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Automation and the change of fear

When organizations start thinking about automation, it usually comes because a change has occurred, and their old way of working does not fit the new situation they find themselves in.

A change can be the scale of the operation for example an increase of volume to handle, different equipment to handle the cargo or another lay-out of the grounds of the terminal. And a change can just be time, in which the standards of the market and the demands of customers have changed. You as an organization are than required to adapt as well, in order to compete with other parties.

In 2020, the change was a pandemic which for many ports and terminals has made it clear that the old way of working is not suffice anymore. The times they are a changing.

When one looks for information about automation and terminals you will soon come across the benefits related to this. A reduction of cost, an increase of efficiency
and a decrease of human error. Just to name a few.

And although this is true, one almost never hears about the challenges that have to be faced when going down the path of automation and innovation.

Let’s start by looking at the benefit “reduction of cost”. By increasing the efficiency, a terminal is able to handle more volume, or the same amount of cargo but with
less people. A reduction of labour costs sounds good to every financial director or CFO. But for the people involved this event definitely plays a different tune to their ears. As one might imagine.

The natural response of people is to be against change, especially when that change can impact your livelihood negatively. Also, many Port Authorities and other local bodies of governance will regard the harbour as a generator of work. Enabling their citizens to earn a wage and to provide for their families. In many countries around the world having a decent family income is not a given, often local economies are depending on a few sources of employment. Thus making it necessary, or so it is believed, to hold on to old processes and ways of doing business.

 

But it does not have to be this way.

By automating a terminal in going from paper to using a Terminal Operating System (TOS), new functions come into play and new skills are required. People who used to walk outside on the terminal with a piece of paper in their hand, are now required to sit indoors behind a screen. If terminals are willing to invest in the reschooling of their current staff in the light of automation, a new situation of win-win arises.

Just because we have had to say goodbye to live our life in the way we were accustomed to, does not mean we have to say goodbye to the faces that we are accustomed to.

The way to automation is filled with adventure and new horizons. Let us all start walking.

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