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Working together towards more sustainable air transport

As a part of the Holland Flower Alliance, Royal FloraHolland is working with partners KLM Cargo and Schiphol Cargo to ensure that flowers can be transported by air in a more sustainable manner. Wico Santbulte (KLM Cargo), Roos Bakker (Schiphol Cargo) and Eline van den Berg (Royal FloraHolland) explain how they aim to achieve this goal.

"We will be facilitating supply chain innovations to strengthen the Netherlands’ position as a hub for the international flower trade. As a first step, we will assess the high-volume traffic between Nairobi and Amsterdam. Royal FloraHolland has a lot of members in Kenya. We’ve chosen to focus on two main priorities: information sharing and packaging."

When it comes to air transport of flowers, there’s still much room for improvement in terms of information exchange between the various supply chain partners. Let’s say you’re waiting in Aalsmeer with a team of thirty temp staff: you really need to know when that plane is going to arrive. Information on the underlying supply chain process can also be crucial. A more effective exchange of supply chain information helps improve the process and reduce waste, yielding more sustainable outcomes. Integrated, real-time supply chain data allows users to check on the flowers’ location and condition at all times. This helps to address any weak links in the supply chain and schedule flights more effectively. A pilot group has now embraced this integrated approach, and one supplier is currently setting up a new data platform that links product information and shipment details. It’s certainly challenging, but we’ve already proved it’s technically feasible.

There are over three hundred types of air cargo boxes in use, which is obviously very inefficient. Boxes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are made of substandard material, so there’s always a risk the flowers will arrive in damaged condition. This is a good case for strength through unity.

"As a first step, we set up a workshop to find out which boxes are currently in use and determine how the various links in the supply chain handle packaging materials. The many types of packaging make the loading process more difficult and cause damage to flowers throughout the supply chain, resulting in considerable financial losses. Our work with the pilot group showed that standard boxes aren’t necessarily the only solution here. The greatest gains can be achieved through a standardised packaging concept, which we have now developed. Local growers stack their boxes on pallets, which can then be efficiently loaded onto the air cargo pallets. As tests have shown, the new packing concept improves aircraft loading efficiency by 15%. In addition to being cheaper, more efficient and more sustainable, this also helps reduce quality losses. Quite a range of benefits, in other words."

Source: Holland Flower Alliance

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