What is the Internet of Logistics? Interview with Kari Saarikoski

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We sat down with Kari Saarikoski, Digital Lead for Finnair Cargo, to talk to him about the revolutionary digital innovations Finnair is known for and got him to explain the 'Internet of Logistics'. As told by Peter Seenan.

Recently you were representing Finnair at the World Cargo Symposium, can you say something about that?

The 10th World Cargo Symposium was held in Dallas, Texas and I travelled there from Finland with Janne Tarvainen, MD of Finnair Cargo and Fredrik Wildtgrube, head of global sales. It’s one of the world’s most important annual events for the airfreight industry.

I was invited to make a presentation on Finnair Cargo’s experience of data sharing as an engine for innovation in the airfreight supply chain. The industry really wants to move ahead with new digital initiatives and Finnair Cargo is widely seen as a leading player thanks to our new state-of-the-art COOL Terminal and investment in technology like Cargo Eye.

Air cargo is undergoing a huge shakeup because of digitalization. By connecting different systems and ensuring the flow of data we can radically improve transparency and efficiency in the movement of goods and meet the heightened customer demand for rapid lead times. Thanks to what data sharing makes possible we have developed a cutting-edge project with Ericsson and Panalpina, which we presented in Dallas.

I’ve heard this project described as the ‘Internet of Logistics’, what does that mean?

The whole idea is that we can and should radically improve shipment information. It means that multiple parties in the supply chain will be able to provide and access shipment data in real time. The benefits include better visibility about shipments for all stakeholders, greater efficiency and less chance of human error. In other words, it’s going beyond one-to-one data sharing that we have now and is geared towards multi-party access.

The way the industry works currently is that visibility on a shipment is kind of lost when it leaves the warehouse because current messaging standards do not sufficiently support data sharing between the parties. We need a new digital and common language between our platforms. On top of that, so much is still being handled on bits of paper. We want to connect the dots and cut out the emailing, the messaging, the phone calls.

How can you enhance the visibility on cargo when it leaves the terminal?

Finnair Cargo has invested heavily in technology like Cargo Eye and SkyChain to ensure that we’re able to monitor shipments across their journey, however this is not the same everywhere in the industry; we’re talking about a highly fragmented industry across the whole world. The key idea of our Internet of logistics project is to push for new and better standards of data sharing in the industry.

Cargo Eye collects live data from across all of Finnair Cargo’s information and tracking systems – the global position of aircraft, flight information, the geographic location of all cargo ground traffic and key data from SkyChain – and renders it onto a large screen, a map of the world.

From the CCC (Cargo Control Center) in the COOL terminal, we see where every truck and plane is that’s carrying seafood or pharmaceuticals, we get updated on its arrival and connecting transport, we can monitor its contents and temperature, and be prepared to shift ground resources to where they are needed most in anticipation of delivery.

How is Finnair Cargo able to see the temperature of cargo at different stages of the journey?

We don’t yet have full visibility of the temperature across the entire journey for every bit of cargo, but our aim is resolutely an Internet of Things vision, whereby all cargo in our network is providing real-time data to our central control systems. And that includes the temperature of shipments.

There are so many profound advantages to full visibility and transparency, not least because it prevents cargo from simply sitting around, typically at critical intersection points like airports and customs. Imagine, a flight between Helsinki and Asia might only take ten hours, but it may take days for cargo to clear customs. A well-integrated data system between carriers and customs can allow the clearing process to begin earlier, while the cargo is still in the air.

In the COOL terminal there are sensors that record and control the temperature and an alarm rings if anything goes off track. The pharma-dedicated part of COOL is monitored from the Cargo Control Center located at the new COOL terminal. The average temperature in the pharmaceutical area is 20° Celsius and there are special sealed-off rooms for storage between 2° and 8° Celsius and for goods that need to be frozen.

But the very exciting bit is we’re far on in the process of testing and developing technologies that allow us to view the temperature of goods in real-time wherever they are in the world. By working with partners to install Internet-connected devices to shipments (a container of fish for example) and vehicles, we can provide 100% assurance to a restaurant in Japan that the salmon flown by Finnair Cargo has remained at the right temperature throughout its entire journey from Norway to Tokyo. The same goes for pharmaceuticals and other temperature-sensitive and high-value cargo.

Very exciting, so what other digital innovations have you got up your sleeve?

Innovation is happening in many different forms. One of the most exciting things on the horizon is providing more data and visibility to our customers, another is bringing our new COOL Terminal up to its full ground-breaking potential.

On top of that, we’ve had numerous successful tests with sensors that record tens of thousands of data points, so someone receiving a shipment could even go through that shipment’s journey point by point, to see what happened long before it arrived in their hands.

I’m excited about the additional intelligence and optimisation that is becoming part of cargo life on the terminal floor. Terminal operators now have access to tablets in forklifts and on the terminal floor that optimise their tasks and guide efficiency. We’re also looking at how we can make better use of advanced robotics to automate routine tasks to ensure our staff can concentrate on more value-adding tasks.

Published March 28, 2018

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