The effect of automation, artificial intelligence and digitalisation were the key topics at the Cargo Connect conference at Dubai Airshow 2019. Speakers including Dennis Lister, vice president, Cargo Commercial Development, Emirates SkyCargo, discussed the impact of the three key topics on the future of cargo and freight.
An autonomous delivery device known as Roxo, exhibited by headline sponsors FedEx Express, delighted delegates, gliding up on to the stage to bring notes to conference MC Kim Winter of Logistics Executive, and obeying voice commands from Jack Muhs, regional president, FedEx Express MIESA.
Muhs said Roxo, created in collaboration with DEKA Research and Development Corp, will be an important part of the FedEx ecosystem and serves as a demonstration of FedEx’s goal to connect people and possibilities around the world.
He said: “Roxo is an autonomous delivery device designed to help retailers make same day and last mile deliveries to our customers while potentially reducing the number of vehicles on the road and easing traffic congestion. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to bring to Dubai?”
Speaking in a keynote address at the conference, Muhs also announced a partnership with Dubai Airports, and the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) to define ways in which the autonomous bot can meet delivery needs in the United Arab Emirates.
Delegates also heard from Alexander Ostrovoy, managing partner, Aura, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer, which is currently working on expansion projects globally. Ostrovoy said regulation of the autonomous aircraft sector was relatively mild, and was still under development, but governments globally were ‘loyal’ to the field.
Other announcements included a partnership between Etihad and online cargo booking platform Cargo One, made by Abdulla Mohammed Shadid, managing director, Cargo and Logistics, Etihad.
In the freight forwarding sector, Bradley Francis, director, Airfreight UAE and Oman, Kuehne + Nagel, said his company had identified a decrease in tonnage being flown, but there had not been the same reduction in shipments counts. “We are seeing more shipments that are smaller moving around,” he said.
Francis raised the need for information to be automated, and shared automatically through the supply chain, from airline to truck to ship, to remove the need for staff to continually replicate and send on data at different stages.
“We don’t need an expert to watch a shipment that’s going perfectly, ideally what we want our experts to be doing is looking at what needs to be done to improve our delivery time or notify customers of delays,” he said
The need to share data and collaborate across the industry was also highlighted by Alan White, vice president, ground operations, National Air Cargo, who said: “If we want a seamless end to end logistics supply chain, it is only going to work in the future if we are allowed to collaborate more. Everyone is accumulating data of some sort, it is a case of how best to utilise that data with all the relevant parties that is critical for the future.”
Rachel Sturgess, portfolio director for Cargo Connect, said: “The Cargo Connect conference provided real opportunities for industry networking, with thought leaders offering fascinating insights into how technologies including automation and artificial intelligence will shape it in the future.”