Ten Theses for the Safety of Air Freight Service01.12.10
Due to recent occurrences, people are demanding “more“ security measures for air freight in the form of better security checks, increased personnel, more money, stricter regulations, and improved scanning methods. However, in doing so, they ignore that more thorough security checks and better scanners do not necessarily improve safety. Safety is a specific problem, which cannot be solved with the budget watering can, or with abstract demands for “better monitoring”. Safety has to be specifically improved at the root of the process. There are plenty of constructive and precise starting points. Here are the top ten:
1. No conceptual revolts!
People are protesting that the “new threats of terrorism“ have to be fought with new methods. This ultimatum overlooks the fact that air freight service providers often have budgets in two-digit millions and, for the most part, pursue proven concepts, which cannot be easily and completely substituted. Optimising a “concept“ or an approach is much too abstract for companies in the air freight supply chain. Instead, the processes need to be optimised! (see #2).
2. Close process gaps!
Even the most superficial bomb inspection demonstrates that there are gaps in procedures. Often, bombs aren’t detected until they arrive at the second airport, although the bomb warning was already reported at the first airport: There is a great deal to improve here, above all the communication among individual partners and authorities throughout the supply chain: for example, at interfaces from simple paper forms to electronic notification, and forwarding information about different priority levels.
3. More Supply Chain Management!
Although these procedural gaps are often apparent for a long time, they are still not closed quickly enough; however, not for a lack of good will or the competence of those responsible. The problem is often due to the prevailing “supplier-thinking” in the supply chains of air freight. That is, process partners are treated like suppliers. This situation automatically limits the reciprocal willingness to cooperate. However, there are indeed companies, who no longer treat their suppliers and logistics service providers as suppliers, rather as value chain partners. Thereby, they achieve a much higher degree of cooperation and process security. All companies in the air freight industry should orientate themselves towards this noble benchmark.
4. Introduce flexible supply chains!
It is not possible to make air freight safer in all areas. However, more flexible and more independent supply chains can be created. The instruments to do so already exist: Let’s use them! For example, safety stocks in reserve, planning according to the number of suppliers as well as according to their distance to shortened supply chains, multiple sourcing, local sourcing, insourcing…
5. No panic measures!
Short-term measures are being vehemently discussed, such as shielding transport containers from radio signals or separating freight and passengers. Not only is the unanimous opinion of the industry against these and similar measures, but also the previously mentioned universal error in reasoning: Safety is a process. Terrorists find other ways to blow up radio signal-protected containers. The containers do not have to be improved, but the process which inspects and transports them. (see also #6).
6. Concentrate on processes instead of structures!
Unfortunately, the often observed incapability to eliminate obvious gaps in safety is also due to the fact that too many people working in the security network think structurally. They demand new laws, regulating authorities, more personnel, and increased budgets. They disregard that existing structures do not sporadically fail due to insufficient regulations or budgets, but because the security processes are not professionally and efficiently defined, trained, monitored, updated and modified. Safety is a question of process long before it is a question of structure. Supply Chain Managers require better qualifications in process management and HR development in order to be able to better guide, train and evaluate their employees in dealing with processes.
A ministerial invitation to all businesses in the air freight supply chain to discuss weak spots and their eradication would considerably contribute to improving air freight safety. If the minister does not invite everyone, then this invitation should be organised by one of the established organisations.
8. Safety is not a cost factor!
Despite common rumours, firms do not avoid improving air safety because of cost reasons. The statistics prove the opposite: Three-quarters of the companies in the air freight industry deem it necessary to improve the quality of security checks. More than two-thirds of the companies demand that all air freight undergo screening, as a study from the accounting and consulting firm, PwC, demonstrates.
9. Don’t wait, start!
The same study purports that 80 percent of the surveyed companies would like to ”wait it out“ until certain standards are introduced by the authorities. That is risky and could not only endanger passengers and freight recipients, but also the waiting companies themselves: Only those who take the initiative and proactively close safety gaps and improve supply chain security can secure coveted return on innovation investment, competitive advantage and a stronger market position.
10. Take care of the competition, not the costs!
The industry expects cost increases for improved safety measures up to the tune of three-digit million euros. Although two-thirds of all surveyed companies expect to be able to transfer a maximum of half their costs to their customers, they would like to bear the costs themselves – as long as the government authorities ensure fair cost allocation. If market forces cause small and mid-sized companies to disappear from the market because of stricter security measures, then these forces operate against and not for more safety in the air.
The upshot: safety is something for the supply chain
More safety does not primarily mean more security checks and better scanners. First and foremost, more safety means synchronised processes, uniform standards, better coordination at interfaces, and increased collaboration among all companies along the supply chain. In short: the safety of air freight is the responsibility of professional supply chain management.
© 2010 SMI. Zum Abdruck freigegeben, alle Rechte vorbehalten.