Bringing Technology into the Fold

As ports facilities continue to be upgraded with new technology and equipment, the question is not whether it’s needed, but how to best incorporate it without disrupting the operations of a smooth-running port. Sometimes, the number of moving and changing parts makes the transition a feat of carefully orchestrated, planned perfection.

*By Kathy A. Smith*

The power of technology brings varied benefits to ports, including modernizing of equipment, boosting efficiencies and helping keep people safe. The way technologies are implemented depends on each port’s initiative, and careful planning is paramount to successful implementation.

Tim Heffernan, founder of Aperio Strategy Group, who has advised government, corporate affairs, supply chain companies and many other industries, provides consultation on how to navigate technology change across the regulatory, technical and integration scope.

He said mapping out how technology will be chosen and integrated into port operations is important to ensure smooth operations.

“The first thing I always advise a client, no matter what technology project they’re doing, is don’t automate a broken process. Make sure you have a really succinct set of requirements that you’re trying to solve, and really decision-tree out the process that you’re doing.”

For instance, if a port is considering using a new freight technology, be sure that decision points are already thought out in terms of process before applying a technology tool that’s going to speed it up. “If you apply a technology tool to a good process, it makes it faster. If you apply a technology tool to a broken process, it breaks faster. It could cause a critical error,” explained Heffernan.

He said education is necessary to ensure all users understand the process and how to use technology. Oftentimes, if the process hasn’t been effectively planned, people may end up blaming the technology when something is missing at a specific decision point. Making sure what is being asked of the end-user is a very simple process that’s easier than paper.

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“If you don’t make it an easy process, it’s going to have a lot of pushback. Field workers are getting used to using technology to do their jobs and they see the benefit, that it’s faster,” he said. “That’s really the biggest reason why 2020 is the port’s year of the cloud. The worker sees the benefit to doing their task. When you want to implement any technology solution, you have to do that.”

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