By Ruth Snowden, Executive Director, CIFFA

Just as Robert Keen predicts there will be a BIFA in 10 years’ time (see subsequent article), I can confidently predict that there will be a CIFFA in 10 years’ time. This year we are celebrating 70 years of representing the international freight forwarding community in Canada – over seven decades of change, some gradual and some rapid-fire. One of CIFFA’s mandates is to ‘represent and support’ the industry in providing the highest level of quality and professional services to their clients.” And we take that to mean helping forwarders prepare for the significant – even transformational change – that is coming their way.

Yes, that means providing the sector training that employees and entrants to the business need to survive in international transportation and global trade: College level certificate courses, targeted workshops, management training. It also means providing context to these changes – preparing members on what to expect over the next 18 months, let alone the next decade. Exactly what is blockchain and how will it impact marine bills of lading and the marine intermodal business? How will blockchain eliminate non-value added activities from the air cargo supply chain? How can forwarders use new technologies to deliver the transparency and speed of service that Canadian importers and exporters rightly expect? How can 3PLs position themselves as critical ‘value add’ suppliers to their customers? That is the challenge of the association over the short -term, staying relevant and ensuring that forwarders are ahead of that learning and investment curve.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The next couple of years may not be easy. And not every 3PL will prosper. However, those organizations that grasp the opportunity to embrace this tsunami of change, will do more than survive, they will thrive.

Look at Canada’s air export supply chain today – a fragmented market with many small companies shipping occasionally by air. [In April, Transport Canada lists some 10,899 Account Consignors plus 691 Known Consignors across the country.] An exporter keys data into its operating system and generates a commercial invoice which it sends, along with any packing lists, certificates of origin or other ‘documents’ to its customer, in all likelihood by email. In rare cases, an exporter may send data EDI to its freight forwarder, it may perhaps more frequently re-key data into the forwarder’s operating system via a portal although unfortunately, in most cases, it will send scans of its commercial documents to the forwarder by email – who re-keys the same data into its operating system. If the forwarder sends eAWB data by EDI to the carrier and if the air carrier accepts eAWB to that destination, perhaps the re-keying stops there. If not, the forwarder re-keys the data into an airline portal or creates a paper air waybill. And it doesn’t stop there. Export reports can be filed on a paper B13A declaration because electronic exporter reporting has not been made mandatory and that amending legislation probably won’t be place before the end of 2019 or early 2020. So CBSA can risk assess exports on paper. Data is re-keyed or documents sent by email to destination ground handlers, destination and in-transit Customs organizations, interline carriers, insurance companies … What a cost of quality. What an inefficient system.

Think of how new technologies will allow us to create additional value. Think of the opportunity if we are able to stop re-keying data. Think of how those employees could be re-deployed talking to customers, developing new solutions, seeking more customers. Think of how much faster data could be made available to customers. Think how speed and transparency will improve by those forwarders who embrace new technologies and use technology to improve their business. CIFFA is committed to bringing its members and the industry critical information on staying ahead of the curve.

Register today to attend the CIFFA 70th Anniversary Conference Global Supply Chains in a Digital Future: Innovation and Inspiration where more than 35 speakers will bring home the message and deliver the future.

[Toronto Pearson ranks 49th on IATA’s list of eAWB compliant airports and Canada is not in the top 10 countries. Canada ranks 23rd with 44.1% eAWB penetration. ]