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Data and automation: improving workflows and processes at ports

Head of Commercial and Business Development at Port of Valencia, Mar Chao Lopez, details how data standardisation and automation are important ports and terminals to improve workflows and processes.

Data standardization is about making sure that datasets have the same content, format and are internally consistent.

Standardized data is vital for accurate analysis and it enables the consistent use of this data across multiple platforms and stakeholders. It is also a key enabler for automation.

Data standardization is also a critical part of streamlining inefficient processes, identifying opportunities and strengthening relationships with trusted, quality information.

At the Smart Port Summit in London, we spoke with Mar Chao Lopez (Head of Commercial and Business Development at Port of Valencia) about automation in ports and terminals, and the importance of data standardisation.

Watch/ read the interview below.


Q: What are greatest opportunities around data flow for automated terminals?

Mar Chao Lopez: I think that data flow analysis is really important for automated terminals as everyday we are wanting to know more information in real-time and data flow is relevant to this goal.

We need to know how to manage that data efficiently as we need to give timely responses to our clients that are increasingly wanting a real-time information available to them.

Our clients have a large amount of data in their systems and some don’t analyse this data. In our port we are trying to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for standardisation and from here we can improve operations through analysis of these KPIs.

Q: Automated ports and terminals improve process control by automating data flow. What are the main advantages and challenges?

MCL: Everything that is automated doesn’t have human error. I believe this is relevant as when you automate workflows or processes like Port Community Systems. As these messages are automated, the chance for human error is eliminated – like typing in the plates of a container. Sometimes mistakes are made, and a queue can build up because of these human errors and I think that automation will lead to time and money saving.

Many people in ports around the world are used to working the same way for many years and I believe it will take time to change the way we work, but the benefits of ease and savings will champion the case for automation.

I believe is something that we will be seeing in ports and terminals to improve workflows and processes.

Q: How important is data standardisation?

MCL: Standardisaiton will be a key issue. It will be crucial because if not you will be for example as a digital platform integrating between two systems, it is a lot easier working to the same standards. It also becomes a lot easier when one looks to connect to other ports or services.

I think that standardisation is something we need to achieve, but also something that we need to keep working on over time.

Q: What have been your key takeaways from the day so far?

MCL: I think the discussions around cyber security have been really interesting (at Smart Ports Summit). We all know about the cyberattack to Maersk and others, and the costs to the businesses of these attacks. As port authorities, terminals and operators we must be really concerned as this is something which is going to change our world.

There is a large amount of data which is in circulation, and the more data we have, the greater the chances of a breach in cyber security.

Q: What makes events like this invaluable to the industry?

MCL: Events like this (Smart Ports Summit) are really interesting as I get the chance to meet people who you may not know but they share the same concerns as you. It is valuable to learn how they are tackling similar problems.

The networking opportunities are always positive and if you don’t attend these types of events, you are probably looking for information or guidance on the internet. You can find conflicting information online and by attending these events you save time and get to tackle the latest, relevant issues.