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Visualization of terminal processes and operations: just a digital playground or a must in a digitalized logistical environment?

View of the container terminal from the water.

3D vizualisation of terminals as a chance?

Today’s terminal operators face challenges like constant pressure by global carriers / vessel operators and by landside operators likewise. To cope with these is even harder under the current uncertainties on global economic growth: how is the development of my terminal evolving in short- and medium-term view? And what if the world economic growth recovers? Would this cause a demand for an entirely new “greenfield”-terminal or just a larger or enhanced container terminals? What if the world economy tends to a recession? How can we gain a higher level of efficiency already now?

This brings up a huge bunch of questions particularly if it comes to more flexibility on container terminal operations necessary to pace up with the present competitors and global players? Do we need more prime movers and a higher level of automation? Do we have to bring in more STSs and maybe less but more qualified and specialised workers? What’s about an at least moderate change in the container-terminal-layout to gain shorter ways for my AGVs? How can I handle with less equipment and keep the service level right up to my customers’ demands?

Ongoing and “never ending” negotiations lead to lower rates per move and therefore further stressing annual revenues and cost targeting.


Process Automation of container terminals

As process automation of a container terminal can be one of the suitable answers, we should keep in consideration that this is not a solution by itself. Only if the terminal operator has conducted an uncompromised digitalization of its operational and internal processes beforehand, it will gain enough data to predict incoming and outgoing cargo flows. This should also pave the way to further automation of the terminal’s equipment like automated STSs, RTGs, Straddle Carriers and so on. In combination with streamlined interfaces within the supply chain system it is embedded in, this is the way how container terminal operators can generate the necessary data-pooling for a smooth cargo flow even in fully automated terminals.

Big Data and Big Picture

This is the point when it comes to terms like “Big Data” and the so-called “Big Picture” that can be generated out of the vast amount of data being collected in different systems. Normally, these are represented by a Terminal Operating System (TOS) running the daily processes of the container terminal from vessel- and yard-planning and operations. On the other side of the range we can find high performance analytic software like simulation or even emulation applications that can easily predict bottlenecks in the yard and at the berth to name only two of many possible “productivity-killers”. Removing these can boost the all-over company performance to a level which had been unmatched without this type of simulation applications.

The sum of these systems is forming “Big Data” and maybe even the obligation for datamining but can’t be used in real-time applications. They are mostly inappropriate as a base for solving the day-to-day multilayer problems evolving in container ports when a short-term-response is required.

3D-visualization to get a terminal overview

But by translating these figures into immersive pictures like a 3D-application that can easily be analysed by the professional terminal staff and decision making management; this enables the ship- and yard-planner and even higher ranking senior staff to take the necessary real time decisions based on a much larger scope of facts and figures than expected before.

As a conclusion, a full scope and simultaneous overview on all the terminals processes comparable to a control tower functionality and with immersive and scenario-oriented refurbished data like in 3D-applications: this offers the opportunity to watch these in faster response and in a much broader view.

Subsequently, you can watch your current shift operations and the impact it has on future shift planning while fight obstacles and shortages before they occur to boost your productivity!!

By Oliver Jelsch, Head of Sales akquinet port consulting


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