Richard Hepworth of Trelleborg’s marine systems operation considers whether the global shipping industry is keeping up with the technological pace of change.
No-one in the shipping industry denies that automation and Big Data will have a real impact on how we do business, our own research tells us so. But there’s a noticeable disconnect between understanding the significance and opportunities of these new technologies, and actually doing something about them.
According to Trelleborg’s upcoming Preparing for the Port of the Future Report, over 90% of ports, terminals and shippers accept the importance of Big Data, but when it comes to capturing and then interpreting different types of performance data this number drops significantly.
At a time when our industry is under pressure to reduce costs and be more efficient, embracing the opportunity to work smarter should be a priority. There are many different types of data available to port and terminal operators and shipping lines, all of which can deliver real efficiency gains. For example, electronically tracking and standardizing data on pilot performance and adherence to approach routes is monitored by less than a third of operators, yet this has significant impact on areas such as fuel efficiency, missing vessel slots and cost control.
We also know from our research that shipping lines are keen to have greater insights into the speed and angle of berthing but that currently only a fifth of ports offer this. This is just one example of many (see the full Report for more), but it shows that by putting in place smart technologies that enable more sophisticated data capture, there can be benefits for all parties, from improving customer relationships to understanding and avoiding berthing delays.
The old adage of don’t run before you can walk can be applied to Big Data. An easy first step to increase efficiency is to turn existing unstructured data into something useful. Audit, digitize and normalize existing metrics and formats to standardize data. This standardization makes analysis easier to produce informed decision-making that can refine processes, optimize efficiencies, improve safety, identify maintenance and improve customer relationships. And that’s just for starters.
It’s not a case of data becoming the new business currency, it already is. Smart technologies offer an immediate opportunity for port and terminal operators and shipping lines alike, together let’s take advantage of them now.