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FIATA Presidency discusses progress of 'reset programme'

In this series of Meet the Presidency, all six members provide an update on the progress of the FIATA reset programme – a six-point initiative aimed at reinvigorating the organization’s relevance to its mission of representing the freight forwarding industry at international level. The reset programme, proposed by the presidency in 2018 and voted by the organization in 2019, signifies a profound restructuring of FIATA and leads it into the future with a presence in the heart of the international Geneva where global policy making is shaped.

  • Basil Pietersen (BP), FIATA President
  • Babar Badat (BB), FIATA Immediate Past President
  • Robert Voltmann (RV), FIATA Secretary General
  • Turgut Erkeskin (TE), FIATA Senior Vice President
  • Ivan Petrov (IP), FIATA Senior Vice President
  • Thomas Sim (TS), FIATA Senior Vice President

BP: Last year, FIATA approved the ‘reset programme’ and recruited a new Director General who started implementation in January 2020. Soon after, the world was confronted with the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, which created a huge challenge for all organizations globally. How do you see FIATA's work over the last nine months and the adaptation of the organization to this new environment?

My response in one word would be ‘challenging’, that is how I would describe the past nine months. As the architects of the supply-chain, the responsibility in finding solutions to that which is unprecedented and never experienced required a unified and inclusive approach to matters. During the chaos, we had to meet one of the reset programme’s conditions of relocating the FIATA head office from Zurich to Geneva. Under normal circumstances relocation of any sort is difficult, so imagine doing this and having to adhere to lockdown restrictions.

Instead of settling comfortably into his new role, the newly appointed Director General had to lead the change and ensure the recruitment of staff with relevant competencies to deliver a professional service to all members. Thankfully, months later we saw a steady inclusion of individuals taking up their respective rolls within the head office. Here I would like to acknowledge the work done by those members of staff no longer with FIATA.

It is understood that settling down in any work environment takes time, unfortunately this was and is a luxury we did not have. The new staff had to hastily adapt to the new environment and deliver to members. The organizational structure to manage the institutes and advisory bodies was well accepted and it is great to see the plan evolving. In all this, the priority remained that of meeting members expectations, not for any one individual or group, but for the entire FIATA body. While the head office endeavour to always work towards achieving the interests of members and ultimately the industry, it remains the responsibility of members to continually challenge the head office, extended board and also the presidency and to ensure use of all organs of the federation. Needless to state that the work continues, and I personally wish to thank all for having seen us through what I believe to have been the most challenging period. Thank you!

BB: Moving the head office from Zurich to Geneva was the first step of the FIATA reset programme. Why was the Geneva move so important and how does it contribute to the achievement of FIATA's objectives?

The reset programme was initiated to take FIATA to an upgraded existence, more in line with the current global environment, a consideration for the future and most importantly in line with the expected aspiration of the organization’s membership. It is a fundamental shift in the way FIATA works and the move to Geneva is a cornerstone of this initiative. Geneva is where the world meets, it is the center for the international multilateral organizations, the United Nations and several other nongovernmental development organizations. A great part of FIATA’s work will involve advocacy and for that there is no better place than Geneva.

The traditional work of the international freight forwarder has, over recent years, moved to a far more complex service pattern which encompasses the complete logistics supply chain of moving products from their origin to their final destination, also known as ‘end to end’ across multiple modes. Therefore, the industry’s engagements have also become more elaborate, requiring its representative body to engage on a far larger canvas. For FIATA the move to Geneva brings this to the table.

TS: Training has long been one of FIATA's strengths. As part of its reset programme, FIATA voted at the 2019 congress in Cape Town to create the FIATA Logistics Institute (FLI), which merges the FIATA Logistics Academy (FLA) and the Advisory Body for Vocational Training (ABVT) into a new body. What are the merger’s objectives and what challenges do you foresee for the FLI to be fully operational by the end of 2020 and be able to fulfil its mission of equipping freight forwarders with the knowledge and skills they need to deal with today's industry?

FLI seeks to position training, development, and research in freight-logistics as priority and will bring all education and training initiatives under one umbrella. In the cusp of global industry transformation and moving forward, FIATA’s roadmap towards human capital developments will focus on preparing our transport logistics workforce to be future-ready by constantly equipping new skills-sets and competencies to be job-ready with technical and critical soft-skills.

We will continue to develop industry-focused curriculum that mirrors our professions through strong industry engagements and partnerships to curate real-world projects for operators’ learning. The FIATA minimum standards and curriculums will be further strengthened to include business 4.0 tools and technologies, such as application of smart digital technologies (A.I., machine learning), the IOTs and the cloud, human-centred design, workflow automation and making better decision using data-analytics, so that our learners will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate the rapid transformation brought about by digitalization.

FLI will be organized around three workstreams:

  • FIATA standards and certifications (FIATA diploma in freight forwarding, the higher diploma in supply chain management, and the ICAO-FIATA dangerous goods training);
  • digital learning and international cooperation;
  • attracting and maintaining young and new talents to industry.

RV: It is impossible to think about the future of logistics without mentioning the current digitization of the supply chain. As part of the implementation of the reset programme, FIATA developed and approved last May an ambitious digital strategy. What is the significance of this strategy and how will members benefit from it?

The digital strategy involves several projects to promote a freight forwarders trusted network, share and distribute standards, and foster interoperability and data analysis. Two initial projects were launched in June: the trusted digital members registry and the digital document library. This is significant because the registry will constitute the first necessary step to allow FIATA members to enter the digital world, by certifying the identity of freight forwarders and ensuring they fulfil the requirements to benefit from the different solutions provided by the digital strategy. The digital standard template library, on the other hand, will address the current challenge of controlling the distribution and multiplication of electronic versions of trade documents. This will make standard FIATA templates easily available to freight forwarders and stakeholders through their everyday tools and will be a great benefit to our members.

IP: Intellectual property is a concern for many organizations and is one of the issues addressed in the reset programme. Why is intellectual property a crucial issue for FIATA and the freight forwarding community and what actions have been taken in this area since the beginning of the year?

FIATA’s forms and documents are subject to copyright protection and are used worldwide to facilitate international trade for the benefit of its members. The digital strategy, for example, will contribute to better protection and use of FIATA’s intellectual property.

We are also conducting an audit of current licensing processes to ensure optimization of the administrative and compliance process, and to ensure documents are used in the correct authorized manner. It is important to preserve the excellent reputation of the FIATA name and logo, so we are currently revising brand guidelines and FIATA intellectual property statements to provide clarity and reinforce position.

TE: As the reset programme points out, to remain relevant, FIATA needs to promote sustainable practices and engage young professionals who will carry out this work overtime. What actions has FIATA taken since the beginning of 2020 to start building a strong community of young freight forwarders and develop its work in the field of sustainability?

FIATA has completely modernized its communication this year. One example is the reactivation of social media accounts with key messaging and promotion of current work to address a younger audience of freight forwarders. The FIATA newsletter and magazine have also been given a new look to make them more interesting to younger audiences, along with the website which now has a more user-friendly sitemap and is more visually appealing. FIATA also continues to promote the Young International Freight Forwarder of the Year Award to recognize young talent and will develop a promotional plan that is integrated within the larger communication strategy, as reaching the younger generations is crucial to FIATA’s work moving forward. Finally, the FIATA Presidency has produced guidance for the Working Group Sustainable Logistics that will help us further our sustainability objectives in an inclusive manner, with small and larger companies.

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