The International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s Smart Facility Operational Capacity (SFOC) program has been officially launched as of December 2019.

IATA designed the SFOC program to enhance the cargo handling process by standardizing global cargo handling operations, in addition to reducing audit complexity and duplication in cargo handling facilities around the world.

The cargo handling process has long been in need of improvement – an estimated 360,000 days each year are wasted on redundant cargo handling audits. 

To address this issue, IATA initiated the SFOC program in 2017, then pilot-tested the program in six cargo handling facilities around the world in 2018. Airlines observed the pilots to ensure that the program satisfied airlines’ operational quality and oversight obligations.

“Auditing is critical to ensure the global standards that underpin the safe and efficient operations in the aviation industry,” said Glyn Hughes, IATA’s Global Head of Cargo. “IATA’s strong capabilities in auditing have been proven in the successful IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and CEIV programs. The SFOC program will bring this expertise to general cargo handling operations.”

The SFOC program is comprised of two components:

1. Standardized Global Audit Program

IATA’s Smart Facility Operational Capacity Audit Certification (SFOC Audit Certification) is geared toward raising the global standards for cargo handling operations. The program will certify facilities that adhere to IATA’s recommended best practices for cargo handling, as well as IATA’s Cargo Handling Manual. The aim of the SFOC Audit Certification is to cut the industry’s redundant efforts in half, as the certification eliminates the need to validate generic cargo operation procedures. There will be a single mutually recognized central audit program across the industry.

2.  Committed Audit Reduction

The Audit Reduction Commitment (ARC) is the pledge to reduce audits in the industry. The SFOC program aims to achieve this reduction by introducing a revised audit scope, to be clearly defined through the ARC. A gap analysis of current audit standards will conducted in order to determine which standards need to be assessed and which do not, therefore allowing SFOC certified facilities to streamline the cargo handling process and eliminate unnecessary audits. 

The first airline and cargo handling facility to join the SFOC program in December are Singapore Airlines and SATS Ltd., which were the first airline to sign the ARC and the first SFOC Certified facility, respectively. SATS Airport Services is one of the busiest cargo and mail handlers in the world, handling 85% of the cargo that passes through Singapore Changi Airport.

After signing these two partners to the program, Hughes stated, “We anticipate many airlines conducting their individual gap analyses and signing the ARC (Audit Reduction Agreement). This is a crucial step for the program’s adoption across cargo handling operators and achieving our stated audit reduction goal for the entire industry.”

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