31.01.2018 15:16

Cool is not just a temperature, it’s a mindset.

The last two weeks have seen the launch phase of Finnair’s new COOL cargo hub at Helsinki Airport. 

Months and years of strategy and planning had gone into this, so understandably everyone was a bit anxious that things would run smoothly. Despite it being a challenging time, the 80 million euro investment in one of Europe’s most modern cargo hubs is critical for Finnair Cargo’s continued growth and for customers who rely on our reliability and precision – not to forget the short Northern route we fly from Europe to Asia.

The transition from the old terminal to the new went smoothly and was completed one day ahead of schedule. Our teams have managed to overcome the challenges of the early implementation phase in the new facility. At the heart of the operation has been recognizing the successes and learning quickly when things don’t go right. 

I’ve been at Finnair over 20 years, but I’ve learned many new things during this period. In this update I want to share a couple of fundamental lessons learned during the last couple of weeks and what it was that surprised me.

Preparation is not just about preventing, it’s about being ready when things inevitably don’t go exactly to plan. 

Over 4,500 test cases were completed during 2017 and the new terminal's Perishables Area has been open to seafood traffic since October, but only once the general cargo moved in on January 8 did we get our hands on live data and hit the throttle on the new facility and its systems.

We understood it would be a challenging two weeks and that’s why we put people and processes in place to deal with anything that came up. 

A support team of approximately 15 people from Finnair Cargo, warehouse operator HUB Logistics and system providers Lödige and Accelya has been present for each shift and I’ve walked up and down the terminal at some odd hours of the day. 

In fact, I covered 70 to 80 kilometers on foot during the first week.

What’s clear to me is this: implementing a rigorous governance model with clear escalation instructions and regular scheduled meetings is essential to make sure potential issues are tackled rapidly. 

I like the adage, “it’s not what happens, but how you deal with it that counts.” 

In that sense, I think “COOL” is a perfect name for the new terminal. Cool is not just a temperature, it’s also the mindset that emerges when you have all the right checks, processes and communications in place to handle difficulties. 

Changing terminals feels like upgrading from a bicycle to a Tesla: it moves you but the experience is almost incomparable.  

I’ve been in this industry a long time and looking back 2 years when I was writing about the planning process and roadmap it’s fair to say that despite my excitement I thought of this as a terminal upgrade.

I was right – it is a new cargo terminal – but I was very wrong at the same time.

It’s very much more than that, a bit like upgrading from a bicycle to a Tesla. A bicycle still gets you from point A to point B, but the experience is almost unrecognizable.

One of the most powerful examples I can give is the technology that enables us to see precisely how long it is taking to complete one small process in the terminal. 

Understanding steering capacity allows us to comprehend exactly where extra resources need to be allocated and it flags potential bottlenecks before their effect is felt significantly. 

As my colleague, Fredrik Wildtgrube, said recently, “reliability and visibility are key ingredients in an efficient supply chain. In this industry, a lot of decisions are made on estimates and assumptions, but we want to ensure that within our network we are relying on the most exact and accurate data. Why? Because it allows our customers and partners to make the best possible decisions throughout the transportation chain, especially when time is of the essence.”

I’d echo Fredi’s words. We’re not interested in assumptions and guesswork when so much is at stake. And that’s why we’ve invested in doing things by numbers and analysis.  

Conclusion 

Every single day there has been improved performance at COOL as parameters are adjusted in the technology to harmonize with terminal operations and our people on the terminal floor improve their knowledge about the way the intelligent and automated terminal operations work.   

A lot was riding on the opening of Finnair Cargo’s COOL and while the last couple of weeks were a challenging time cargo has moved largely as planned. 

The way I see it, the next six months are a crucial period for us as we bring our temperature-controlled terminal up to full capacity. Narrow-body aircraft operations from COOL are being initiated now gradually and we expect to have all our cargo operations flying at full speed by mid-February.  

Once this learning period is out of the way, customers will start to feel significant benefit in terms of capacity, efficiency and reliability. 

Cat_en_blog