortunate to have been able
to amass a rather large customer base.
“Community solutions are our business.
“What we are hearing goes something
“‘We need an ICS solution
–and know yours works so here we are!’
“Our experience in operating community
systems makes CHAMP a logical choice.
“Community solutions are our business.
“We started doing only airline solutions,
but now do handling (Swissport WFS) as well.
“Today, airlines (90) and handlers
(200 companies) that utilize the CHAMP solution are talking to each
“The idea ito deliver wide-based
IT solutions while driving cost out of transportation lies at the core
of what we do.”
John Johnston arrived in Luxembourg in
1991 on a three-month contract to work for legendary company chief,
Sten Grotenfelt, at Cargolux.
“I was taken up straight away with
the great entrepreneurial spirit at Cargolux; it is an honest company
with a successful business model, and it remained successful by sticking
“After some years, I left Cargolux,
moved on and did some consulting work, and even tried later to purchase
the Cargolux IT system.
“I returned in 2000 and was part
of the team that formed a separate CHAMP Division in 2004, where I have
served ever since as CEO.
“Beginning in 2004, CHAMP set off
on a colossal adventure. We had just 40 people on staff in Luxembourg
equipped with experience gained from Cargolux of what works (and doesn’t)
in the global air cargo industry.
“Today, CHAMP has offices in London,
Zurich, Atlanta, and a new office just opened in 2009 in Manila.
“We will open in China next year
(2011) where Air China is one of our biggest customers.
“CHAMP is consistently successful
and profitable because we understand what is important and always follow
“I guess looking back from where
we are now as market leader, to where we were when we started, the greatest
surprise is the rather short period of time it took to build CHAMP into
a global force, especially since just a few years ago we were on almost
no one’s radar.”
Looking ahead, John Johnston shares some
“The tech-tonic plates of air cargo
have fundamentally shifted; in fact, the movement started way back when
the dotcom bubble burst, followed by the huge financial upheaval of
“Today, the power base for air cargo
has shifted with the rise of important and new carriers serving Asia,
India and the Middle East.”
CHAMP Cargosystems is now powering
TAP Portugal Cargo, which has reported a 24% increase in cargo
volumes for 2010.
Driven in part by growth in Brazilian
imports and exports as cargo and mail transported reached 94,000
tons in 2010, TAP says that the company is expecting further growth
this year following agreement with CHAMP Cargosystems on long-term
use of the Cargospot suite of cargo management solutions.
The airline is adopting Cargospot
Airline, Handling, Revenue Accounting, Business Intelligence and
ULD Management modules in an effort to provide an integrated end-to-end
portfolio for immediate efficiencies while creating revenue opportunities
and meeting global compliancy requirements.
TAP Cargo is also subscribing to
Global Customs Gateway (GCG), which provides customs authorities
with advance information on shipments. CargoWEB, CHAMP’s
web booking, distribution and tracking solution, will also be
provided as a hosted ASP (application service provider) service.
Hong Kong Airlines Champ
CHAMP Cargosystems revealed a
five-year multi-million dollar deal with HNA Group and for its
full suite of Cargo IT services to be deployed at two of the HNA
Group’s airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express
as the first Hong Kong-based airlines to migrate completely to
the integrated Cargospot suite including: Airline and Revenue
Johnston also thinks about
a career well spent in air cargo and what might lie ahead for the industry.
“The ongoing investigations and
prosecutions in air cargo strike at the heart of a collegial spirit
that has helped the industry work and grow over the years, a spirit
that is unique to the airline business.
“The air cargo industry has always
been driven by a certain ‘tough love, unique spirit’ of
Air cargo hangars were always on the dark,
less glamorous side of the airport; offices got second hand furniture
and aircraft while the princes and princesses of the passenger business
had the best of everything.
“I remember once upon a time working
in a building that flooded out every time there was a heavy downpour,
working at my desk with my shoes and socks off and pant legs rolled
up against the rising water table in the hangar.
“But across the board, the one thing
about this industry is that its spirit has always been tremendous.
“Looking ahead, the ongoing challenge
for us at CHAMP is to continue our development and growth.
“We did not stop development during
the financial crises, although our important transaction business flattened
“CHAMP compensated for that decline
by adding new products that, among other virtues, could demonstrate
direct cost savings to our customers.
“It comes back to always following
the money—in the case of a downturn, if you are able to manage
your assets better, then money saved is money earned.
“You don’t have to get rid
of people or change processes, you have to manage assets,” John
As we conclude our brief encounter we
imagine this dedicated, likeable and fascinating guy rolling up his
sleeves (and thankfully no longer his pants) whilst thinking about the
limitless possibilities for CHAMP to reduce the time it will take for
air cargo to travel farther, faster.