Dawn of a digital age

"Ports will continue to be important points of convergence in the global logistics flow, and are convenient beachheads to instigate changes within the wider logistics community," Oh Bee Lock, PSA International
Platform: PSA unboXed enables companies to test-bed their solutions in a live port environment
Platform: PSA unboXed enables companies to test-bed their solutions in a live port environment

PSA’s Oh Bee Lock discusses the potential impact of the new digital world for ports and terminals

Technology has always been a key driver of change in the way we organise, live, work and play. But the wave of digitisation has scaled up so exponentially in the last decade, such that we are now living in a hyper-connected world, emplacing ubiquitous computing power, pervasive storage and communications networks in the hands of enterprises and consumers. This followed a proliferation of direct connectivity and instant feedback, voluminous data visibility, and advent of smart algorithms that can analyse, learn, predict and problem-solve rational, data-driven situations. Increasingly, smart robotics and autonomous machines are replacing traditional production lines, and (soon) transportation in public spaces.

The new digital world is driving long-lasting and disruptive effects across a wide spectrum - transforming lives, evolving and disrupting business models. Never before have individuals and businesses needed to cope with such diversity and fusion of technological disruptions, and evolving new business propositions.

Industry incumbents not only have to watch their traditional competitors, but also risk being unseated by leaner, faster disruptors from the outside. For example, banks and financial institutions are facing new challengers using financial technology, or fintech, to cut down traditional boundaries.

We should pro-actively cast our sights and focus on the opportunities made available by digital technologies, collaborate and work together on new value pools for existing and new customers, and be agile enough to lead and steer the development of port technology, or portech, and logistics technology, or logtech, across new horizontal networks in our industry. Already, there are start-ups with platforms aggregating demand and “uber-rising” supply chain players improving visibility, tightening cycle times and enabling instant information flow.

PSA has been an early adopter of portech and logtech; our proprietary CITOS terminal operating system and PORTNET port community system in Singapore were among the world’s first in computerising port operations and connecting port, shipping and logistics communities. We have continually updated our systems and have invested in a new GTOSTM terminal operating system which will be rolled out to our terminals globally.

To tap into the energy and imagination of new technologies, PSA launched its corporate venture capital fund PSA unboXed, whose initial technology incubator program seeks to co-create new inventions and innovative solutions. Start-ups and technology solution providers will have the opportunity to collaborate with PSA and industry partners to incubate ideas and test-bed their solutions in an unparalleled live port environment and the larger logistics community.  

Points of convergence

Ports will continue to be important points of convergence in the global logistics flow, and are convenient beachheads to instigate changes within the wider logistics community, in order to enable cross integration of information exchanges and process streamlining across the supply chain. To steer the adoption of new technologies for its terminals, PSA has put together Container Port 4.0TM which encapsulates our technology vision of the next-generation port.

The port of the future will be a hyper-connected port that creatively deploys smart technologies to deliver sustained value to customers and stakeholders in the port, shipping and broader logistics communities, increase asset utilisation, improve customer satisfaction and create new value pools for stakeholders. Tapping on emerging technologies like Internet of Things, cloud computing, blockchain, augmented reality/virtual reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, emulation, advanced analytics, robotics, exoskeleton and automation, PSA has committed about S$150m (US$107m) to innovation projects for Container Port 4.0TM.

Lastly, technologies will continue to emerge and evolve - and exit for some! While they bring about promises of business and operational advantages, it is equally important that we invest to reset our culture and the competencies of people. Only then can we bring about sustainable value pools and promise of a better future to our stakeholders. 

Oh Bee Lock is head of Group Technology at PSA International.

The six core tracks of PSA International’s Container Port 4.0TM: 

1.      A Connected Community – The port, shipping and logistics eco-systems are able to collaborate seamlessly within and across networks, and to achieve operations efficiency and higher service levels

2.      Smart Machines and Systems – Equipment within the port are connected, able to stream situational data for enhanced sense-making and pre-emptive response

3.      Pre-emptive Health, Safety and Security Management – Use of integrated analytics and technologies to support pro-active risk mitigation and intervention 

4.      Sustainable Environment Management – Smart systems throughout the port actively track and manage energy consumption and recycling, reducing our energy footprint 

5.      Integrated and Optimised Operations – Data-driven operations enable consistent and sustained high productivity, asset utilisation and customer service levels

6.      Automation– Automation of cargo handling and other port operations



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