Spring 2023

Creative solutions to workforce and other challenges

Robert Fordree

Emerging technologies will play an essential role in addressing labour shortages currently affecting air cargo handlers, with investments in technology increasing productivity and also helping attract bright new talent, highlights Robert Fordree, executive vice president for cargo at Menzies Aviation

What are your expectations about how the market or your main areas of business will develop in 2023?
It’s our belief that we will remain in a cyclical downturn for the remainder of 2023 and into 2024 as a result of multiple economic and geopolitical reasons. History has shown that there is always a bounce back and our best estimate for this is Q2/3 2024. From a Menzies point of view, our business is expected to continue to grow as we have several business-development projects underway and we’re looking forward to announcing some new markets in the near future.

What challenges and opportunities do you anticipate, and how do you plan to respond to these?
Workforce challenges will continue for the foreseeable future; it is different from region to region, but the general view is that people are looking beyond aviation for new jobs at this time. We are, therefore, adjusting our people approach and recruitment processes accordingly.

What role will new and emerging technologies play?
Emerging technologies will play an essential role in addressing the labour challenges. We must continue to heavily invest in technology, not only to ensure we are increasingly productive but to help attract bright new talent to our industry. We need to make aviation attractive again by appealing to the current generation by adopting new technologies, automation and creative ways of working to become a more sustainable and appealing industry. For example, our robotic technology trials in cargo are going from strength to strength and are already producing fantastic results for our London cargo business. We are also investing heavily in warehouse management systems of the future, which we will be announcing in due course.

How can you and other stakeholders in the air freight supply chain work more effectively in 2023 (and beyond) to streamline cargo operational processes and improve cooperation across the air logistics chain?

By embracing new technologies and investing in innovation and growth, the industry continues to consolidate and our goal will always be to provide a service to our customers that they can rely on throughout our global network – in the same manner as well-known coffee shops and burger restaurants.

What have you been doing in 2022 to improve air freight efficiency, processes, operations and communications, and what will you do in 2023?
Despite the current downturn in cargo volumes, overall, we are feeling confident about our outlook for 2023. In 2022, we took some very bold decisions and investment commitments in innovation, thanks to the support of our forward-thinking Board. These are now being trialled across our network before they can be fully implemented, but early results are promising. We’re also working on a significant technology project that will transform our service offering throughout our global network – so it’s a case of ‘watch this space’ for Menzies cargo as we will be making some exciting announcements in the months ahead.