Big Data and port logistics

Lately, there has been much talk about Big Data and the fact is that current technologies allow us to read and deal with huge amounts of data to draw conclusions and to take action towards attaining certain goals. Big Data is revolutionising the business world across all sectors and as to be expected, expectations are high in regard to its use in ports logistics.

To begin with, it is important to understand that Big Data does not merely equate analysing a multitude of data. Traditional technology already allowed logistics companies to obtain data for its analysis, such as times, speeds, quantities, prices, etc., and to use them to prepare reports or graphs that help to represent and to better assess the business model.

Big Data goes even further, adding new data types to these traditional metrics, such as text, audio or video, along with business systems information in a much more cohesive manner. When talking about logistics, Big Data includes concepts such as the weather, delays, strikes at ports, unexpected repairs and, above all, a large amount of data obtained from sensors, GPS, RFID and other traffic management systems.

Big Data and results orientation

But above all, what sets Big Data apart from any other kind of information processing that the sector has been aware of up to now, is results orientation. Rather than meaning the more data the better, it involves choosing between the wealth of available data, the indicators that we must bring together to solve our problems.

If Big Data allows us to anticipate accidents that could lead to a delay in the movement of our goods, we will be increasing benefits. Unlike traditional data (costs, times, schedules, etc.), Big Data does not have to be quantifiable, but it is a valuable tool to improve the numbers that matter to us.

Therefore, the first step in a Big Data strategy involves defining what we want to solve or where we want to grow our business. One example of this is where, rather than looking at our files of how many containers we exported to Brazil last month, we relate the data necessary to enable us to make the same delivery at a lower cost or more quickly.

The Valenciaport pilot experiment

On a broader scale, one of the most ambitious experiments in the field of Big Data is the Transforming Transport project. The European initiative has a series of pilots which have already shown that the use of Big Data in transport sectors, such as rail or air, could lead to a dramatic reduction of CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, increasing benefits and improving operations efficiency.

The port of Valencia was chosen as the headquarters for the pilot, which aims to check if Big Data can be used to optimise the port logistics chain. The Valenciaport Foundation, along with the Technological Institute of Computer Science of Valencia, has been combining information for applications used at the port of Valencia and the operator Noatum, in addition to real-time information, for the last year and a half.

This pilot aims to design a global productivity remote control for port logistics, to identify inefficiencies and improve decision-making. This would make it possible to optimise the traffic management system to schedule and assign yard cranes, taking into account arrival time, the order of jobs, prediction, human behaviour and factors such as time, anticipated traffic flows and demand.

A predictive maintenance model is also in the works for the cranes operating in the terminal using sensoring and monitoring in order to receive alerts on their maintenance needs and prevent shutdowns in the logistical process. The idea is to study whether the decisions being made today by people on the basis of their experience could be automated and based on objective data rather than on subjective considerations.

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