“The Slot Booking app does not only generate benefits for those airports struggling with congestion. Also when you're not struggling with long waitting times its beneficial. I would like to see this implemented at all airports.”
Regional Vice President
WFS was one of the first companies to join the BRUcloud initiative, Brussels Airport’s cloud-based data sharing platform and collaborative apps powered by Nallian. Early adopter of the Slot Booking application, the ground handler shared his insights and lessons learned with international cargo professionals at The Connected Air Cargo Masterclass earlier this year. Interview with Marc Claesen, Regional Vice President at WFS, who wishes to inspire more airports to adopt the application.
In what way did the Slot Booking app influence your processes?
Prior to using the Slot Booking application, drivers would show up unannounced at our premises, often several at the same time. This lack of visibility together with peaks and idle times made it hard to plan manpower correctly, which resulted in long waiting times for drivers and congestion at the grounds. Using the Slot Booking app, we now make time slots available in view of our capacity, which are then be booked by truckers and forwarders. The system automatically matches supply and demand, and suggests alternatives when needed.
What are the most important benefits you gained from using the Slot Booking app?
We have noted an immediate 10-15% productivity increase, with the potential for future growth. As our staff is informed beforehand about which goods are to be delivered or picked-up, they can prepare goods pro-actively. Drivers who are using Slot Booking are enjoying priority treatment: they don’t have to wait in line and are served immediately. This also reduces stress for our handling staff, as we avoid the often heated discussions about who is to be served first when all arrive at the same time. As slots are booked in line with our available capacity, peaks and idle times are smoothened. We have already seen the first results of this and expect this to further increase as more people are using the system.
What role do you expect the airport to play in such a project?
The airport should play its role of facilitator, building and activating the community and trying to involve as many stakeholders as possible. They should communicate on what’s happening, both internally and externally, showcase success and inspire people to join. At Brussels Airport’s cargo hub, regular meetings are organized in which we discuss amongst others application usage and future roadmap development. Finally, an airport can play an important role in such a project from a financial point of view, making it financially attractive - in particular in the beginning - to participate.
"The airport should play its role of facilitator, building and accelerating the community and trying to involve as many stakeholders as possible."
What is your role & responsibility as a community member?
Within the community it is our duty to actively participate in those meetings organized by the steering group, as this is where we share feedback and plan future developments. In such meetings, it is very important to have a positive mindset and be open for feedback, both positive and negative, from users and other stakeholders involved. Constructive, solution-oriented thinking is key, as there will be always elements to improve and we have an ambition to maximize our digitization efforts.
What did you do within your company to successfully launch the solution?
One of the most important elements is communication and training. We have involved our staff from the very beginning, but still underestimated the impact of training. You really need to incentive your teams to adopt the new processes correctly, which starts by explaining why you are doing it and how the solutions works. We also give visibility on performance to illustrate the benefits that are generated for each by using the app.
One of the most important elements is communication. We have involved our staff from the very beginning, but still underestimated the impact of training.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome?
The more gates you can make available, the more people are incentivized to book slots and benefit from the system. When we launched early 2018, we were restricted in the number of gates we could make available, but we wanted to step in right away anyhow. I am pleased that since the opening of our brand new facility earlier this year, we have now 11 gates reserved for slot booking – for import, export and ULD’s. One item that still requires our attention is the fact that drivers who’re not yet using the Slot Booking app, are failing to see why they cannot be served right away when a gate seems to be free – but in reality it’s reserved for a slot that is reserved and about to start. As I said, it’s very important to keep everyone informed about how the system works and show the benefits the app generates for its users.
What would be your advice to ground handlers who are considering using the Slot Booking app?
If you have the opportunity to join, step in as early as possible as you’ll be able to influence the solution. Don’t be afraid to start with a small group of believers. And have faith in the positive results: some you may see right away, others will increase over time. But for sure you will benefit from it.