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  March 21st, 2018 | Written by

Most Terminal Operators Exploring Automation

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  • Terminals continue to weigh benefits of automation against perceived barriers to entry.
  • “It’s likely that we’ll see a fully autonomous transport chain within the next 20 years.”
  • Barriers to automation include costs, lack of skills, challenges from labor unions, and implementation time.

Navis, a technology provider and part of Cargotec Corporation, has unveiled new survey findings that explore the growing shift towards automation among global ocean terminal operators.  Increasing numbers of terminals are using higher levels of automation to improve productivity and efficiency and ultimately raise their competitive advantage in the market.

Respondents to the customer survey show that a 74 percent of terminal operators believe that automation in some form will be critical to stay competitive in the next three to five years.

The results from the survey, gathered from over 75 Navis customers at various stages of automation, delve into current views on the importance of automation, future plans for automation, perceived benefits and challenges, and projected improvements to productivity and operational costs achieved through automation.

Twenty percent of Navis customers are already fully automated and 13 percent are investigating this option. Over a third have process automation and 21 percent have automated equipment.

“Within the next 20 years, I believe it’s likely that we’ll see a fully autonomous transport chain,” said Raj Gupta, CTO of Navis. “This could extend from loading and stowage of the container, autonomous sailing to its destination, unloading by automated cranes and then finally being loaded on to autonomous trucks and trains for the final destination.”

But there are also several barriers that need to be overcome in order to make automation a realistic option, Gupta noted. The top challenges cited by respondents are the costs are too high (68 percent), lack of skills or resources to implement and manage automation (52 percent), challenges with labor unions (44 percent) and the time it takes to implement (30 percent).

Despite the various views, the main driver of automation will be the potential return on investment. Thirty-percent of the Navis respondents believe automation could increase productivity by 26 to 50 percent, while 19 percent believe automation could reduce operational costs by more than 50 percent.