Building for safety and greater efficiency with port automation

Building for safety and greater efficiency with port automation

The need for better logistics and remote operations has been underlined by recent supply chain backlogs. Private networks are already fueling a digital revolution in global ports, bringing modern practices and investing in a communication platform that will meet Smart Port needs for now and for the future.

In previous blogs in this series, we discussed how private networks in ports could address the global supply chain crisis and activate exciting use cases in ports such as digital twins and mixed reality. Here we will explore some additional use cases that drive port automation efficiently and safely: surveillance and delivery drones and condition monitoring.

Condition monitoring keeps equipment running and workers safe

Ports are complicated operations, where deliveries are scheduled to the minute and heavy machines have to move large containers with precision. One of the most critical aspects for the smooth and efficient operation of a port is the condition of equipment such as cranes and small vehicles.

Especially when global supply chain problems cause backlogs and slowdowns, downtime can lead to costly disruptions to operations.

Condition monitoring, carried out via an interconnected network of sensors connected to the mobile phone, helps to collect and analyze data on the condition of the equipment, including elements such as temperature and even frequency of vibration. This can help predict future equipment failures, as well as enable rapid resolution of malfunctions. When an anomaly is detected, processes can be closed remotely or even automatically and a worker sent to the site to fix the problem.

This process is ideal for a 5G private network. These sensors, along with a cloud-based process monitoring solution, enable real-time condition data transfer, with fast responses in a split second. The low latency and speed of 5G allows for transfer, and private networks keep this data on-site, so it remains secure and instantly accessible by supervisors. According to a Port Strategy report, this can reduce field tracking by up to 40%.

On the flip side, precise condition monitoring can ensure maintenance is done exactly when it’s needed. This can not only reduce downtime for jobs that aren’t actually needed, but also save costs by using fewer spare parts, lubricants, etc.

Monitoring the condition of equipment is also a safety concern. According to research by Budiyanto and Fernanda, we have documented that many port accidents over the past five years have been due to poorly maintained tools, and damage to equipment has also been linked to fires. As maintenance is performed more precisely, supported by condition monitoring data, the risk of equipment malfunction – and thus injury to workers – decreases.

According to Ericsson’s “Connected Ports Report,” the total financial benefit of condition monitoring enabled by a private network is about 2.7% of a port’s total revenue and that such a system will pay for itself in about two. years.

Drones are going where human workers can’t

Another technology that will move from scattered pilots to an integral part of the smart doors of the future is drones. COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for remote operations of things like safety inspections and deliveries.

Initial use cases for drones in ports involved surveillance or security. Ericsson’s data from the Connected Ports report predicts that drone surveillance will reduce port theft by 75%, which will bring operators additional savings by lowering insurance premiums.

But the low latency and processing power of 5G, especially when powered by private networks, is giving birth to automated drones and greatly expanding their usefulness for things like maintenance inspections and even ship-to-shore deliveries.

At the port of Long Beach, the second busiest port in the United States, drones are helping inspectors capture high-quality video of the port’s infrastructure, things like trap doors, fire hydrants and fenders, and bollards along the dock. Drones also allow workers to examine cranes and other hard-to-reach structures.

In both cases, safety and security, camera-equipped drones collect and transmit data to the cloud, where analytics can be used to detect anomalies, such as an intruder in an unauthorized area or a container stacked in the wrong place.

Drones can also be used in place of traditional “launching” boats to deliver small items to and from approaching ships. Drones are used in this way in the port of Singapore, and according to a report by Freightwaves, ship-to-shore deliveries are now six times faster and cost 90% less.

As an added benefit, drone deliveries also reduce CO2 emissions and keep human workers out of harm’s way.

Digitization through private networks is the key to managing growth in ports

These and other use cases are more than helpful. They are critical for ports to be able to handle increased traffic. The Cargotec company expects a compound annual growth rate of 3.6% for global container traffic from 2013 to 2024. In Europe, the European Commission predicts that the amount of goods handled by EU ports will increase by 50% by 2030 and US ports are sure to see a similar increase.

But to cope with this traffic growth, ports will need to become more efficient and more automated. Private LTE / 5G networks are offering port operators the tools they need to address these challenges head on.

To know more:

Ericsson helps ports around the world provide better asset tracking and inventory, workforce management and predictive maintenance, helping workers improve operations, efficiency and safety. Read the full series of blogs to find out more:

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