Terminals must embrace automation to evolve

Kalmar automated straddle carriers Safety and security issues at terminals can be addressed by automation.
Industry Database

Terminals are out of date when it comes to automation and should embrace it to reduce operating costs and optimise efficiency and space for terminal operators, an industry leader has declared.

Dr Oscar Pernia, vice president of terminal operational innovation at US technology specialist Navis, said: “Our industry is ten years behind other industries in using automation. Current terminal automation solutions focus on internal operations. Terminals are still isolated black boxes in the value chain. We need to consolidate automation not just in equipment, but also from the process and decision perspective.”

Safety, security and the requirement of an increasingly flexible and skilled workforce can be effectively met by automation, believes Dr Pernia.

Dr Jari Hämäläinen, director of terminal automation at Finnish cargo handling solutions and services company Kalmar, added: “When a manual terminal is converted to an automated operation, the labour costs drop by up to 60 per cent, maintenance by 20 per cent and power and fuel costs up to 25 per cent.”

Automation increases environmental sustainability, said Dr Hämäläinen. He explained it can save energy by optimising the performance of machines, as well optimising the entire machine fleet to operate in any given context.

Dr Hämäläinen warns that converting to automation is a complex process that requires the compatibility of all systems, however, he adds, technology is probably the easiest aspect to deal with when making the transition from manual operations to automated systems.

Considering a future with autonomous container vessels, containers handled by robots onto a driverless truck and transported to a highly automated factory or a distribution centre, Pernia stresses that for technology to stay relevant to progress, fundamental changes in planning and execution processes must be introduced.

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