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Taking the leap with global shipping software

Posted on 25th March 2015 by YmeriHart

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TNT Airways has just announced that it is rolling out ‘paperless cockpits’ across its worldwide fleet of 50 aircraft. From January, all TNT Airways pilots will rely solely on iPads to access information such as operating manuals, maps and navigation charts.

They are not the first to do it. Other airlines including FedEx and Lufthansa are also introducing these new Electronic Flight Bags – which not only remove 50kg of paper from the cockpit, they also simplify the updating of flight documents, allowing them to be managed centrally. Indeed I myself use paperless cockpit in my Mooney, as a commercially licensed pilot.

Obviously this has all been approved by the appropriate authorities. But it does imply that everyone in the system has confidence in the reliability of both the IT systems and the iPad itself.

Shipping lines are facing a similar transformation as the requirement that every ship carries paper nautical charts has been dropped. Captains can now rely solely on computer-based navigation information systems such as ECDIS to ensure they find the appropriate shipping channels and the safe entrance into the port.

Some commentators suggest that placing all our faith in electronic systems and satellite technology is dangerous. Apart from the calamities we have all heard about where motorists doggedly follow their satnav instructions and drive into a river, there is also the issue of deliberate interference which could block or distort the information flows.

I do understand these concerns as I used to encounter a similar scepticism about technology when we first talked to people about global shipping software. For logistics managers who measured their performance by the goods being loaded and unloaded in the warehouse and the pile of papers on their desk at the end of the day, the idea of trusting an unseen and little understood IT shipping system was daunting.

To them, it did not offer the much-heralded ‘end-to-end supply chain visibility’. It actually reduced it. And the thought of making deliveries from the manufacturer or another remote location direct to the end customer, with the product never even entering the warehouse, was a complete nightmare.

But they were tempted by the idea that a good, reliable transportation management software solution would increase both operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. And once the financial director got involved and saw how it would cut costs, the ‘risk’ became worth taking.

In the end, it all comes down to confidence. Once people understand that it works – whether it is aircraft cockpits and ship bridges going paperless or entire inventories being shipped around the world – then we can all benefit from the advances that technology can bring.


Written by Peter Nicholls

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