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   Vol. 16 No. 50
Wednesday May 31, 2017

CNS 2017 Through The Looking Glass
 CNS 2017 Through The looking Glass

Lionel van der WaltIATA Cargo Network Services (CNS) President Lionel Van Der Walt had it all on the table earlier this month. He hosted the U.S. cargo universe and industry conferees from around the world in Orlando, Florida at the first CNS Partnership Conference of his own making since being named CNS President.
      Lionel earnestly wants to get things right for this venerable organization. He maintains his sharp sense and sensibility, delivering value for money. Now that he’s post-conference, he’s ready to address the event in detail.
      But more on that later.
      While FlyingTypers attended the CNS event, your editor was up and about at 0600 for a brisk walk around the golf course and beautifully manicured grounds, carefully ducking the early morning sprinklers that keep the place perennially green.
      By 0630 I was in the Starbucks just off the lobby to jumpstart the heart and read the morning papers.
      It wasn’t too early for Lionel, who ducked into the coffee shop for a chat before checking the CNS 0700 breakfast buffet set up for the trade show.
      I was immediately impressed that this new CNS President was up on his toes and taking nothing for granted.
      Lionel was the first voice that the delegates heard. He set the table for the new day after recapping the event “so far.”


So Far So Good

      In our coffee shop encounter, Lionel gave us insight into his first Partnership Conference.
      “Overall,” Lionel explains, “it appears that the vast majority of the record 603 attendees were very satisfied with the venue, the annual golf tournament, the meetings, the exhibition space, evening functions, and the many networking opportunities.
      “However,” he assures, “as always there is room for improvement.”


The Details Man

      “It’s the first year that we managed such a large exhibition space and more needs to be done to add value for the exhibitors, e.g. facilitating meetings with attendees.
      “It’s great to serve lunch in the exhibition area; however, there was very limited table space to enjoy the meals. It’s a small detail that makes a big difference. Standing around trying to network and eat with a plate of food and a drink in your hands just doesn’t work.
      “Another related point was the swift and efficient manner in which the hotel team cleared the food and refreshment stations after each break.
      “While this was very efficient, it isn’t very customer focused.
      “If you were running late there was a very real risk that you might miss a meal or a much needed refreshment during the breaks.
      “This has been noted and our team will be paying close attention to these details at our next Partnership in Palm Springs 2018.”
      With that comment Lionel moved out of the coffee shop to oversee another day of CNS Partnership.


Not Everyone Is An Early Bird

      Fast-forward seven days, and it is now post-CNS Partnership Conference. Lionel Van Der Walt has thought about the entire offering end to end. His observations are both candid and revealing.
      “One feature at CNS we keep getting wrong is our ambitious morning plenary sessions organized for both the first and the second day of the conference.
      “We thought it would be possible to lure attendees to these sessions by strengthening the content being presented. However, the message is crystal clear and we will not be making the same mistake again.”


First The Networking

      “The CNS Partnership Conference is first and foremost an opportunity to do business, develop partnerships, and network.
      “That is ultimately the reason why attendees are there—not to attend nice plenary sessions when they could be doing business.
      “However, in saying that, we also recognize that there is a group of attendees that value these sessions, but they typically only make up 20-25 percent of attendees.”


Good & Plenary Sessions For 2018

      “With the aforementioned in mind, and after much debate, we have agreed with the Advisory Board that in 2018, there will only be one main plenary session, from the start of the morning until the first coffee break on day one.
      “This two-hour slot will be the main plenary session of the conference and all attendees will be urged to be there.
      “Thereafter, CNS will host and support a number of smaller interactive sessions, panels, workshops, etc. the remainder of day one and on day two.”


Industry Input Welcome

      “We are open to suggestions as we work to get this right and I would love to hear industry thoughts on our new format.”


About Ryan Petersen

      “And now,” Lionel said, lowering his gaze with a faint smile, “for the “elephant in the room.”
      “We have received a lot of contrasting feedback after last week’s keynote speaker, Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen.
      “Some attendees found his session to be thought provoking, while others passionately expressed their displeasure at the session.
      “The one thing it did achieve without a doubt is to stimulate discussion.
      “I would dare to speculate that for good or bad, this was the most discussed topic at this year’s conference.”


Lionel On The Future

      “I don’t think there is anybody that can argue that the air cargo industry is in need of some much needed transformation.
      “We just have too much paper still present in the value chain.
      “However, this is a broader industry issue that reflects badly on all stakeholders, be it government, airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, etc.
      “We have not been very good as an industry when it comes to adopting seamless, transparent, electronic data driven processes and procedures.
      “With over 50 percent eAWB transactions now in the U.S., we are making progress, however, you just have to ask those working on the frontline as to how much paper they are still using and it becomes glaringly evident that we still have a significant way to go before getting rid of all the old outdated, paper-based processes and procedures.
      “It is not easy, and many times government regulation drives the need for paper. At the best of times [government] is very slow to adapt to the new modern world we live in.”


Always Room For Improvement

      “Also, it needs to be noted that most of the large forwarders, airlines, ground handlers, etc. have made significant investments to modernize their systems and procedures.
      “There is always room for improvement though in the fast paced and ever changing technological world we live in.
      “The biggest concern lies with the small to medium stakeholders who don’t always have the resources to make such changes and at such regular intervals.
      “This is where a significant proportion of our investment and attention should be focused.”


Flexport Taking Over The World

      The question is whether new companies, including Flexport, will take over the world from the so-called industry dinosaurs.
      “I don’t think so,” Lionel said, “well not quite yet, at least.”
      “I think these established stakeholders have much going for them in terms of experience, proven results, and yes, the all important aspect of customer service.
      “After all, this is a people-driven business that today depends on those all-important, one-to-one relationships in order to get things done.”


Time To Listen Is At Hand

      However, we all need to pay close attention and make sure that we are learning what we can from progressive startups such as Flexport.
      “Without a doubt, there are lessons to be learned.”


Looking For The Next Gen

      “This brings me to address one of my biggest concerns: attracting younger generations to our industry.
      “The lack of participation from this group was clearly evident at our conference.
      “We need them if we are to secure a sustainable future for the industry going forward.
      “Programs like Expeditors’ ‘Opportunity Knocks’ initiative is a bright spot in an effort to reach out to new generations.
      “Air cargo needs to mount a concerted effort here.
      “What concerns me equally though is the number of experienced people leaving the industry.
      “These are the very people we need to transfer skills and knowledge to the younger generations.
      “It’s a balancing act, which, if not managed correctly, could have disastrous results for the industry down the line.
      “It’s not just all about Millennials and Next Gens, but just as importantly our future as an industry must include protecting the vast amount of knowledge and skills that that will be exiting the industry in the next decade or so.”


About Legacy

      “The people that follow us in air cargo are going to demand new ways of doing things based on their view of the world, but this is no different to what we did with the generations that preceded us, who insisted that emails were no substitute for handwritten letters; who insisted that it will never be safe to transact over the internet, and the list goes on.
      “We are all going to have to face this humbling truth one day.”


Giving Thanks

      “Thanks to each and every one who joined us in Orlando at CNS 2017.
      “It was a privilege having the opportunity to spend time with you and I look forward to working even harder to deserve your trust and support and, of course, our continuing the great debate,” Lionel said.
      The next CNS Partnership Conference is at La Quinta Resort, Palm Springs, May 6-8, 2018.

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