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   Vol. 16 No. 41
Tuesday May 2, 2017

May Day At CNS
May Day At CNS

Brandon Fried and Greg Weigel     While the rest of the world celebrated May Day 2017, IATA Cargo Network Services (CNS) got down to business in Orlando, Florida, with a full slate of sessions at its 27th Annual Partnership Conference.
      Freshman CNS President Lionel van der Walt (this is the first “Partnership” planned under his aegis) opened the event with a goodbye to long-serving Board Chairman Mick Fountain, and Deputy Chairman Robert Kmiotek, and a hello to new CNS Board Chairman Brandon Fried and Deputy Chairman Greg Weigel.
      Mr. Fountain, well respected and gregarious, thanked the CNS assemblage, recalling 14 years of service with the organization.

Driving The Partnership

      Lionel van der Walt emphasized the CNS commitment to the airline/forwarder partnership, stating:
      “We will continue our efforts to modernize and transform the industry with projects such as the e-air waybill.
      “I know that there are some people here that may think our project objectives are not attainable or realistic.
      “I don’t think anyone can argue that the paper-based process of air cargo adds value or supports our key values of speed, quality, and reliability.
      “If your bank,” Lionel declared,” or any other service provider operated paper-based only (as do some portions of air cargo today), would you put up with it?
      “I doubt it,” he scoffed.

Stuck In The 80s

      “Sometimes I think we (air cargo) are stuck in almost a 1980s time warp, because that is surely where all of these paper-based processes belong.
      “Millennial and newer generations will not tolerate our way of doing business,” Lionel van der Walt said.
      “The new generation demands an integrated seamless experience regardless of channel.
      “This is the change that certainly all of us face.
      “It’s not all doom and gloom, either.
      “I am quite positive looking ahead at companies like Flexport, Freightos, and others who are embracing new technologies and change.
       “I believe that there is a bright future ahead for our industry,” Lionel van der Walt said.

Keynote Ryan Petersen

Ryan Petersen      Speaking of Flexport, Ryan Petersen, 34, founder of the San Francisco-based company, materialized above the stage on video screens arranged above the speaker’s platform to address the four hundred or so people in the room.
      Petersen also founded ImportGenius.com, which billboards itself as the largest provider of data to the global trade industry.
      When the video ended and attention dropped down to the man himself on stage behind the microphone, his speech sounded more like an endorsement for Flexport, a less than intriguing outcome when measured against reports that the newbie startup software company has raised huge amounts of investment capital—reportedly 90 million to date.
      Flexport describes itself a freight forwarder, claiming that they view themselves as working toward changing the role of the forwarder to being “an enabler to do business.”
      “Flexport’s mission is to fix the user experience in global trade and bring the world free trade through technology,” proclaims the company’s Facebook page.
      That mission statement was quite interesting delivered to a room full of service providers who consider themselves as having occupied that very role for many years.
      Mr. Petersen’s keynote detailed real-time troubleshooting via instant messaging and software-to-software conversations.
      We kept thinking: where are the people in all of this?
      While some might wish for what has been described as an Uber-style solution for freight forwarding, Mr. van der Walt just entreated the best and brightest in air cargo (people) to get on board e-freight, a service that despite the sincere best efforts of IATA and innumerable air cargo service providers still seems some years away from total realization.

SKU You?

      Mr. Petersen repeatedly insisted that people are going to remain part of the Flexport view of the future.
      But then he said:
      “Our goal in the forwarding business is to provide SKU level visibility.”
      That comment from the stage prompted one well-placed forwarder in the room to remark:
      “The business is still and will remain about relationships and people.”

Other Voices

      Indeed Brandon Fried, new CNS Board member and head of the U.S.-based Airforwarders Association, was quoted in a publication distributed at CNS, stating:
      “While automation advances may ultimately handle the computer challenge, only persistent negotiation, gentle persuasion, and patience can address the lack of harmonized standards between nations.”
      As I looked around the room, it dawned on me that part of the problem might be that there weren’t too many 34-year olds in the audience. Most of us are maybe even a third older than this young, bright entrepreneur. While considering that the youth must be served, in this case we think innovation is a market-driven force that will better air cargo. As one industry wag mentioned, “we are dancing as fast as we can.”
      Another forwarder's comment may sum this brash and frank keynote presentation up best.
      “It’s not all bad because we can become better competitors.
      “Everybody has to be a bit sharper.
      “We know that moving forward we can be positioned as a favored resource to our colleagues and customers because our culture for cargo is traditional and we are adapting to the new technologies, while bringing our long-held values square into the future.”

CNS Faces Day 1
Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend •
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend • Advertising Sales-Judy Miller

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