Ports play a crucial role in the success of the global supply chain. Over the last several years, port congestion has been at an all-time high, causing major disruptions throughout every industry. Ships waiting to drop their cargo for hours, and sometimes days, outside of shipping ports cause disruptions throughout the rest of the supply chain — retailers experience product shortages, manufacturer production rates are impacted, and customer wait times continue to go up. The extreme congestion at ports is caused by a combination of factors — workforce shortages, an increase in imports cluttering the facilities, and inefficiencies in the systems and processes used — exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are remedies to help ease congestion at our ports. A key solution, which has seen a relatively slow uptake, is the implementation of port automation
Virtually all ports have technology integrated into their systems to some extent. However, with the advances in automation technology in recent years, some are starting to gradually increase their use. For example, the port of Hamburg, Germany, has evolved into a “smart port” over the years by introducing automated technology to manage processes such as traffic control and port operations. A survey conducted by McKinsey & Co. found that automating ports could cut operating costs by up to 55 percent and boost productivity by up to 35 percent.
How Automated Technology is Used at Ports
There are several ways in which automated technology can be implemented in ports:
- Automated cranes: Cranes are a crucial aspect of every port. When operated manually, ports run the risk of not having enough workers to move shipping containers quickly and efficiently. Automated cranes can not only operate without human intervention, but they can also decrease cycle times by moving containers much faster than manually operated cranes.
- Port gate automation: Traffic management at port gates is extremely important to relieve congestion and keep products moving through the supply chain. The use of port automation technology at gates allows for the process of identifying shipments and directing them to their designated spot for unloading to be done much more efficiently.
- Automated tracking and tracing: An automated system also used in warehouses, automated tracking and tracing allows for shipments to be located and retrieved without human involvement. This not only increases efficiency and speeds up processes, but it also decreases the risk of worker injury during the retrieval process.
Companies looking to enhance efficiency as their shipments move through automated ports may consider using plastic pallets from iGPS, which due to their consistent dimensions flow through automated supply chain systems with ease. They also incorporate RFID technology, making them traceable by automated systems.
As the supply chain continues to adapt to changing environments, it is important that the disruptions at shipping ports be addressed. The implementation of port automation technologies can reduce congestion and boost efficiency — benefiting the global supply chain and protecting against future disruptions.
Companies committed to increasing their port automation technology use plastic pallets from iGPS, which are lightweight, recyclable, and traceable through the supply chain. For more information, contact us at 1-866-557-0047, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.