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How can you integrate the e-AWB in your daily activities?

18 Sep 2019

5 min read

In 1981, IBM presented the first pc for home use in Belgium. Since then, the computer – in whichever shape – has been always present in our daily lives. Moreover, young children know how to swipe before they can even write. The digital transition entirely changed the way we act. This goes for your business too. The transition from the classical Airway Bill (AWB) to the e-AWB is happening as we speak in Air Freight. Are you ready for it?

Why do we suggest to integrate the e-AWB in your organization?

The Air Waybill (AWB) is an obligatory document. This document covers the entire trajectory, from the airport of departure to the airport of arrival. This also applies if a part of the trajectory is done by car. In 2010, the digital version, the e-AWB, got an introduction. Since the beginning of this year (2019), this version is not obligated, but it is the standard. Hereby the need to work paperless increases. You can find more information regarding this decision here.

Paperless life as the standard

The transition to a paperless life is not an easy one. This is something I experience every day when I try to read my own handwriting. Still, it comes with many conveniences and besides it contributes to a better environment. Partly due to the convenience, higher efficiency and the durability of the transition, e-AWB got introduced and became the standard. Although the benefits are very clear, a transition towards this digital airway bill can require some adjustments from your side. So what are the points of attention if you want to make use of the e-AWB? And how can you smoothly introduce it in your daily work activities? In this blog, we focus on the most important steps that you have to take to adapt this procedure.

What should you focus on when introducing the e-AWB?

Before you can standardize the use of the ‘Electronic Air Waybill’ in your daily activities, there are several necessary steps you should take. Below I will explain step for step what these contain and how you can arrange them.

Step 1: Sign a digital agreement with IATA

To take part to the e-AWB agreement with all connected parties, you only have to sign the Multilateral e-AWB once at IATA. This is the trade association of all worldwide airlines and represents over 80% of the total air traffic. Thus, you do not have to sign a bilateral agreement for each individual party; this single agreement covers everything with just a few steps.

Step 2: Check if your system supports e-AWB

Naturally, your software solution is of major importance within this context. To send the e-AWB with the correct information at the right time, your system needs to meet the following requirements:

  • Sending and receiving of AWB Status messages;
  • Archiving electronic messages;
  • Printing of on-demand AWB information (if required).

Next, check if your system is flexible enough to change along with possible changes. Because if not, there is not much you can do besides switching software solutions or going back to the classic AWB.

Step 3: Check your business processes and the quality of your messages

Before you can actually start sending automated messages, it is crucial that your organization and the quality of your reports are ready for the transition. Namely, from that moment you will only be sending digital information. Therefore, check your messages for:

  • Invalid data;
  • Message syntax errors;
  • Send delays;
  • The configuration with your forwarding system.

Next, you will have to check your processes. Does working paperless fit in your current way of working, or does the process get stuck at some point? Be aware that your organization is ready for the transition. If that is the case, then you are ready as well.

Step 4: Inform your logistics partners about your transition towards the e-AWB

If you have successfully walked through the steps above, you can share the big news. From now on, as a fully modern Freight Forwarder, you work digitally. When you inform your partners with this news, keep the to be made agreements in mind. For example, how are you going to realize the e-AWB exchange? Are you going into a test phase first and if so, who will cover the costs? Is discretion desirable? Many questions you have to ask yourself before knocking on your partners’ doors.

Did you know?

Each month, IATA shares monthly reports about the current usage of the e-AWB. Our neighbouring country, the Netherlands, scores a nice tenth place of all countries and our airport Schiphol is sixth when it comes to the number of sent e-AWBs. You can see this overview below too. At what rank is your country?

Are you ready for the transition towards the e-AWB?

With these four basic steps, you realiz the transition from the Air Waybill towards his digital brother. But do not fool yourself, everything looks easier written down. Luckily, in the last years we have helped many logistics service providers with this switch. Together with you, we will go through the processes, we determine the readiness for the transition and last but not least, we will make sure that your messages will be correct. Ask our colleagues for the possibilities for your forwarding company.


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