Intelligent SME.tech spoke to two Unisys experts to find out more about their new PLT technology and what it means for the future of SMEs and the aviation industry.
For SMEs, Digital Transformation has opened doors for new market across the globe. However, with increased pressures to provide positive customer experiences and enable operational efficiencies, SMEs need to utilise digital tools wherever they can, across a range of industries, especially aviation. Andrea Baur (AB), Product Owner of the Shipment Handling, Customs and ULD Control modules of the Cargo Core solution at Unisys, and Rodney Melton (RM), Senior Director of Industry and Client Management at Unisys, talk to Intelligent SME.tech about Unisys’ cutting-edge Piece Level Tracking (PLT) software, how it will aid SMEs and change the aviation industry as we know it.
What drove the decision to develop this new PLT solution?
RM: In my previous role at one of our airlines, the passenger side of the operation was using RFID on the baggage going into the belly of the aeroplane. They really pressured cargo, which I was under at that time, to catch up. Cargo has always been about 15 to 20 years behind the passenger side on technology and they really pressed us as a business unit to catch-up.
I reached out to Unisys about developing piece-level tracking. No one in the industry was doing it but I knew we had an opportunity and Unisys had the skill set to do it. Unisys agreed; jumped on this, worked on it and got it developed. PLT is phenomenal because I know down the road it is going to tremendously help a lot of airlines out.
Tell us more about how this technology addresses an important gap in the market?
RM: Over the years, having been on the airline side, a lot of the forwarders and shippers in the industry have asked for this. Amazon would not ship on the airline due to the fact that we could not provide them with PLT. Large firms like eBay and Amazon will not ship on an airline unless they know full details of the shipment as it travels through the transportation cycle. This opens the door for Amazon to start sharing their shipments with our clients. They know that you can, step by step, scan each piece, notify the customer when it arrives, etc, and then to have it picked up and delivered to the destination or cargo facility.
AB: Piece-level tracking is new to the airline industry. Airlines are normally combined passenger and freight, and they don’t have the hardware to scan everything. Airlines also ship a lot of commodities. For example, if you ship 10 boxes of lobster that are the same size and weight, it really doesn’t matter which box is late because they are all the same thing. However, it does matter for specific products like Pharma or valuables. Our solution uses a rules engine, which allows the airline to dynamically say ‘which products do you need to track’?
So that’s the innovation here – not the piece-level tracking itself but the fact that you can highly tailor what is tracked and what is not tracked.
How can a small business track their shipment through the airline?
AB: So, we have Cargo Portal Services – a customer application that SMEs can access. They can book shipments, but they can also provide the piece-level details. The shipper or the forwarder knows what they ship and they will have the dimensions and weights for every single piece available, so this application allows them to enter that upfront. We also have APIs or application services available that they can send us electronically. This piece-level data saves the airline the manual entry of the data. So, they get the details of each piece without having their staff do additional work.
As the airline scans the barcode, SMEs can see exactly where their shipment is using this portal for tracking, they don’t even have to call the airline, they can just check the current Piece Level status and Piece Level History themselves. They get immediate feedback.
How far do you think that this kind of technology will play an important role for smaller organisations or e-commerce organisations that are growing and expanding geographically through digitalisation?
RM: CPS gives these small and medium sized customers the opportunity to go on to the portal and book and enter all that information. So, they can use any one of our airline clients to ship that uses our portal. It just gives them a wider range to ship throughout the world, because we have airlines throughout the world, using our Cargo Core system and our Cargo Portal. So, it does open a lot of opportunities for small and medium customers as well.
Let’s talk operational efficiencies and the benefits of this solution. How does the solution improve operational efficiency and how does that ultimately enable smaller businesses to scale?
AB: For the business again it’s the knowledge of knowing what is where and at what time and being able to react to it. So that’s the advantage for the shipper.
It helps the airlines to be more accurate in their load planning, instead of having to plan for tolerances because they might be off a little. They know exactly what they fly and by knowing exactly what’s where they can easier report and more accurately report as well.
Long-term, where do you see the PLT solution fitting into the aviation industry?
RM: It’s very new to the market – we just loaded it into production about three and a half months ago. It’s a big process change for the airlines, which is why Unisys built it. I believe we will see it globally in the next two to three years. I think our competitors will try to develop this, because it’s going to be well received from the shippers. I feel like we’ve done an outstanding job with this product and airlines are going to reap the benefits down the road.
Are there are any other areas of interest for SMEs in Unisys’ portfolio?
RM: They should absolutely look at our portal solution, CPS, as it gives them the opportunity to work with large scale airlines to ship throughout the world. It can help them get their customers’ goods from point A to point B quickly. There’s no cost to sign up, get approved by the airlines and then start shipping. The new PLT is available to use in our Portal with our Core customers. This allows the customers to add DIMs and pieces in our portal that will transition to our Core system.Click below to share this article