Mercator, the IT arm of the Emirates Group, says it is in talks with several airlines about adopting its ULD management solution, Nomad. Part of the new generation SkyChain IT cargo system, Nomad is also available as two stand-alone products – Nomad Airline, which allows airlines to track their ULDs globally, and Nomad Airport,which is aimed at ground handlers.
BPP Gajanan, project manager for Nomad, says airlines in particular are starting to realise there are concrete cost benefits to be achieved from efficient management of their ULD stock. He says that since Emirates has been using the system, it has been able to reduce the number of ULD sets it orders for each new aircraft. “It also means that ULD stocks can be increased without having to increase the staff managing them, because the systemtakes over many tasks,” he says.
Emirates and Sri Lankan are currently the only airlines using Nomad, while on the ground handling side it is deployed by Dnata in Dubai. However, Gajanan says talks continue with otherprospective customers.
Nomad has modules covering movement control, inventory control, loaning and billing, damage and repair, and reporting and administration. It is web-based, and so can be easily rolled out to any station that needs it. The solution not only tracks containers passively, but also monitors which containers should be where, and sends out proactive messages in the case ofdiscrepancies.
“For example, if four ULDs go on the flight to Frankfurt, but only three end up there, then the system sendsout an alert,” Gajanan says.
Other functions on Nomad monitor ground handlers to see if any are damaging containers more than others. That enables the airline to set service levels and reduce its repair costs. Nomad’s loan module, meanwhile, not only tracks which containers have been lent to another airline, but calculates how much business has been lost to the original airline as a result. The system also ensures that optimum stocks are maintained, with the right containersbeing ready in the right locations.
Containers are tracked in the system using their unique identification numbers which can be hand inputted, or scanned from barcodes or RFID. Gajanan says Emirates is actively looking at introducing RFID tags for its ULDs, as a first step towards shipmenttracking using the technology.
In general, he thinks that ULD management is rising up the agenda in airlines. “In the past, it was often just a case of leaving it to the mercy of chance and whether a container would be available or not,” he says.“But now airlines are realising that bymanaging their ULDs effectively, theycan reduce the number of containersthey need to have.” – Peter Conway