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CTAC 2020: A vision for automation

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Automation is essential for terminals to stay competitive over the next three to five years and at CTAC 2020 the keynote speech explored how to achieve automation through to 2030.

During his keynote speech on 1 December at CTAC 2020 Younus Aftab, CTO, Navis, said, “Every challenge presents new opportunity.”

He also noted that despite the events of 2020 and the COVID-19 crisis “there is an overwhelming desire to automate and invest”.

Aftab noted in his presentation that there is now a move towards ‘SMARTization’, not just automation.

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Most equipment found at ports and terminals has now been automated, for example AGVs, trucks and straddle carriers. He questioned if it is it in terms of the evolution that people are looking for.

Aftab noted that now it is time to think about what this equipment can do for the ports and terminals. Equipment is becoming smarter because of the data that is continuously being gathered.

“The equipment is now starting to think and become smarter,” he noted. This means for example that equipment will know how to act before a collision or congestion happens in terminals.

“Don’t think about automation as just equipment automation but think about it as end-to-end automation…. something that puts everything together,” Aftab added. 

Today we are seeing IoT devices; secure insights like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and blockchain; the control room; cloud adoption; and connected software are coming together.

Incorporating all these elements into an end-to-end automation solution it allows terminals to leverage the power of data and knowledge for both customers and stakeholders.

He also placed key emphasis on the data this is being gathered by automated systems. Noting that while the equipment is getting smarter with the data it is collecting via sensors etc the data is only useful if it is interpreted and used in the correct way.

“Journey to automation is going to be driven by data and you have to think about Key performance Initiatives that go beyond moves per hours,” he said.

For those looking to begin their automation journey he encourages starting small with a blueprint of that is to be achieved.

“Think about automated decision making as something that goes on an in an ongoing basis. Think about configurations in the choices you are making for both hardware and software. Make them modular and make them ready for the future.

“At the end of the day this all drives better operator experience.”

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