Workarounds: just say no!



ContainerTrac, Inc., Emeryville, CA, USA


Marine terminal operators have been searching for accurate Position Detection Systems (PDS) for about a decade and, while several types of solutions have been deployed (RFID/RTLS and DGPS at the top of the list), few, if any, have truly delivered the throughput gains, cost reductions, and process forensics operators expected.

Additionally, while it is evident many operators have indeed reduced their costs under the umbrella of these PDS deployments; it is also likely that these reductions were simply the result of driving excess labour out of the yard as opposed to truly automating what have traditionally been manual functions.

Opportunity awaits

Adding to the long list of industry issues in a slowed economy, an undercurrent has developed at existing PDS deployments where, instead of admitting a particular solution hasn’t measured up and moving onto next generation alternatives, most operators continue to implement workarounds, since sunk costs include not only dollars but past decisions.

This can be defensible when everyone is doing it, but at a time when the industry needs to become as efficient and effective as possible, it is problematic in that an aggressive migration from manual to automated processes becomes stagnant. It is time for industry leaders to take charge; eliminating workaround-centric mentalities in favour of more complete technology planning.

The bird’s eye view

When the positioning accuracy of a handoff under the hook is compromised because of multipath and blockage from the quay crane and vessel (which it will be) – just say no to being forced to implement secondary solutions such as OCR, RFID/RTLS, infrared, or just plain manual entry by a hatch clerk when there are shortcomings in the deployed PDS. Begin to explore and demand PDS alternatives that can accurately capture the position of the yard hostlers under the hook without additional

When the positioning accuracy of a handoff at the stacks is challenged because the CHEs and hostlers are individually only about 3-5 metres accurate, and for some reason the PDS always seems to marry the vehicle passing by – just say no to RFID/ RTLS, infrared, sonar, or just plain manual entry by a yard clerk. Begin to explore and demand PDS alternatives that achieve positioning accuracy on all vehicles (especially top picks and hostlers) measured in centimetres not metres.
When the positioning accuracy of a top pick, side pick, or reachstacker is challenged when stowing and retrieving containers in the stacks – just say no to yard clerk or driver intervention. Begin to explore and demand PDS alternatives that overcome the multipath and blockage of grounded operations by still automatically capturing the cell-level accurate placement of containers into the stacks.

When the positioning accuracy of a yard hostler is challenged when parking containers into wheeled slots (with ‘row level accuracy’) – just say no to accepting this imprecision and to assuming the street truck drivers will simply find the containers themselves. Contrary to popular belief, container identification and retrieval by street truck drivers is not ‘free labour’ as these searches congest the yard and require extensive exceptions and safety support.

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