Emirates Skycargo hails IT management project

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By  Published  September 22, 2006

Emirates SkyCargo, the group’s air freight arm, has completed a two-year project to develop an end-to-end cargo management IT system.

Unlike existing systems on the market, the system, dubbed SkyChain, is based on a Java architecture. This allows users to make upgrades and changes more easily, and allows for greater compatibility with host systems.

SkyChain will be marketed to other airlines by the group’s IT division Mercator, executives said last week.

A team of 150 IT professionals collaborated on the project, which SkyCargo claims is the largest single software development project in the aviation industry in recent years. In total, more than 300 person years were spent on the project.

Ram Menen, divisional senior vice president, cargo, at Emirates, described SkyChain as the first “non-legacy based” airline cargo system to be built, claiming “a lot of money has been written off in the past by people trying to develop a similar system”.

“It’s a huge, huge initiative,” he emphasised.

Menen said the system was built to provide end-to-end management of the cargo process — from the placing of a booking by a customer to the delivery of the items.

“Basically it gives us an automated processing solution from booking level to operations level, the whole works,” he said.

As well as providing the carrier with an online processing and overview facility of its cargo transportation processes, the system will also allow customers to place orders and track the status of their cargo online via the new SkyCargo.com website.

“It’s like a huge pipeline which the customer puts information in,” explained Menen.

“We take whatever information we want, we process it, put it back and the customer has got a complete visibility of what’s happening while it is in our custody. They can see their schedules, the availability of space and rates and they can completely trade with us.”

Emirates has built the system so that it is based on open standards and can easily adapt to whichever IT system the customer or airline uses.

“The system is quite unique in the sense that we have gone away from creating standards for ourselves,” said Menen.

“So we are not saying to customers that we need you to tweak your systems so that we can communicate with you. Whatever shape or form, our customers can put the data through their computer we will interact with that,” he added.

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