Peel’s fully-automated terminal bears fruit
Investing in a fully-automated steel terminal at the Port of Liverpool’s Canada Dock has brought numerous benefits, Peel Ports’ Andy Grindley told Port Strategy.
The company’s solutions development manager for bulk terminal operations said that having the fully-automated terminal has delivered advantages in a number of areas.
“The automated system allowed us to increase our storage capacity by probably 40% to 50%,” he said. “It also provided significant health and safety benefits. The beauty of the automation is in our current warehouse is that we can store approximately 80,000 tonnes of steel coil cargo with just two operators.
“The only time the operator comes near a steel coil is either feeding into the warehouse or loading into a haulage wagon; there’s no need for them to go and walk down aisles to find coils or there’s no need for them to keep a track of where the coils are because the IT system does all that.”
Mr Grindley estimates that the port has benefitted from a 50% reduction in labour. “You could technically run the warehouse with one person, but obviously, with the amount of demand that’s out there it’s better to have the fall back of one person, just from a purely operational point of view.”
He added that with the global steel industry defined by peaks and troughs, and that coming up with a sound financial business case for terminal automation depends on the time of year that a port decides to put its money or its business case forward.
“There needs to be elements of both risk and innovation on the ports’ part to be able to invest in automation and see the long-term benefits. Luckily, Peel Ports was willing to take that chance and it’s paid off massively for us. We invested £9m in that terminal and that included the technology, the gantry cranes, and the infrastructure.
He believes that there is currently a lack of visibility for customers on where their general cargo actually is and that customers managing their stock levels have to do it all themselves, relying on manual systems and manual processes. “We wanted to change the game,” he said.
Explaining the automation system used, Mr Grindley said the port opted for the CareGo System: “We have two manual gantry cranes with some added technology, and the CareGo software creates the automated system.”
Summing up, Mr Grindley said: “From a health and safety benefits point of view, the system is absolutely phenomenal - I’d say probably best in class. From a strategic point of view, customers can see where their cargo is, the precise time it arrived, the precise time that it was shipped onto the back of a haulage wagon which enables them to start planning their supply chain better as well. From a planning tool perspective, as well, it’s definitely been a benefit to the port.”
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