Hazardous materials survey shows need to reduce complexity

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by Emily Atkins

A new survey has found that the industry thinks hazardous materials management could be made simpler to enhance safety.

The survey, the 2023 Global Dangerous Goods Confidence Outlook, highlighted the need to reduce process complexity, establish effective staff recruitment and retention programs, and enhance digitization to facilitate the safe and compliant transport of dangerous goods (DG)/hazardous materials (hazmat).

“Ongoing supply chain disruptions along with the continued growth of e-commerce and markets that rely on DG – from consumer products to electric vehicles – has made shipping goods safely and compliantly increasingly difficult. While organizations showed improvement in their DG operations over the last year, the survey underscored the need to reduce process complexity and enhance digitization to address future supply chain and regulatory challenges,” said Robert Finn, vice-president, Labelmaster.

Key findings and recommendations

DG professionals are confident about the industry’s level of infrastructure and investment. Eighty-five percent believe that their infrastructure is on par or ahead of the industry. More than 90 percent (92) increased or kept their DG investment the same year-over-year.

While 56 percent believe their current infrastructure meets existing needs, only 28 percent responded that it meets both current and future needs.

Process complexity, mis-declared DGs and attracting qualified staff remain challenging. Seventy-two percent need more support to address future DG compliance. Fifty-six percent said they expect the mis-declaration of DGs to stay the same or worsen.

Views of the labour market are mixed, with 40 percent indicating that current challenges will persist, 32 percent expecting the labour market to improve and 28 percent believing that it will become more difficult to find qualified staff.

Sustainability remains a focus across the industry. Almost three quarters (73 percent) of DG professionals report that their organizations have sustainability initiatives in place or planned. However, 27 percent do not have any sustainability initiatives planned, showing room for improvement.

“Confidence among DG professionals is high, yet challenges remain. These include process complexity, the mis-declaration of DG and the recruitment of skilled personnel. To meet the future growth in DG shipments, we need well-trained professionals following globally agreed standards and supported by the right technology and infrastructure,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice-president of operations, safety, and security.

Creating a better DG supply chain

The survey results point to the challenges that the air cargo value chain continues to face in process simplification, digitization, and training.

Some key compliance tools from IATA and Labelmaster are helping to address these needs:•    Reduce Complexity: Establish repeatable processes with DG software such as Labelmaster’s DGIS. •    Digitization: Integrate DG software into enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management system (WMS) to ensure complete, accurate data, for example, connecting DG AutoCheck via API Connect. •    Training: Strengthen employees’ understanding of DG regulations with Labelmaster’s immersive 3D experiences.Finn added, “While DG professionals are generally optimistic about the future, the survey shows improvements to processes are needed to adapt to supply chain and regulatory changes. The good news is there are plenty of tools available that will help organizations address current and future needs and keep regulated goods moving safely, compliantly, and efficiently.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), Labelmaster, and Hazardous Cargo Bulletin produced the survey.