ECS Group The GSA global expert leading tomorrow’s future

Representing 156 companies and airlines, ECS Group transported 1,227,122 tons of cargo in 2021. It remains optimistic the positive volume trend will continue though yields are under pressure on some trade lanes like in the North Atlantic and amid the lingering Russia-led war against Ukraine.

ECS Group is known the world over as the largest integrated GSSA, and in recent years, it made its impact even greater with the introduction of its “All-In Solutions” in the air cargo industry that utilizes the power of digitalization and smart technologies.

In 2021, ECS transported an impressive 1.23 million tons of cargo across continents, representing 156 companies and airlines. And despite the numerous challenges confronting the industry, it remains confident the positive trend will prevail.

ECS Group Executive Chairman Adrien Thominet attributed the company’s success to its brave transition from doing the traditional role that General Sales & Service Agents (GSSA) are known for to leading the industry’s future.

“First of all, ECS Group follows its “Augmented GSA” strategy, which offers the industry a completely new GSA model. It is based on 4 pillars: commercial, abilities, technology and sustainability. The aim is simple, to fit our customers’ needs and optimize their revenues,” Thominet told Air Cargo Update in an email interview.

ECS Group’s All-In solutions covers the full scope of cargo processes—from sales to marketing, revenue optimizations to operations (network operations as well as Quality, Safety & Security), Interline Management, Handling of Claims, all the way through to chartering operations.

Robert Van De Weg, ECS Group Chief Commercial Officer, proudly shared the company transported 1,227,122 tons of cargo in 2021 representing 156 companies and airlines.

10 New Abilities

Foraying in the new normal, ECS has combined its sales expertise with a host of digital solutions to help their customers and industry partners navigate in the new normal of the tech age.

Primarily, it offers 10 New Abilities focused on providing solutions to complex issues related to shipping goods via air cargo.

Thominet explained ECS Group’s 10 New Abilities as “single modules that we have created beyond all standard GSA services, offering a variety of support options – a new set of ‘à-la-carte’ products. These are unique products that we have developed in-house to meet the new demands of our customers and the new realities of the market. At the same time, ECS Group places agility at the centre of its actions.”

“With our abilities, we offer a range of solutions to enable our partners to maximize their revenue while safely transporting various goods. With our All-In solution, we are covering the full scope of cargo processes: from Sales, Marketing, Revenue Optimization, Operations (Network Operations as well as Quality, Safety & Security), Interline Management, Handling of Claims, all the way through to chartering operations,” he said.

“We also have “Optimum” which is our Revenue Optimization Experts that offers tailor made processes covering the scope of budgeting & forecasting, strategic & tactical pricing, commercial steering and interline management. “Optimum” also delivers the necessary Performance Management processes, taking the Revenue Optimization to the next level. Also, for customers that use our TCE services we ensure best possible handling service and compliance to the highest standards. These are just a few examples to give an overview of our abilities and the strategic role they can play for airlines,” he added.

Van De Weg described ECS Group’s “All-In Solutions” as simply an improvement on their established Total, saying, “The “All-In” is an improvement on ECS Group’s established Total Cargo Management Solution, covering the full scope of cargo processes from sales, marketing, revenue optimization, operations, interline management, claims handling, all the way through to chartering operations. Yet, that is just one of the 10 New Abilities. Single services, such as “Quality Stars” offering back-office data administration, or “Optimum” assisting airlines in maximizing their cargo revenues, are also available alongside modules that have never before been offered by a GSA.”

Shaping the future

The Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated our transition to digitalization and the use of technology in all facets of our lives. This is particularly evident in the development of Pfizer-BioNtech COVID vaccine in less than a year. A miracle of sort, combining science, technology and hope, this vaccine was produced without any live virus but rather a chemically produced modified genetic code developed through a process known as the messenger RNA vaccine.

Technology also changed our lives with the adoption of more remote work, online education, increasing demand for buying things or services online via e-commerce, among many other things.

Governments have also widened the adoption of technology in their systems to reach out, monitor and control people and disseminate information while the world attempts to control the further spread of the Coronavirus that had since mutated in many different forms.

For businesses and different industries, technology and digitalization offer unprecedented potentials in widening their markets globally while enhancing their operations.

And for the air cargo industry, which is carrying out the so-called the mission of the century, distributing billions of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, digitalization is a game-changer.

“Digitalization is a strategic lever that is increasingly becoming essential—reinforced by the pandemic. If the process of digitalization was already underway, we cannot deny that it is now an inevitable, even mandatory, turn. However, we don’t just want to embrace the change and follow the movement,” said Thominet.

“The pandemic was a real accelerator. Technology and data are very important and we need to push further the digitalization of the supply chain to streamline operations and increase productivity through efficiency gains and streamlined communication. ECS Group started its “e-focus” a while back: “e-distribution”, “e-booking” “e-procurement” and we are now seeing real growth in this type of product. We believe that more technology will increase transparency and this is a key factor: more transparency, visibility and enlarge sales channels also leads to more trust, which is a capital value. Technology also saves time and allows companies to reallocate their human capacity to other tasks that cannot be digitized,” noted.

Already a global leader on innovation, ECS Group continues to explore new ways to make things better in the industry while creating opportunities.

“ECS Group wants to become a leader in this area, to be at the avant-garde and offer new tools that can lead the transformation of our industry. We have our own incubator with the Cargo Digital Factory which already offers various tools such as Quantum which supports the ad-hoc pricing process, Apollo, a BI & reporting system with real-time full visibility on the results, combining market and performance information and Pathfinder our in-house shipment tracking system,” said Thominet.

“It is part of the technology pillar of our Augmented GSA concept. Moreover, we have recently given proof of this ambition since the Cargo Digital Factory is with Wiremind Cargo and CargoAi part of CargoTech; an independent entity which acts as an accelerator of tech companies and talents to transform and digitize the cargo industry.”

Transforming with time

The ECS Group Executive Chairman said the company will continue to evolve with time through innovative ideas and pursuit of creative solutions to better serve its customers and business partners.

“We are living in the new ‘normal’ and the challenge now is how to adapt to it. The basic observation is that the needs of our customers are ever increasing. And these needs are constantly changing. The Augmented GSA replies to their needs. Not only with the new abilities but also regarding the sustainability. Today, it is an important issue for a customer to pay attention to. The industry is aware of all this, so it responds very favourably to what we put in place and bring to the table. We are continually reviewing our positioning in relation to what might be described as traditional approaches, seeking that balance. The key in a constantly changing world is agility and that is exactly what we are offering the industry through this Augmented GSA strategy,” said Thominet.

“ECS Group will continue to be the leading GSA, leading the way on important issues such as digitalization but also sustainability with a new business model. ECS Group will offer a completely diversified range of services based on all the skills already in place for TCM with the development of new activities. And perhaps in a few years’ time ECS Group will be a one-stop shop for freight expertise and will no longer be considered a GSA, but will have another name,” he concluded.

Box Out

ECS Group continues to embark on a global expansion

Under the leadership of the Paris-born, Adrien Thominet, ECS Group has remarkably grown from strength to strength.

The globe-trotting Thominet first joined ECS in 1995 as Commercial Manager of the company’s AeroCargo business unit, subsequently, becoming the Managing Director. In 2009, he accepted the challenge of leading the commercial development of the Group, and in 2011, he became the Chief Operating Officer.

In 2017, ECS Group nominated Thominet as Chief Executive Officer to fully align with the transformative needs of their partners and clients and support them to navigate the shift to compete in the digital economy.

With hard work, a unifying presence, innovation and astute business sense, Thominet delivered remarkably. By 2021, he’s been named as the Executive Chairman of ECS Group, the firm he has served for more than 27 years now.

Under the new normal, Thominet and his team are bent on pursuing further global expansion. Here’s their take on different continents and why ECS Group should be there.

EUROPE—The markets of Netherlands, France, Spain and Germany but also the Nordics and Eastern Europe are very active. The reduced Euro exchange rate will help competitiveness on exports, but will affect import potential into Western Europe. At the same time, capacities are increasing in particular on the North Atlantic.

The bottleneck-factor is increasingly affecting the availability of manpower to handle aircraft in the main European hubs. We see strings of cancellations at London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt for example and expect this to continue. We aim to further strengthen our customer portfolio in Europe, in particular in the domain of Total Cargo Management as we have a stronger flexibility when it comes to hiring staff in comparison to most of the airlines.

LATIN AMERICA –The region has an enormous potential, even more so with the growth of e-commerce. The number of marketplaces is increasing which is a good omen. We plan to strengthen our presence in the region in the short-term through new acquisitions allowing us to have almost full coverage in the Americas within 2022, first semester of 2023 the latest.

ASIA-PACIFIC—Asia is the “world’s factory” and will soon increase its market share. This is reflected in the order forecasts of Boeing and Airbus. The increase in e-commerce in the region is accompanied by a subsequent increase in perishable goods, automobiles, chemicals, etc. Our expansion plans consider the North-East, especially Japan, as having the greatest dynamic potential.

MIDDLE EAST—Dubai is our stronghold, which is developing very well. We are also looking at increasing our footprint in the Middle East further.

NORTH AMERICA—We have had a tremendous development in the USA in particular in our customer portfolio to and from South America from the USA. There is room for further growth in particular on the Transpacific trade lane where we see strong potential in particular with Asian carriers.

AFRICA—We are relying on partnerships in Africa to service our customer base in Europe. We are also looking at acquisitions, but we will do this step-by-step.

ECS Group has also its own airline, Niger Air Cargo. This is a real added value that strengthens the group’s African expertise and benefits directly from GSA’s know-how. Niger Air Cargo transports absolutely everything, especially military equipment.