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Check-in for freight.

Checking in yourself to save precious time: what has long since become routine for passengers is now also available for airfreight, with Lufthansa Cargo. Here is how test customers DB Schenker and Kuehne + Nagel are using the new self-service terminals at the Lufthansa Cargo Center (LCC).

Cargo City South, Building 529. The monitor facing Winfried Neu has some good news. Via Lufthansa Cargo’s ePortal, he is told that the shipment from Hong Kong is ready to be picked up. The import broker from DB Schenker points at the screen: green ticks indicate that the freight has been checked in at the Lufthansa Cargo Center (LCC), and customs clearance has been given.

“Our driver on site now does not have to wait for anything anymore,” says Neu. With just a few mouse clicks, he prepares the pick-up order for the driver, Pawel Nowicki. While he is at it, Neu quickly combines several consignments that are ready for pick-up into a “Quick pick-up group.” He selects the “Quick pick-up” service, along with the relevant airfreight consignment notes.

He then enters the details for the driver and the vehicle into the input mask. Instead of a whole wad of paper, the DB Schenker drivers are now only given a code for their con-signment list to send them on their way. As is the case with Pawel Nowicki.

The DB Schenker branch at Cargo City South is participating in the test phase for a new digital freight acceptance and delivery system at Lufthansa Cargo. This includes the use of the applications in the airline’s ePortal, and especially the self-service terminals where the drivers are assigned straight to the ramp where they receive their shipments.

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No more waiting at the ramp – a milestone for forwarders.

The trip from Cargo City South to the LCC usually takes Pawel Nowicki and his truck just a few minutes. A DB Schenker truck constantly shuttles between the two warehouses located north and south of Frankfurt Airport. “In terms of imports, Lufthansa Cargo is our biggest carrier. We receive 80 to 90 consignments a day from them,” says Nouri Boulahrouz, the manager of the import hub at the DB Schenker office. He is impressed with the system that he and his team have been testing since last year: “For us forwarders, it represents a milestone. Now we can be certain that there won’t be any obstacles to the acceptance of a shipment when we send the driver to go pick it up,” says the 43-year-old. He points towards the monitor that is still displaying the details of the shipment. “The drivers no longer have to wait around for anything, and when they get there they are just told where exactly within the LCC they can pick up the goods.” He adds: “It is clearly a plus for us: it means we can be on our way again sooner, and the more trips our trucks can manage, the more efficient we operate.”

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The driver Pawel Nowicki has meanwhile arrived at the LCC. He uses a barcode to check in at one of the self-service terminals in the import section. He selects the option “Pick-up” and confirms the data displayed in response. Within a very short time, the terminal indicates the ramp he should drive to.

Once he takes on the consignment, Pawel Nowicki signs on the scanner presented by the warehouse employee. At the DB Schenker branch south of Frankfurt Airport, Winfried Neu is kept informed in real time: he can see the timestamps for the truck’s arrival and departure in the ePortal. Nouri Boulahrouz: “This saves us having to spend lengthy periods on site. The drivers do no longer have to report to offices in order get information about shipments.”

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At 16:20 hours, a Boeing 777F is scheduled to take off from Frankfurt en route to Atlanta. At Kuehne + Nagel in Cargo City South, three airfreight pallets are ready for shipping. The forwarding company is testing the digital freight acceptance system for the export segment. “The e-freight quota between Lufthansa Cargo and Kuehne + Nagel is high. We are able to make a profit on all our shipments,” says project manager Markus Staab. A major benefit from the point of view of Kuehne + Nagel is the socalled PreCheck, where consignment data is checked for completeness in advance. The objective: having arrived at the LCC, all the driver needs to be told is the correct unloading station. This is intended to eliminate delays due to waiting times. The dispatcher at Kuehne + Nagel compiles the shipments via the ePortal and sends the digital AWB to Lufthansa Cargo. A fully automated AutoContentCheck reviews the information.

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If the data is incomplete, the dispatcher is informed immediately.

Once the data has been transmitted, a trained employee of Lufthansa Cargo also checks the available information. If missing data about a consignment still needs to be submitted, this employee alerts the dispatcher at Kuehne + Nagel. Staab: “Thanks to the upstream PreCheck, errors in the data set are spotted in advance, allowing the data to be corrected without causing delays in deliveries.”

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In the eService section of the Lufthansa Cargo website, the dispatcher already enters the driver and vehicle details. He is then issued a code which he forwards to the smartphone of driver Heiko Anthes-Hoffmann by SMS or email. The 49-year-old actually works as a dispatcher for Kuehne + Nagel. Today he wants to get a taste of the PreCheck and “Quick drop-off” at the self-service terminal from the drivers’ point of view. “Time is of the essence for us. If we have to wait a long time before we can proceed to the ramp, that creates a problem for us.” He is now on his way to the LCC with the consignments destined for the United States. “It can happen that a driver’s permitted daily driving time runs out. When that happens, I am not allowed to continue on my trip. These are the types of situations we need to avoid at all costs.”

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The truck has reached its destination north of the airport. Next to the ramps are the self-service terminals for the Quick drop-off. It only takes Anthes-Hoffmann a few moments to complete the check-in. Critical data is checked again at the terminal, and then the machine spits out a slip of paper showing which ramp to go to. Reporting at the counter is thus a thing of the past. “This is of great benefit to us,” says Heiko Anthes-Hoffmann.

At the acceptance, the parcels are registered using a scanner. Via SmartGate, their weights and volumes are now compared with the consignment data transmitted earlier. On the other side of the airport, the dispatcher sits at a computer. He is tracking the shipment online, he can see what time the goods went into intermediate storage, and what time it departed. On board the B777F, the three pallets take off right on time. The dispatcher also keeps an eye on the permitted driving time for the driver Anthes-Hoffmann: at the Kuehne + Nagel warehouse at the Cargo City South, there is still a consignment ready for transportation to the LCC. A big advantage: as the waiting times are shorter now, Anthes-Hoffmann has enough time left to complete another trip.

Photos: Alex Kraus