Harbours Review: Born Digital

Press Review

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“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” This quote, often falsely attributed to Albert Einstein, was made at a time when computers slowly started to find their way into the logistics industry. By modern standards, computer hardware and algorithms of the early 1990s were far from powerful. Back then, if a PC was fed with one of the best algorithms available to try and solve a logistics planning model, one would still be waiting for the result. If the same model was given to a standard PC today, using the latest Linear Programming algorithms (one of the most important classes of optimization techniques), it would take less than a second.

The digital economy is gaining momentum and the shift to data-driven planning in maritime logistics has turned old and familiar practices on their head. With the rise of new technologies, the digital logistics workforce is now using tools and processes based on real-time information and automated decision-making to drive productivity. As an industry, we’re now at a tipping point and how we manage this transition is going to define us. But it is not only about how we implement new technologies, but more specifically how we attract a young, millennialaged workforce that has the new skills needed to drive our digital future.

Formula for failure

As an industry, we’ve identified the value of digital technology to drive business results. But when it comes to actually putting them into motion, most companies pay lip service to digital transformation. Many believe it is about using shiny new technology to keep doing the same thing. In the worst-case scenarios this may mean doing the wrong things – just faster. The simple formula: old process + new technology = expensive old process.

Today, many digital transformation projects are focused on the “digital” and not so much on the “transformation”. Instead, the real digital transformation requires change at a much deeper level. It calls for action that cuts across every aspect of how container terminals operate internally and engage externally. This process is less about technology and more about cultural change. It includes elements of understanding how to interpret data and leverage technology so that it shifts every corner of the business, but, equally important, it involves an understanding of how to implement those shifts so that the organization can evolve.

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it

Change is often resisted, as is summed up in this adage. It is estimated that only 54% of major change projects are successful. Those that fail are plagued by higher than expected costs and lowered employee morale. Studies also show that when employees see major projects come to nothing or fail to deliver major elements, cynicism sets in, which, in turn, further undermines adoption, utilization, and worse – company culture.

Change management is a well-researched branch of social and business science with many models and techniques that can be implemented. Of the many available, there are some common elements, such as: making the effort to involve every layer of your organization throughout the entire process, working from within your culture to implement change, and continuously assessing and adapting your project to suit the combined technological and cultural needs of your organization.

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