Data’s shaping future terminal operations

Industry Database

ABB Ports’ Björn Henriksson explains how knowledge is power when it comes to analysing the statistics behind the moves.

The numerous systems used in container terminals generate, collect and log an enormous amount of data every day. Further digitalisation and smart applications are needed to convey to the users what these systems already know so that they, together with us, the suppliers, can continue to make container terminals safer, greener and more productive.

Automation as such has already increased safety and productivity in container terminals by separating humans from big machines and eliminating bottlenecks and inefficient manual processes. Introduction of automation in container terminals has also meant taking the first steps in digitalisation. To mention a couple of examples: gate automation has digitalised gate transactions and crane optical character recognition has made it possible to automate and digitalise container hand-offs. In both cases, automation combined with digitalisation has enabled a centralised way of handling exceptions remotely from an office building.

Automation and digitalisation drive changes in roles and processes, and in the systems themselves. We now see that digitalisation of the entire ship-to-shore (STS) operation from the ship to the remote operator enables increased productivity and enhancement of quay operations.

ABB’s QuayPro is a smart application that fully digitalises the information exchange within the whole team involved in the operation of STS cranes, that is to say the remote operator, checker and deckman. It visualises data related to a container move and what is waiting under the crane, as well as the original loading/discharging plan, and the status of the bay. The whole STS team has access to information about the work queues and orders dispatched, and to changes in executing them — in real-time.

With this information exchange digitalised, the roles and processes can evolve. Checkers can become remote checkers and work in the office environment, just like remote operators. And since the remote operator has visibility of all the work queues and orders, he can for instance bypass a certain cell if the container to be picked up is stuck, to ensure uninterrupted discharging. Through QuayPro, the information about the changed sequence is instantly available for the rest of the team.

During loading, the deckman can follow the loading in real-time. The deviations from the original stowage plan will be fed back to TOS directly from QuayPro, which significantly improves the quality of BAyPLan Including Empties.

Visualisation and analysis of data provide valuable insight for process and performance improvement. The analytics can be used for locating bottlenecks in production and for verifying that the work orders have been executed in the correct manner. The crane cycle can be analysed to see where on the cycle the performance falls behind compared with an optimum cycle.

The above examples demonstrate how further digitalisation and utilisation of what the systems already know can be used for shaping terminal operations for the future — without forgetting one thing: human domain knowledge still matters, both when it comes to developing smart applications and analysing the data that the applications make visible to us.

Björn Henriksson is technology manager at ABB Ports.

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