PTI Webinar: Is automation still the solution to today’s problems?


PTI began its webinar series on 24 March with a debate surrounding the future of automation and if it is really the answer to problems that ports, and terminals, are facing today.  

Moderating the webinar, Chuck Schneider, Chief Customer Officer at Navis, reflected on recent news including the Port of Houston’s complete shutdown following a worker testing positive for COVID-19, coronavirus.  

To access the webinar and review the debate please click here.

He noted that it is “concerning” that such a key node in the supply chain can be shut down potentially indefinitely and we need to think more now than ever about how we can do the same tasks with fewer people involved. 

Lars Jensen, CEO at SeaIntelligence Consulting, noted that this is not the first time we have seen major disruption to the supply chain, referencing the 2017 cyber-attack on Maersk which halted operations for the shipping line.  

He noted that the natural tendency is therefore to see automation as one of the answers. He added, automation can reduce the impact we see as larger risks, such as the halting of the supply chain, however it also brings with it its own risks, such as cyber-attacks.  

There are also risks on the people side as fewer people have more responsibility. If that person is taken out of the workforce there are likely fewer people to replace them as it is a higher skilled workforce with the insertion of automation.  

The point was noted by Dr Rafiq Swash, Founder, Aidrivers, who said: “We are moving to the stage of high skill people and those people will not be easily replaceable.”  

Certainly, he noted, ports and terminals are now going from terminal operator to a technological company because they use more complex systems and integrated solutions. 

As we look towards an automated future we do need to continue to consider the standards used for data exchange and how we integrate all the systems into one, this point was raised by Dr. Oscar Pernia Director of Automation & Process Engineering, Terminal Investment Limited.  

Pernia noted, “We need to make data the oil for automation to work properly.”  

Finally, Wolfgang Lehmacher, WEF Expert, World Economic Forum Network, highlighted three trends: the evolution of global trade, the need to make operations more environmentally friendly and digitization (including automation), which he described as “a multifaceted opportunity”. 

In a positive end to the presentations Lehmacher said that a new era of globalization will be realized and it is the new digital era.  

He also highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic will break the regulatory barrier to online tools and interactions. This could stimulate automation in a large way as barriers, mentioned previously, include data standards and the sharing of information.  

To access the webinar and review the debate please click here.

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