ACTS 2022: Ground handlers say ULD solutions would benefit airfreight industry
This story was originally published July 9, 2022 in Air Cargo Next
Solutions for ground handlers that aid in the adoption of unit load device (ULD)-related technologies are key, Alliance Ground international (AGI) Chief Innovation Officer Edip Pektas said during a panel discussion on Tuesday at the Air Cargo Tech Summit 2022.
With thousands of ULDs in orbit, tracking is a challenge as stakeholders utilize varying technologies or offer complex solutions.
“From a handling company standpoint, you can’t throw us a complicated system,” Pektas said. “But there is no solution that was offered to us, neither from the airlines nor from the producers in tracking. That has been my experience.”
AGI currently has camera systems that can recognize texts on the ULDs, and the company is looking into other text-reading technologies, he noted.
“We’re actively looking for technologies in any way, shape or form that can help us get better in servicing our customers,” Pektas said. “We’re looking at [technologies] right now to read barcodes right from the entrance into our warehouse.”
Implementing new tracking solutions becomes even more complicated in light of the vast number of ULDs and pallets in service, Laura Drezek, director of IT business services, ground operations and security at Atlas Air Worldwide, said during the panel.
“The technology is going to evolve, [but] how do we get to every single pallet? That’s always going to be a challenge,” Drezek said. She further noted that while most pallets in the ecosystem may have tags, there are always others without tags.
“So maybe the solution is that we’ll get to [all ULDs being tagged] when we do replacements, so that’ll eventually clear itself out, but it’s a very slow process,” she said.
Drezek further noted that Atlas Worldwide has started the tagging process on most, if not all, of its ULDs.
“We’re going to open up more stations through the tagging process so that we can keep track [of everything], because again, our focus is visibility for our customers,” she said. “We start foundationally, making sure that we’re scanning where we’re supposed to be scanning.”
Looking forward, panelists are interested in the benefits to be gleaned from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning solutions.
“Trackers will still evolve, but I think Bluetooth technology will stay,” said Harold Elfring, technology and IT systems director at ULD manufacturer ACL Airshop.