Digital Transformation in Ports & Logistics

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The severe snow storms on the east coast didn’t prevent the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Conference taking place in January, and SWARM CEO Anthony Howcroft presented at a panel on Digital Transformation in Ports hosted by Asst. Professor Lawrence Henesey of the Swedish Blekinge Institute of Technology, along with Joseph Ruddy, Chief Innovation Officer at the US Virginia Port Authority.

Mr Ruddy explained how Virginia Port - which is both an operator and an authority - have run several large capital infrastructure projects in recent years (over $1.3 billion), increasing the capacity at Virginia Internationally Gateway terminal to 1.2M containers annually. They have extended both the rail and berth facilities, increased the number of gates, and added four additional ship to shore cranes. They have similar projects at the Norfolk International Gateway, which will also move to a 1.2M container capacity by 2020, an increase of 46%. By taking advantage of data analytics to inform the operational decisions, they have put themselves at the forefront of technology-driven ports. As Joe put it succinctly, “We move boxes, by sharing data.”

Lawrence showed how technology was also being employed in smaller ports to great effect, and at the complexity of integrating the many systems and standards in operation within a typical port eco-system. Lawrence is part of an EU funded team leading a Digitalisation and Automation project aiming to make small and medium sized ports in the Baltic more competitive, Connect2SmallPorts.

During Anthony’s session, he talked about how the rising tide of data is driving a combinatorial explosion that requires new approaches to reach effective operational decisions. Tomorrow’s supply chain, he suggested will also need to be optimised across multiple parties, and for a longer timescales, maximising value for all participants in a month or a season - rather than just on a load by load basis. He gave an example of a major customer that has saved several million dollars by utilising SWARM’s multi-agent optimisation platform, and suggested that future port transformation projects will be able to take advantage of the converging technologies of deep reinforcement learning + blockchain + multi-agent systems.

If you haven’t seen it yet, please take a look at the short video outlining SWARM’s approach to Digital Transformation in ports on our blog.