Competition has historically been based
on four key factors: price, delivery, quality and
service. The successful enterprise had to have
an “edge” in one or more of these. Now, all
that has changed. Companies will never have
the edge in price or delivery unless they have
the volume of a Walmart or Amazon. And the
same or similar quality is available at multiple
suppliers just a few Internet clicks away. That
leaves us with service—what industry gurus
call “personalization”—and you get it by
transforming your business digitally.
Personalization is tailoring a service or a
product to reach specific types of people or
groups—think buyers of boats and electronics, owners, sellers, repairers, clubs, etc.
Advertising that is considered to be more personalized are things like web pages, social
media, blogs, etc. How do we personalize
something when we don’t know much about
who we’re trying to reach? That’s where the
advanced tools of digital transformation come
in—big data, data analytics, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and so
One of the earliest sectors to begin digital
transformation was port and harbor terminals
beginning in the 1960s. Over 99% of the
world’s trade moves through the 835 most
active seaports around the world. These
worldwide trading hubs and logistics transfer
centers are typically self-supporting through
the collection of fees and charges for the use of
the port’s facilities and communications services.
Ports may also provide various kinds of
value-added services, especially since the
beginning of containerization in the 1960s and
the adoption of information technology (IT)
and information services (IS). Both are critical
to the safety and efficiency of port processes
and indispensible to communications, decision-making and thus the port’s competitiveness.
Smaller companies also
The benefits of digitization are by no means
limited to large companies and operations.
One example is the many software packages
and services out there that will help smaller
enterprises set up, fine tune, maintain and
operate a website presence. Additionally, there
is a software package for just about anything
you need to help run your business. Websites
such as www.capterra.com can help locate
Often referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, digital transformation was brought about by the
advent and rapid expansionary adoption of digital technology in all sectors of the economy.
Credit: Christopher Roser, AllAboutLean.com
Three generations of
ndustry experienced three generations in the implementation of digital transformation. The first, 1960s-1980s, is largely characterized by the transformation to paper-less procedures.
In the maritime world, the advent of containerization and intermodal transportation began in earnest at this time. This resulted in the introduction of integrated
transportation systems, which focused not just on cargo flow but also on efficient information flow. Congestion, waiting lines at terminals with idling trucks spewing diesel emissions, late and lost shipments and scheduling problems followed. The introduction of electronic data interchange (EDI) and the first EDI-based port community systems enabled
electronic document exchange between key players in port operations and the subsequent reduction in paper-based processing in inter-organizational business processes.
The second generation took place in the 1990s—2000s, and was characterized by the
introduction of automated procedures utilizing such technologies as laser distance measuring, radio-frequency identification (RFID), Vessel Tracking Systems (VTS), Automatic
Identification Systems (AIS) and Traffic Appointment Systems to relieve increasingly
severe traffic problems.
Ports and harbors are currently said to be in the third generation of their digital transformation program, which began in the 2010s and continues today. Referred to as the
“smart procedures” generation, this is where the tools of data science come in—mobile
technologies, sensor- and actuator-embedded systems, cloud computing, machine learning, predictive analytics, etc. Smart port procedures make better use of available resources
to support real-time decision-making.
Mobile technology is a good example. Mobile applications and web-based applications have been developed for establishing communication links to truck drivers and dispatchers. These include real-time information on the traffic situation at terminals and
depots, estimated times of arrival, forecasts on free parking space as well as individual recommendations prior to and during process execution.
Smart ports are either implemented or underway at major facilities such as Seville (
Tec-noport), Vigo (Smart Viport) and Barcelona (Port Challenge) in Spain; Rotterdam, Netherlands, Hamburg, Germany, Singapore, Shenzhen and Shanghai, China; Los Angeles and