Disruption solved

COMMENT: Hands up if you are sick of hearing the phrase ‘disruptive technology’. My hand is up, in fact both are up, writes Carly Fields.

It’s a buzz-phrase being widely peddled as we grapple with the fact that change is on its way. Everyone, it seems, is certain that our industry is ripe for disruption. That’s a fact that I don’t deny, but not every new product out there is truly as disruptive as it proports to be, no matter what the hype claims.

Refreshingly, there are others out there that agree that ports and terminals can be optimised without the need for massive disruption. More refreshingly, that viewpoint was aired by a technology start-up at Navis World last month where ClearMetal’s Adam Compain explained that as an industry we are already forecasting and predicting, just not as well as we could be doing. Improve that process – yes, with technology – and productivity improvements will follow. That change does not need to be disruptive, he said.


Another common misconception is that there needs to be a surplus of data coupled with Internet of Things to garner the largest productivity wins. Not true, says Mr Compain. There’s a whole lot of good that you can do with the data already in your house. It’s there and when it is fed into some of the technology coming to market today ports can make quick wins a lot easier than they might think.


Another voice trying to dampen the disruptive misnomer is Navis’ Oscar Pernia. He says that ports don’t need to re-invent the wheel, rather we need to bridge the gaps and complement the software that we already have. Dr Pernia sees Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) as proven technologies that could connect the dots, something that echoes with ClearMetal as it uses both in its predictive logistics platform.


I concede that the mention of AI and ML might have you twitching in the same way that the overuse of disruptive technology does, but they shouldn’t. While they might be alien concepts to the gritty, industrial world of ports, both are solutions that are already proving themselves in the wider world. Both can improve port productivity without too much pain, if fed the right data and given the right algorithms.


We’re told that we already have the first and the second are on their way. Let’s hear it for optimisation through technological progression, rather than disruption - sounds a lot more palatable to me.


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