Here’s a staggering fact. The repair and loss of Unit Load Devices (ULDs) costs about $300 million every year. That excludes costs associated with damage to aircraft, and flight delays and cancellations due to ULD operations.
Some ULDs are misplaced, some are mishandled and some are simply stolen. And it can happen at any point in the global supply chain. It’s a huge global problem that frustrates all shippers, consignors and consignees at some time or other.
Facing the major challenge of ULD fleet management
Here’s another fact for you: 50% of that $300 million is due to negligence and inconsistent training and standards at a national and international level. In other words, it’s not due to malicious intent. Just machine or human error resulting in misrouting, or carelessness leading to cargo being handled or stored in the wrong way or in the wrong place.
With about 800,000 ULDs in operation, knowing the exact location of a particular ULD and the status of its load at any given moment is getting even more difficult for fleet managers. It’s a situation made tougher due to the often sensitive and vulnerable nature of the cargo and the considerable number of agents that handle a ULD as it travels around the world.
At the end of the day, ULD fleet management is all about getting the right ULD to the right place at the right time and in the right condition. So what’s being done to meet this serious challenge?
Turning ‘Track & Trace’ into an advanced cargo monitoring system
One innovative solution that is becoming increasingly widespread is the Compact Real-Time Tracking and Monitoring System. You may have come across something similar when you’ve ordered from Amazon or sent a parcel via FedEx. It’s called Track & Trace.
But the solutions we’re talking about are so much more than a tracking number. We’re talking extremely sophisticated technology. These systems monitor constantly both the condition of the cargo and the ULD’s route from dispatch to delivery.
At VRR, we’re currently working with two of these cutting-edge devices because we’re convinced they are the way to go. The benefits are simply huge.
Offering you complete control over your vulnerable cargo
Compact Real-Time Tracking & Monitoring Systems can:
- tell you the real-time location and environment of your cargo (whether it’s in the air or on the ground, has been ‘parked’ or is in storage)
- record sensor information and position data everywhere your cargo travels, and report global activity and event data via an online dashboard
- alert you if your cargo receives any ‘shocks’ (think changes to temperature, pressure or humidity, placed upside down, too much vibration, etc.)
- be used and are approved by numerous airlines around the world (e.g. American Airlines, Cargolux, KLM, Air France, DHL, Emirates and UPS)
- operate in all transit modes (i.e. they work inside airplanes, trucks, trains and sea containers)
- automatically switches to airplane mode once it enters an aircraft (which means it does monitor and records/stores data, but is doesn’t send out any data)
- provide easy-to-understand management information via an online dashboard (visualised data and graphics depicting the conditions to which the cargo is subject)
- use batteries that have an extended life (to cope with the frequency of reporting intervals for long-haul shipments)
Giving you in-transit visibility and proactive quality control
The advantages of having sensors accompany your cargo on its trip so it can stream information directly to you are considerable. Being able to monitor your cargo until it arrives at its destination ensures your products arrive in the same condition you shipped it, whether those products are perishable or pharmaceuticals, highly sensitive equipment or even animals.
The type of critical conditions that you can monitor include location, temperature, humidity, pressure, light, shock, vibration and motion.
If something does go amiss, you can take corrective action straight away because you'll know not only when and where the error was made but also who made the error and how they did it.
You can also ensure such errors don’t happen again, saving future consignments from damage.
Bringing you and your customers a host of benefits
The list of other advantages to shippers and fleet managers may not be endless, but it is certainly long. It includes:
- Reduced risk of theft, mishandling and misplacement of ULDs (the person responsible for each ‘shock’ is logged, enabling targeted action)
- Increased differentiation from competitors (you can track and monitor sensitive, time-critical cargo using just one multi-modal device)
- Reduced insurance costs (by lowering the risk of cargo damage or loss)
- Reduced direct costs (you’ll have fewer ULDs lost or stolen and you won’t have to spend time doing manual ‘track & trace’ checks)
- Improved service to customers (you can guarantee less waste and fewer claims and provide peace of mind)
Employing leading-edge technology to advance ULD fleet management
The technology behind these Track & Trace devices is impressive. They are embedded with the package, crate or container (ULD), which enables them to monitor and collect data on the cargo’s location, temperature, pressure changes and shock levels.
The devices can even detect light, which would signal the cargo was opened intentionally or accidentally while in transit. All this valuable information is sent directly to you in near-real time.
What’s more, the ability to automatically switch to airplane mode to meet FAA regulations makes these truly multi-modal devices. There’s no need to use a separate device for air cargo.
Compact Real-Time Tracking & Monitoring Systems are of particular interest to:
- Airlines and lease companies of ULD fleets
- Companies involved in cool chain management (pharmaceuticals, food, flowers, etc)
- Transporters of high-tech products
- Security professionals and regulatory authorities
If you’d like to know more about the Tracking & Monitoring Systems and improve your ULD fleet management, please contact us.