Last month we attended the IATA webinar called ‘Digitalization and Fuel Data Standards‘. This looked at the benefits of using IATA’s industry-wide data standards to exchange data more efficiently between airlines and fuel suppliers at key stages in the fueling lifecycle.
From our work with airlines over the last 20 years, we’ve seen first hand the problems caused by paper-based or inefficient data exchange. We’ve also seen how much time and money can be saved when airlines address this issue and now we have IATA’s XML data standards, this has thankfully become much easier to do. So what are those key problems? How can you overcome them? And why should you bother to? We’ll answer all three of those questions in this blog.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created yet more problems for organisations relying on paper-based processes. Handling and exchanging paper-based documents can increase the risk of transmission — both by encouraging close contact and by people touching the same item. As we all know, there are plenty of other problems with paper-based processes too. They are vulnerable to human error, they are often slow and inefficient, and it’s usually hard to ensure there is good governance and compliance when processes are largely paper-based.
Yet for many airlines and fuel suppliers, paper documents still play a significant role in key stages of the fuel management process. For instance, some suppliers still issue paper fuel tickets that need to be signed by the pilot. As well as requiring an unnecessary ‘close contact’, this process often leads to fuel tickets going missing or reaching the airline late — sometimes even after they have received the fuel invoice.
Paper-based processes have had their day. In today’s business environment, there are few good reasons for using them.
Sometimes people assume that when you introduce digital processes for exchanging documents and data, the problems go away. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Take fuel invoicing for example. Even if an airline receives mainly electronic invoices, these invoices are usually sent in a variety of data formats and through a variety of communication channels. They might receive one invoice via email as a PDF, while another gets automatically transmitted to their airline’s accounting system from the supplier’s system. The result is that you have invoices coming in from many different sources and you need to spend time ensuring these get entered into your finance system correctly. This requires a significant amount of manual effort: either the Finance team has to manually input or upload data, or the IT team has to set up and maintain custom integrations with each supplier’s IT system.
Your ticket to a leaner airline
To try and overcome these issues, IATA has spent the last 15 years working with key industry players to establish a set of fuel data standards. Along with many other organisations, we have been part of the Fuel Data Standards Group that made this happen.
There are now four separate XML fuel data standards for the key transactions between airlines and fuel suppliers:
• Tender / Bid: Enables tendering for a fuel contract, the award of a fuel contract and the acceptance of an award
• Operational: Captures information required for a preliminary order through a revised and final order, concluding with a Fuel Summary
• Transaction: Captures information required by the supplier or customer to process and settle an electronic fuel transaction
• Invoice: A standardized electronic invoice for fuel purchases that can be used by both fuel suppliers and airlines in the airline industry.
The point of these data standards is to make data exchange across the industry more efficient and effective, which brings benefits to both suppliers and customers of aviation fuel.
So what are these benefits? Well, if all airlines and suppliers uses the IATA data standards for these key transactions, data can be exchanged between IT systems automatically, with almost no human intervention required. This would mean that:
• IT teams could stop wasting time on the set up and maintainance of multiple custom integrations because only one integration would be needed (to transmit and receive IATA XML documents)
• Teams could focus on checking discrepancies or errors with the data received, rather than having to gather, reformat and enter the data.
• There wouldn’t be any delayed fuel tickets or invoices so payment cycles would be faster.
• There would be fewer data errors.
In short, airlines and suppliers would save a lot of time and be able to use this recaptured time for more valuable activities.
This automatic data exchange should also improve relations between airlines and fuel suppliers, which can become strained when there are a lot of process delays and errors.
We designed FuelPlus Cloud Collaboration Services several years ago, to make it easy for airlines and suppliers to harness the power of IATA’s fuel data standards. Airlines and fuel suppliers can connect each other’s systems through our integration hub and streamline the exchange of fuel tenders/bids, fuel tickets and fuel invoices, without having to set up and maintain lots of different custom integrations.
Imagine how much time and money your Fuel team and your IT department would get back. And imagine how much faster you could settle your fuel invoices, improving relations with your suppliers.
We have three key tools which relate to three of IATA’s fuel data standards.
eTender — for easier fuel tenders
Effective fuel procurement is critical to an airline’s profitability because fuel is one of an airline’s largest expenses. However, tendering can be a slow process involving a lot of manual data capture and processing.
eTender is the solution. It automates and digitizes the exchange of all tender communications and data between airlines and fuel suppliers — from the tender invitation all the way through to the awarding and declining of bids.
This can reduce tender admin by up to 80% and shorten the tendering cycle. Because it centralizes all documents and records all bidding stages, there’s a complete digital audit trail, and the system uses encrypted documents and secured transport channels to ensure airlines are legally compliant too.
“We were able to significantly reduce the time required on admin and bid analysis
because the data is available in one place and automatically normalized…we were able to focus on the portion of the process where the biggest benefit could be achieved: the discussions and negotiations with our suppliers.”
Shakti Chopra, Senior Director – Procurement & Fuel Management, Atlas Air
eTickets — for easier fuel ticket collection
eTickets overcomes the problems airlines often experience with missing or delayed fuel tickets. Ground staff from your airline or your supplier can directly enter the fueling details to our web interface and then this gets sent to your airline’s back office for faster processing.
If you also subscribe to the fuel operations features in FuelPlus Cloud, the XML fuel ticket will be automatically linked to the relevant flight event held within your system. This reduces delays, errors and disputes, and increases productivity.
eInvoices — for easier invoice collection
Checking and processing invoices is usually very resource-intensive for airlines. eInvoice can help. It will automatically capture electronic invoices from multiple suppliers, check if they match the IATA standardized XML format, and provide feedback. So you will automatically know when an invoice has been sent and successfully transmitted to your system.
If you also subscribe to the fuel accounting features in FuelPlus Cloud, it can then perform automated invoice verification, by checking the details against the corresponding flight event, fuel ticket and contract data already held within your FuelPlus account. It will also flag up discrepancies for your in-house or outsourced teams to investigate.
“We were able to speed up the process of setting up connectivity between the systems and verifying invoices for the required XML invoice standard significantly.”
Ms. Franziska Lamass, Manager for Fuel IT Systems, Lufthansa
We connect business partners quickly and easily using IATA’s data standards and modern technologies such as APIs and web services. Airlines and suppliers need to create a FuelPlus Cloud account and subscribe to one or all of the services — eTender, eTickets or eInvoice.
Airlines and suppliers then need to configure their FuelPlus Cloud account once so it works with their in-house system (if your in-house system is FuelPlus Cloud, it will work automatically). From then on, FuelPlus Cloud does all the hard work, checking that tender documents, fuel tickets and invoices match the IATA XML standards and automatically notifying all relevant parties when these have been successfully received.
The more fuel suppliers we encourage to sign up to our collaboration services, the more everyone benefits. Imagine being able to seamlessly exchange tender documents, fuel tickets and invoices with all your suppliers through just one integration.
We can work with you to get your suppliers on board, explaining the benefits for them and making their setup process as easy as possible. For example, if they can’t easily generate IATA XML invoices, our technology can convert the invoices into XML for them.
For more information about our Collaboration Services, download our data sheets on eTender, eTickets, and eInvoice. You can also contact us to ask for a demo.
FuelPlus Cloud is your ticket to a leaner airline. We’ve just released a new whitepaper: ‘Cloud-based fuel and cost management: your ticket to a leaner airline’. It includes real examples of how airlines have reduced their direct operating costs, improved process efficiency and become leaner and more agile. Download your free copy now.