Aviation supply chain leader Total Airport Services offers assistance from cargo handling to passenger services.
Building a company from the ground up is usually based less on strategy and more on opportunity: opportunity, after all, is where the revenue is.
In its early years, Total Airport Services found most of its successes on the ground-handling side of the aviation service industry. The owners of the company were known for this service, so the relationships followed.
As the business evolved, it was important for the leadership of the company that it diversify.
“We considered our revenue portfolio like an investment portfolio where stocks equal cargo handling, bonds equal ground handling, and cash equals manpower contracts and other support services,” said Gerald Kolasch, COO.
In this industry, cargo is high risk. Volumes can fluctuate greatly, it's difficult to forecast, and there are long-term liabilities.
“The company went from freighter ground handling into cargo, and at some point the business became very top heavy in cargo,” he said.
To balance the scale, Total Airport Services went after passenger ground handling—a more medium risk investment—and later into labor contracts. The strategy, of course, is to have a well-balanced, diverse portfolio covering cargo, passenger and freighter ground handling, labor contracts, and specialty services for risk diversion and long-term sustainability.
With this recent balance of work, and with the continuing support of its majority shareholder, CCR Group, Total Airport Services is instituting industry-best projects and strategies to take the lead.
Total Airport Services best-in-class project is a two-year endeavor comprised of sub-projects and different components to push the company forward in the industry.
One of the leadership team’s main focuses is on career development for the company’s employees.
“We recognize that in many jobs, the only way for people to progress is to move into management roles,” Kolasch said. “Sometimes the employee is moved without being asked if they actually want to lead.”
To combat an outdated corporate structure, Total Airport Services has created two career paths: one that allows employees to pursue the more technical aspects of the company and industry, and one that follows a traditional managerial path.
“We value the technical duties of our employees, and we need strong, qualified people in these roles. For people who are more interested in being leaders, we provide growth for them too.”
The company has established steps for each career path that includes financial progress, training, and certifications to allow employees to grow into their determined career.
Studying Aviation Supply Chain
To run the most efficient aviation supply chain possible, Total Airport Services also hired a consulting team to study its cargo facilities and to find procedural inefficiencies.
Experts went into every operation and broke down processes to the smallest detail.
“It was countless hours of study,” Kolasch said. “They looked at how a box comes in, how it moves from the front to the back of the facility, the time it takes, the number of touches, the size and weight of each box.”
From there, the team would develop a new 3D model of the warehouse layout and simulate the operation. The model would then be tested in the real environment, where small changes would be made and carried back into the virtual model. The result is a finely tuned operation backed by a virtual model that is used for training.
“It’s a great way to take new people through their processes. When they get on the floor, they’re not lost. They feel a lot more comfortable with their duties. We run a very efficient operation this way. "TAS' proprietary operational model is designed to be replicable for any customer, no matter the size or location, and to support TAS' growth in a sustainable way.
Split Levels of Management
Total Airport Services’ best-in-class project also addressed the corporate structure on its management level. By splitting it into two categories, the company can play to the strengths of their employees.
Managers who are in the field represent Total Airport Services’ routine management: they look after the aviation supply chain based on existing policies, procedures, and practices.
“The role is predictable: the corporate team knows exactly what goes on in the field, and can regulate accordingly. This transparency takes a lot of the anxiety off management,” said Kolasch.
The other side of the operations management team focuses on continuous improvement. These managers are not as involved in the day-to-day operation of the company, but are watching from the sidelines and figuring out how to do things better and more efficiently. This focus helps make sure that the company evolves in the right direction over time.
“When you’re building a company, everyone wears multiple hats. If you don’t move away from that, people can lose focus very quickly.
“Separating these two management positions has created a much greater focus throughout our operation.”
The company’s best-in-class project has benefitted its strategic partnerships, too.
“Our strategic relationships are very important,” Kolasch said. “It’s a major component of our growth.”
Total Airport Services worked with a major American fashion retailer on a logistics project in Columbus, Ohio, utilizing best practices from its internal best-in-class project.
It’s unique approach to planning and designing an air cargo gateway for Columbus and its catchment area in the Midwest is drawing attention in the industry.
“The retailer got together with the airport and developed and built the infrastructure by means of a public private partnership, while TAS played a major role in the design. Today its home to a number of signature freighter carriers providing scheduled service to this airport.”
What makes it unique? It’s not just a facility for carriers, but also for freight forwarders and aviation supply chain firms
“There are several benefits to this approach. We’ve reduced the number of touches, and cargo isn’t moved around to multiple facilities. It speeds up the supply chain, and creates a cost-effective service structure.
This model doesn’t exist anywhere else. With 12 scheduled flights a week from four major carriers, and cargo growth upwards of 100 percent, shippers and forwarders are recognizing the value of this concept.
With another year left of its best-in-class project, we can only expect more innovative, efficient solutions to the aviation service industry from Total Airport Services.
Total Airport Services operates at eight airports throughout the United States, providing ground handling (freighter and passenger), passenger services, cargo warehousing and mail handling, as well as airport support services.
TAS has experienced steady and sustainable growth since it began operations in 2004. The basis for this success has been the high degree of involvement in TAS operations by its senior management team, and its focus on developing long-term relationships with its customer base.
In November 2015 TAS completed the sale of 70 percent of its ownership to an affiliate of CCR S.A., one of the largest infrastructure concession companies in the world. CCR holds interests in a wide array of transportation-related systems, including ownership and management of capital city airports throughout Latin America in Brazil, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Curacao. The acquisition marks CCR's expansion into the North American aviation market.