The challenge of digital transformation
The Truth about Digital Transformation in Port Infraestructures / The Challenge of the Tech Revolution in the Maritime Sector.
It is no secret that disruptive technologies have an unprecedented impact on port infrastructure. If adapted and implemented correctly, they can deliver cost savings and productivity improvements, catalyzing social and economic development in the cities they are located in. These technological improvements have not happened over night. Blockchain, virtual reality, Artificial intelligence, building information modelling (BIM), among many others, are the result of a vast resource investment: an unimaginable amount of research and development in the efforts to create a future that is faster, better, and smarter.
These technologies have had a deep impact in the maritime sector. According to Deloittes Global Port Trends report, “It is expected that technological implementation in the maritime sector will keep increasing thanks to increased market investments and decreasing cost.” In fact, one of the most important drivers in the industry, is the implementation of these different technological innovations. From my point of view, that’s both the key for sustainable growth and the biggest challenge we are currently facing. Selecting the right technology will never be enough, if it is not embedded in a well rounded strategy. We must start seeing digital transformation not only as a set of tools but as a way of thinking. But, how can we do this? How can we adapt our vision and strategies in order to deliver on this ambition?
In the simplest of terms, technological innovations are designed with the main goal of driving higher economic and operational efficiency through process automation. The challenge in port environments is the complexity of our supply chain, and the large amount of partner networks that it involves: terminals, shipping lines, trucking and logistics companies, port authorities, and off-dock storage providers. Therefore, if we adopted a digital tool on its own, without integrating it into the rest of our supply chain, no process will be made. This is evident today. Our industry has made enormous investments in digital tools and technologies, which is expected to keep growing due to the decreasing costs of these digital transformation tools. However, in the majority of cases no real benefit has been seen. We need to embrace an integrated versatile approach for digital transformation. This will link across the life cycle of an asset promoting efficiency of the overall ecosystem and result in strategies that are built to evolve and adapt to the different industry drivers and digital innovations.
Unless we start to build our strategies based on supply chain synergies within our cluster and environment, our competitive positioning will not improve. The complexity of port operations only keeps growing. Technology will only become a true competitive advantage once we start to capitalize on the value of connection and integration. This will result in new, governance methods based on increased transparency and insights from collective data which will allow us to streamline and optimize operations and infrastructure usage: shaping new ways of collaboration through demand efficiency. Through this approach, we will be able to transform the port ecosystem into an efficient, open community, that will drive a sustainable competitive advantage through a value added operational approach and play a key role in integrated world trade.