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Marco Sperling is one of the Directors Sales and Handling at Lufthansa Cargo. With decades of experience in multiple operational and management roles, Sperling is passionate about aviation and its international and multicultural environment. In an exclusive interview with Material Handling System 2022, Marco Sperling shared his valuable insights on freight management.
What are the problems that your customers have come to you with and what are some of the effective resolutions you have offered as a thought leader?
One of the key significant challenges in the business now is volatility. Over the pandemic, due to the travel restrictions, overflight limitations, lockdowns, staff shortages and other issues has forced us to find creative solutions. Our network colleagues have done a great job trying to create stable operations and stable flight programs for our customers. Both our flight and ground crews have gone more than the extra mile for us.
The second main challenge is sustainability. As all the disruptions hopefully slowly normalise, sustainability becomes a part of the daily agenda again. We have a variety of initiatives for many years now and we aim to be the industry leader for a sustainable future and explain these initiatives we do, discuss it with our customers. The options they have to book sustainable cargo is a part of daily communication with customers.
The economic outlook is another significant challenge, moving forward. Everyone wants to see the future, two-three years ahead, to find the correct dimension for production systems and for their products, but only the future can dictate where the development will go.
What are the efforts that Lufthansa Cargo made to cut short carbon footprints while delivering goods?
At Lufthansa Cargo, we are committed to reduce our net CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030, based on the 2019 emissions and until 2050, we will be CO2 neutral. This is mainly due to modern aircraft with newer jet engines. With every new aircraft or new jet engine generation, the fuel consumption will be lowered by 30 percent. This is the biggest investment that we made as Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo.
We have a state-of-the-art special film that we apply to the aircraft skin called ‘AeroSHARK’. It's a foil or film that simulates the skin of a shark and it reduces fuel consumption, which adds up to 12,500 tons of CO2 per year. When looking at the traditional ways of saving fuel, saving will have a natural limitation. Eventually, the industry needs to stop depending on kerosene. We also enable our customers to buy sustainable aviation fuel. The customers can book cargo and can book an add-on where Lufthansa applies sustainable fuel to the amount of cargo they have booked.
Collaborating with DB Schenker, we have a weekly flight from Frankfurt to Shanghai, which is operated 100 percent with sustainable fuel and it’s a huge saver, but it has limitations as it comes from food residuals. We are looking into power-to-liquid options and we are cooperating with the world’s first power-to-liquid plant, opened in October of 2021. It is a synthetic CO2-neutral kerosene. It is currently in a laboratory environment and over the next few years, it’s going to scale largely.
Since April this year, we have partnered with Lufthansa Innovation Hub and other logistics companies to create a green mobility trainee program. It’s a supply-chain wide trainee program focusing on sustainability and green mobility. We are developing a sustainable culture within Lufthansa that goes beyond technological improvements.
"We are developing a sustainable culture within Lufthansa that goes beyond technological improvements"
Are there any initiatives that you have spearheaded to solve specific technological challenges in the logistics space?
Including sustainability, the industry should be refined on digitalization. The industry still uses a lot of paperwork in the documentation offices. Since March, we have switched to 100% electronic air waybill. Besides, we have extended our PreCheck offering. PreCheck is a special service function that informs customers and stations as early as possible that all the necessary shipment data, such as AWB and HAWB data, are correct, even when compared with the booking data. This contributes significantly to more transparency in the further handling process - for both sides: Before a freight shipment is delivered, the data is checked and, in the event of discrepancies, customers can make corrections accordingly in just a few simple steps. This helps to reduce delivery problems in advance. This also means that Lufthansa Cargo always has up-to-date information for further capacity planning and comprehensive evaluations.
We need to look beyond Lufthansa Cargo as an isolated company; we need to look into holistic data and digital exchange from an entire supply chain end-to-end. Logistics data clouds, IATA’s ONE record are wide steps in the right direction as it will help improve productivity’s transparency and provide lower failure rates. There is huge potential in digitalisation across supply chain efficient storage sharing.
Is there any advice that you’d like to give senior leaders within the logistics industry with fleet management? Are there any technological avenues that business leaders can adapt to?
If we keep doing the same things we will receive the same results. We need more collaborative efforts and partnerships to achieve different and better results and take advantage of opportunities behind these challenges. Our collaboration with DB Schenker is a good example, where we partnered with our customer to achieve a common goal. We share the risks, opportunities and the benefits. Think beyond your customers’ customers to understand need and to understand the supply chain end-to-end.