At times, innovation is born out of curiosity, as inquisitive minds look for ways to simplify dated processes. Often, however, it arises from necessity, driven by the need to compete on a global scale.
Technology solutions provider Speedcargo was formed in response to necessity and has made global headlines for its work to provide scalable operations to the airfreight industry.
In May, Speedcargo announced it had partnered with Etihad Cargo, the logistics arm of Etihad Airways, to integrate its AI tools to optimize available cargo space and improve cargo planning.
In an interview with FreightWaves, CEO Krishna Kumar explained that Speedcargo’s technology was born from a logistical problem discovered by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).
In 2014, the CAAS issued an industrywide call to address three areas of growing challenges: automating apron operations, optimizing airfreight capacity and providing an ecosystem for data-driven airport processes. A large part of this challenge was finding a way to stack, store and break down pallets, a job the next generation of workers was not looking forward to being a part of.
“There was a team from [the Technical University of Munich] that was headed by our founder and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Suraj Nair. That team was able to demonstrate before robots were common that you can actually automate the buildup and breakdown of cargo,” said Kumar.
He explained that once the team figured out how to automate the building and breakdown processes, it could leverage warehouse data to standardize the growing operation and overall airfreight ecosystem.
“When you have this trifecta of activities including high mix, high volume and high payload and you are working in a very unstructured environment, it becomes very difficult to optimize unless you can orchestrate the entire environment. Most airports have between two and five ground handlers and they are oligopolistic. Our team was able to demonstrate technically how these competing operations could be done,” he said.
After two years of surveying the floor of cargo warehouses, Speedcargo found that to provide a holistic solution, it would need to digitize not just the physical handling of the cargo but the entire environment in which its automation would be deployed.
This led to the development of three products: Amplifi, Cargo Eye and Assemble, all being used by Etihad Cargo today.
Amplifi tracks and produces available cargo capacity based on booked cargo, the cargo offering and type of aircraft being deployed.
Cargo Eye provides automatic cargo dimensioning in two seconds, and when used with robotics tools Cargo Mind and Cargo Arm, it can place products efficiently onto a pallet.
Lastly, Assemble deploys the plan created by Amplifi and the robotics solutions.
While the company has recently struck a deal with Etihad, according to Kumar, the airfreight industry and Speedcargo have a lot more room to grow. He believes most airfreight providers still have 25% to 30% available space, which could contribute up to $750 million to the bottom line of the industry annually.
“Airline space dedicated to cargo is very, very small compared to the space designed for passengers so how will they handle more cargo in limited space is the big question … . The reason why the airline adopted this technology is very simple: They are able to carry more cargo with the same available space,” he explained.