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Marubeni Corporation amplifies airport business with Assaia investment for AI-driven ground handling

  • AI Driven Ground Handling
  • Koichi Tagei, General Manager at Marubeni Corporation and Max Diez, CEO of Assaia

Marubeni Corporation invests in Assaia to introduce AI-enabled Apron AI to Southeast Asia, enhancing ground handling efficiency and addressing labor shortages in the aviation sector.

As passenger numbers grow exponentially, Marubeni Corporation has strengthened its airport business with an investment in Assaia to address labor shortages with AI computer vision of ground handling events.

Marubeni Corporation, the joint owner of Swissport Japan, has invested in Assaia and joined their Strategic Partner Community, a global network of aviation leaders, to exclusively bring Apron AI to Southeast Asia. Assaia’s Apron AI is the trusted name in turnaround optimization, driving growth, safety, efficiency, and sustainability for airports, airlines and ground handlers. This investment agreement will facilitate Marubeni in expanding the scope of its exclusive distribution rights for ApronAI to Southeast Asia, for the first time since obtaining these rights for the Japanese market in 2019.

ApronAI gives full visibility of the apron events for airports and ground handlers. By providing full insight into every turnaround, it revolutionizes operational processes and empowers collaborative decision-making.

With increased visibility and alerts, ground handlers can optimize performance using its dedicated artificial intelligence to monitor the real-time progress of ground handling events such as the connection of the passenger boarding bridge, loading of cargo, aircraft fueling, and wing walkers.

This is achieved by utilizing footage captured by surveillance cameras already on the apron and applying AI computer vision. Currently, much of the critical information involved in the processes of airport operations is controlled and held individually by the parties involved—namely airlines, ground handlers, operational staff, administrators, and control towers—which can lead to inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Keeping track of ground-handling events requires collaboration and a transition from visual observation and communication via walkie-talkies to real-time, automated alerts. ApronAI can be seamlessly integrated to satisfy diverse individual needs, providing real-time alerts, proven to increase efficiency and safety and free up employees’ time to focus on key activities.

Marubeni’s investment in Assaia and their collaboration in the Strategic Partner Community is set to revolutionize ground handling across Southeast Asia.” said Max Diez, CEO of Assaia, “With the introduction of Apron AI, airports and ground handlers can expect enhanced operational processes, increased efficiency, and improved safety. This partnership signifies a significant step towards optimizing turnaround optimization and driving growth in the aviation industry in the region.”

The number of air passengers plummeted globally due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inevitably, this impact was also felt on the number of inbound passengers visiting Japan. However, the Japanese government expects a speedy recovery and aims to welcome 40 million inbound visitors in 2025, the year in which the Kansai region is set to host the World Expo in Osaka. This number is also expected to increase to 60 million by 2030. Meanwhile, labor shortfall in airport staff, including ground handlers, is a serious problem urgently requiring solutions. Digital transformation is considered to be one of the domains that is expected to offer such solutions going forward.

This investment is an important milestone for us.” comments Satoshi Takechi, General Manager of Marubeni’s Aviation, Space & Defense Department. “It not only strengthens our partnership with Assaia, but propels our airport business to expand in Southeast Asia, where we believe we can play a more vital role.”

Through this investment, Marubeni will expand the scope of its exclusive distribution rights for ApronAI from Japan to Southeast Asia. We also aim to grow our expertise by combining ApronAI with knowledge and solutions developed by Swissport Japan, a ground handling company in which Marubeni has invested (51% Swissport International, 49% Marubeni owned), and by AiRO Inc., a company that aims to automate specialized ground support equipment in airports (66% Marubeni, 34% ZMP Inc. owned). Achieving this will furthermore expedite the implementation of Digital transformation in the domain of Marubeni’s airport businesses.

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Student at the Department of Business Administration of the Athens University of Economics and Business.