Humanised automation is the way forward

Victoria International Container Terminal Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) is the world’s first fully automated international container handling facility. Image courtesy of Kalmar
Industry Database

Regardless of how advanced automation becomes, we will still need people at terminals in the coming years.

This is the argument from Kalmar’s vice president, Frank Kho, and Lasse Eriksson, vice president of new service business concepts, who said that while we often talk about unmanned container terminals, “it is important to realise that there is in fact no such thing” and that we need to focus on humanised automation.

They said: “automation is the clear way forward to improve safety, predictability and business performance at terminals”, but stressed that the container handling industry is a complex field and a service industry that will “always require high-level thinking that automated systems simply can't provide.”

Behavioural intelligence

We should consider the best way to control systems that combine automated and human-driven equipment and whether we could we improve the connection between man and machine and make automated machines understand the behaviour and next intentions of machines that are controlled by humans – and vice versa.

Human-machine interfaces have an important role, emphasised Kho and Eriksson. Interfaces need firstly, to provide an intuitive way of steering the system and, secondly, make complex system processes understandable to users. They also need to be designed to accommodate – and not limit – human behaviour and capabilities.

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