And there is more to come. One country on the focus list is Germany. Not only is it too big to forget as Europe’s biggest cargo market, but the output is very much topped off by the sort of things that Finnair is looking to move such as pharmaceuticals. The other one and it is a long term play is Russia with whom Finland shares a border. Finnair does get some cargo from Russia at the moment although Tarvainen acknowledged it was “not big” but it is watching the market and how it develops. That then is the market and its goals what it is also doing is bringing about changes not just within Finnair, or how it does business, but in the infrastructure it has or more accurately, will need and the way it manages itself. “We carry quite a bit of pharmaceutical products and therefore we have invested in the quality – e.g. new terminal facility – and Finnair was the first airline in the world to be awarded the IATA CEIV Pharma certificate,” said Tarvainen.
New COOL hub
How Finnair will achieve these goals, especially next year, is led by COOL. It is also cool in the teenager way, but COOL or to give it its full name – the COOL Nordic Cargo Hub – a completely new building hosting a state of the art cargo and the most modern air cargo terminal in Europe, is key to all this. Opening May 2017 this will be 31,000 sqm with some 3,000 sqm each for pharmaceutical products and perishables – areas where Finnair hopes to make it mark.
“Another reason why it’s cool is that it is highly automated,” added Tarvainen. “We have integrated acceptance, delivery and automated racking system and a completely automated ULD handling.” Th e other big initiative that Finnair is undertaking as part of its upgrade is its SkyChain Cargo Management System which is to be expanded and put in use in October 2016. “It’s almost an off the shelf product requiring, however, a little bit of tailoring to fulfil special requirements set by the local authorities, for instance. It’s a production system with a full integration to the terminal automation supporting all the activities we do,” said Tarvainen.
This integration of the terminal automation system (made by Lödige) to SkyChain CMS is what makes the Finnair setup unique, Tarvainen said later, adding it will give both the company and its customers a lot more transparency. Again there is a quirk here, a double quirk actually. COOL is actually going to be cool because it is environmentally sustainable as the plan is for it is to be both heated and cooled by the heat of the sun. Solar panels will provide both energy for cooling the facility and heating it when necessary.
Supporting this is a much more concerted shift to digitisation as well. An engineer by training Tarvainen was surprised by how little of this there was when he first joined cargo. He compares it unfavourably to the passenger side which has been faster and more proactive in adopting such technologies. “There is” he argued “significant amounts of room for improvement in various ways.” The example he gave included both digitisation and cloud based services. In all these ambitious plans and proposals which are based on facts and hard work there is one overriding thing: Finnair is very much aware the market it is planning to enter and even with gusto, is not the easiest one the industry has known.