Challenge: Track & Trace


ULD transfer management is an often overlooked, but critical, component of air cargo logistics. During a single cargo movement, a ULD can be transferred between different parties as many as a dozen times. These handovers are highly manual and poorly tracked, resulting in a lack of accountability for damage and no way to identify who is responsible for the repair costs. IATA estimates that there is about $475 million USD wasted annually due to poor ULD management practices.

Key Issues

  1. Paper documents - ULD transfers are documented and confirmed between parties using a paper form called a UCR (“ULD Control Receipt”). The transferring party fills out which ULDs are to be transferred, the condition of the ULDs (using brief remarks and codes), and is signed off by the receiving party. These paper documents can easily get lost, but even if all goes according to plan, it takes time to collect and transpose the information to electronic systems - leading to consistently outdated ULD inventory system data.

  2. Incentive to under-report damage - The transferring party is incentivized to under-report the ULD’s potential damages in the UCR because they could be blamed for the damage occurring while in their custody. The receiving party has more incentive to fully document the condition of the ULD before handover, so they can defend against repair fee liability in the future, but there doesn’t seem to be a process in place for them to do so.

  3. Lack of visibility - Because of the existing tools in place (or lack thereof) there is limited ability for any party to fully document the condition of a ULD with visuals and details, beyond the brief condition and damage codes provided in the UCR. This lack of visibility makes it impossible for any stakeholder to retroactively assess the quality and consistency of the ULD inspections.

What it does

Our solution aims to do the following:

  • Digitize and automate inspections with assistive AI technology
  • Build a constantly updated ULD digital twin & audit trail of condition history
  • Share ULD condition & transfer activity in real-time via OneRecord

How I built it

Our ULD Inspect & Transfer Solution has 4 main components aimed at resolving the key issues noted above.

1. Inspection Mobile App (with AI Assist) We’ve built a mobile app that can be used by a receiving party - ideally prior to handover - to take photos of the ULD and document any potential damage. The photos and remarks from the inspector can be uploaded immediately to the cloud, for reference during the current transfer process or in the future. The mobile app is also equipped with AI assistive technology - for each photo taken, the mobile app automatically extracts the serial number of the container (if visible), identifies any readable text in the image, and highlights potential defect points using a machine-learning algorithm trained to look for structural damage, like dents, holes, and scratches. This can help point out potential damage to the inspector for further review.

2. Transfer Management Portal We’ve built a cloud-based transfer management portal that we hope can replace the current UCR paper form process. Companies registered in the system can easily submit ULD transfer requests electronically to receiving parties, who can review the condition of the ULD before accepting it into their custody. Before the handover, the receiving party can simply use the Inspection Mobile App to document the ULD condition and submit it to the Transfer Management Portal in one click. Upon acceptance of the transfer request by the receiving party, both companies can receive updates to their ULD inventory systems in real-time.

3. ULD Digital Twin / Condition History With the above two components in regular use, a historical audit trail and digital twin of the ULD is generated, providing the various handling parties with a full view into the condition of the ULD and opportunity to monitor for safety and compliance issues.

4. OneRecord Integration It is absolutely necessary for the data collection activities and events recorded through the Transfer Management Portal to be communicated to other systems in the logistics network - in particular individual companies’ ULD inventory management systems and ULD Care’s IULDUG system which helps to consolidate the interlining transfer events across different airlines. In addition, it would be much more efficient for the Transfer Management Portal to receive updates about scheduled ULD transfers and automatically generate the Transfer Requests to streamline the process even further.

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