Big Data is still a relatively new term within the port and terminal industry. But according to Forbes, 87% of enterprises believe that Big Data will redefine the competitive landscape in the next three years, with as many as 89% believing that the companies who are not actively using it risk losing market share.
Although arguably still in the embryonic stage of its development, Big Data analytics is a tool that is being utilised across industries and has become the highest priority in areas such as aviation (61%) and manufacturing (42%).
The term ‘Big Data’ itself was defined in 2001 by Doug Laney of IT research and advisory firm Gartner under the three Vs of variety, velocity and volume. Variety relates to the wide-ranging methods available for capturing data, velocity occurs in the rate of changes and the speed at which data is linked, and volume is the number of times Big Data is mentioned online and on social media. But on a core level, what is Big Data and why is it so important for global businesses?
Dr Wayne Applebaum, VP of Analytics and Data Science at Avalon Consulting, LLC, said: “It could be characterised by some to include non-traditional methods needed to store, process, retrieve or analyse the data (regardless of its ‘bigness’).
“Such technologies like the Hadoop Ecosystem or NOSQL emerged to serve a variety of data processing needs. Hadoop refers to what has evolved into a number of open source software implementations that distribute processing of data sets across a large number of processes. Working in parallel this could provide far faster results.”
According to an article published by Adrian Bridgwater on Forbes, the results of a Big Data user can very much depend on how proactive a person is in identifying data patterns, and using these to identify what is of real value to a business. Harvard Magazine argue that Big Data could lead to a revolution in the statistical and computational methods used to analyse Big Data, with new ways of linking datasets playing a key role in generating fresh insights.
It is clear that experts agree on the importance of Big Data for exploiting business potential, however it is not clear on how important it is for success. To gain a better understanding, Dr Applebaum explains the impacts for businesses that do not make the best use of Big Data analytics.
“The answer to this question will vary from business to business. As with any capability, it depends on the importance of a solution to a company. For example, in the area of preventative maintenance, the ability to harvest and monitor sensor data to predict when a part might fail (as opposed to using the standard manufacturers suggested maintenance period) could result in maintenance savings or avoiding unexpected catastrophic failure.
“Further understanding and consolidating this information across vessels and parts providers could provide insights that would be more difficult or impossible to perform, without big data technology.”
Building on from this point of using sensor data to better predict when a piece of machinery is reaching the end of its life-cycle, Rodrigo Garro, Project Manager with port automation engineering provider Orbita Ports and Terminals, believes that capturing data from equipment sensors and visual inspections, among other factors, could help to design a predictive model for each type of machine. This could lead to cost savings and maximise the efficiency of port equipment.
Elaborating on this point, Mr Garro said: “In my opinion, the best results of the application of Big Data in terminals will be the reduction in operational costs. For example: in the majority of terminals, the crane operator of an STS is making operations only one quarter of the time. What is he doing the rest of the time? Usually waiting to get a container ready to load or waiting for an empty truck to unload a container on.
“Then, why is there no other truck/container ready? Can we solve the problem just by increasing the number of trucks? Usually it is not the best solution, because you have more traffic inside the terminal and the operational costs rise. Where is the bottleneck and how to solve it? These are the typical questions that can be answered with a good analysis based on Big Data.”
As well as providing a predictive model for each type of port machine, which can potentially lead to operational cost-savings, Big Data could also have application with a TOS system in what CyberLogitec believe can lead to performance enhancement and problem-solving. According to the company, a Big Data platform can be utilitsed to manage TOS information and signals related to crane position, status, and GPS position signal.
“There are patterns for every vessel container stacking,” says Jake Kim, Terminal Business Unit at CyberLogitec, “these patterns can be used to simulate future terminal operations and performance predictions. Using those valuable analyses, a terminal planner can make an optimised plan for yard space and equipment, as well as accurately predict the necessary number of cranes, yard trucks and other container handling equipment.
“There also could be certain patterns. For example, cranes show different performance levels according to various factors such as weather, workload, drivers, container type, and yard density. Once we know those patterns, we can find solutions to overcome this and finally enhance productivity.”
Essentially, Big Data could be relevant for companies across a broad range of industries, but the success of Big Data analytics will depend on the goals of a particular business. In the port arena, capturing data may have the most application for improving the efficiency of port equipment, TOS operations, and for boosting the overall logistics process.