License to operate
Fredrik Johanson at ABB Crane Systems reminds us that crane operators in container terminals still need training even when intelligent automatic systems are handling a major part of the crane cycle
Once viewed as technologies of the future, crane automation and remote control are now proven technologies for container terminals and are appearing in more and more parts of the world. This evolution has changed, and continues to shape, the role of humans in the container handling process from ship to gate. Humans no longer continuously control processes; instead they monitor, handle exceptions and manage automated resources.
This shift has altered the training needs of crane operators in a modern container terminal where automatic functions control most of the crane cycle. Working with automated container handling systems demands new knowledge and attention skills. Therefore, an operator interacting with an automated system needs training on two levels. Firstly, an operator needs to be able to understand how the system works: what is the expected behaviour of the system and what are the available options? Secondly, an operator also needs practical hands-on training about how to operate using the system.
The first terminals in the world with remotely operated quay cranes are scheduled to open this year, followed in quick succession by other significant openings. With several big container terminals opening over a short period of time, the industry could well face a situation where people without quay crane experience take on jobs as operators of automated quay cranes.
The process of loading and discharging containers at the quay is complex and therefore training remains important. Here, simulators offer a cost and time effective form of training for quay crane operators.
Simulated operating scenarios offer an authentic learning experience. Simulator-based training is safe and allows operation to be practiced under different types of weather conditions, on different sizes and types of ships and in special situations without running the risk of damaging real cranes or goods. Simulators can also be used for assessing potential crane operators as part of the recruitment process.
With the crane cycle on the ship side not fully automated it is, in our experience, favourable to train quay crane operators to handle, to some extent, the crane in manual mode. Handling exceptions, such as damaged cell guides, is an essential part of the training and should be drilled. As a final step of the training program a test should be conducted to verify the learning results.
Training is an investment in competent staff and ensuring efficient operation of cranes in every situation. Training on handling the crane system should complement the terminal’s own training programs, such as those related to safety.
In a well-known quote, a chief financial officer asks his chief executive: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?” The chief executive answers by asking: What happens if we don’t and they stay?”
Automation makes handling containers easy but the need for training should not be forgotten. My question to you is: Are your crane operators trained to perform at their best with the automated system and under different operational conditions? Are they, in fact, ‘licensed’ to operate?
Fredrik Johanson is the general manager of marketing and sales at ABB Crane Systems. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Energy Engineering from Mälardalen University in Västerås, Sweden and an MBA in Project Management from Linköping University of Technology in Linköping, Sweden. Fredrik joined ABB in 1984 as a systems design engineer and has long and versatile experience on electrification and automation of cranes.
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