Optimize Terminal Operations with Systems Thinking
In a world of buzzwords, where do we begin? We have PLC’s, ATG’s, SCADA, Cloud, AI, IoT, Automation, Edge Computing, Process Control, HMI, BI and much more but what is necessary for YOUR operational excellence?
Breaking down exactly how a terminal operates both physically and digitally will give you the power to make a decision around what solutions make the most sense for your business.
How do your position holders do business with you? What documentation is required to load? What authorizations or business rules need to be approved and how do they get approved? What types of reports are you having to generate? What is causing inefficiencies? Do you have repeat work? What types of hardware do you use? What does that hardware do for you? Do you have access to your data? Does your data work for you automatically, or do you manage it manually? How do your position holders’ customers do business with them? How do their carriers manage freight? Is your supply chain dependent on other parties to optimize efficiency? Are there changes that can be made to provide a more seamless experience for your customers? These are a few of the questions that you should ask yourself before electing to go with an implementation of a technology.
We spoke to a terminal in an attempt to help them achieve operational excellence. They were currently operating with traditional rack hardware and PLC’s that allowed them to load product in coordination with a unique identifier they entered into their system at the rack. The SCADA system pulled real-time load status and product loading information into a cloud platform which allowed them to monitor the operation remotely. They were under the impression that this was “terminal automation.”
While PLC and SCADA technology paired with Cloud and HMI can provide an experience that feels automated, Terminal Automation is much more than that. Terminal Automation allows for data to dictate operations and enforce business rules rather than simply evaluating the data upon product movement. A system which lacks insight or rules prior to the product being lifted from the rack can only be so efficient.
PLC + SCADA + Cloud is a good start, but it would be like using a calculator rather than a pen and paper to do advanced math. Automation would be like using a macro in Excel rather than using a calculator. Every movement carries data at a terminal, and that data either prompts the next sequence based on the rules the operator sets or that data is simply used to observe. Terminal Automation enables the data to prompt custom rules that will reduce manual processes, increase throughput, eliminate redundancies and ultimately achieve operational excellence and an overall better experience for all supply chain parties involved.
Automation can require PLC, SCADA, Cloud, Edge Computing, IoT and a range of other solutions all working in tandem. It all depends on how your operation currently works, what devices you currently use, and what your operation looks like in a perfect world.
Contact Dearman Systems for more information on how we can help provide operational efficiencies to your business.