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Digitalizing the Port Operations with Cloud Based ERP Solutions

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Digitalizing the Port Operations

This interview was first published in Indian Transport & Logistics News on September 24, 2020. 

In India, there is a need to handle larger volumes for cheaper costs and along with smaller space availability for ports. With the lack of computerised systems, ships have to go through long wait times before docking.

Ramco Systems is a software provider trying to solve India’s port bottlenecks by standardising information across a single dashboard. Its AI, ML infused ERP (Enterprise resource planning) solution automates and optimizes real-time, thereby bringing in fresh ideas to port logistics by involving major business model changes like sharing warehouses, trucks, in the general product as a service.

In an exclusive interview with Indian Transport & Logistics News, Harsh Vardhan, president & head – ERP Solutions, Ramco Systems, talks about Indian ports, bottlenecks in the port ecosystem, need for real-time monitoring facilities and solutions offered by the company.

Give me an introduction to the market and industry that you are serving?
Ramco Systems is a leading software provider, offering cutting edge technologies for making ports more modern and intelligent. Ramco Systems has the latest platform which not only has the ERP functionality but is also an IoT and AI-enabled platform. With presence across Asia, Australia, US and Europe, Ramco has won accolades in the various sectors including aviation, payroll outsourcing, asset-intensive organizations and logistics.

Give me a list of bottlenecks you have identified in the Indian ports sector that you are trying to solve.
Ports need help in modernizing the following areas –

  1. Bottlenecks present in managing the logistics of loading and unloading and faster throughput of cargo. Problem is accentuated by lack of usable space and storage space in the port, so the real-time collaboration of all parties is required
  2. Unscheduled breakdown of critical equipment like cranes / RTG
  3. Collaboration with various agencies like government agencies, customs, customers, logistic providers, vendors in real-time is not available currently
  4. Action after a decision being initiated manually. For example, a purchase order is reviewed and sent manually before sending it out to the vendor
  5. Use of machine learning in anomaly detection, visual-based data entry (like facial recognition, drone-based inspections, visual quality checks). Too much effort undergoes in manual data entry, mistakes during data entry, upload and downloads of reports, no alerts. Routine and predictive data still needs to be entered from scratch

What does the ERP solution of Ramco Systems mean to seaports? Give us examples of how AI or ML is useful to solve those bottlenecks?

  1. Modernization of logistics and gate operations – Ports need to coordinate in real-time with various players for quick entry and exit, given the limited space in the ports. For example, based on the unloading sequence, the correct order of trucks will be set at the gate. Automatic sensors for weight, and number plate readers will eliminate data entry. Mobile alerts will help employees coordinate with all parties
  2. AI and ML, based on parameters such as vibration and temperatures and usage, can predict when a breakdown will occur, for cranes or any other equipment. Ramco has a strong Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solution
  3. The system helps in drone-based inspections and on-the-spot data entry on remote sites. It also predicts the data to be entered based on previous records and/or visual readings
  4. Facial recognition for attendance and safety purposes, where the system checks for masks/helmets and real-time alerts
  5. Automated vendor and customer payments based on machine learning matching the unreconciled entries
  6. Machine predicts what is usually approved and does not even bring it up for approval. Reduces processing time from weeks to less than a day
  7. Specific mobile apps for collaboration among various roles, to be used anywhere. For example, Mechanic Anywhere and any custom specific apps can be built for ports

Is this similar to the port community system?
A port community system is also a solution built on the same platform, to integrate various ports and communities like the logistic players, and governmental agencies.

Is this a cloud-based solution?
Ramco’s solution can be deployed either on cloud or on premise depending on the choice of the port. It is important to note that there is no difference in functionality between the two options and it can be easily moved from the one to the other at a later time.

How can Ramco Systems provide a cost-effective solution to Indian ports?
Ramco provides business experts, who study and recommend process changes/eliminations. The focus is on driving value. Ramco then automates data entry as much as possible by using the latest digital technologies. Maintenance and breakdowns are minimized by prediction. The solution also integrates with other software, IoT and gives real-time alerts/predictions/help in decision making, thus reducing cycle times from weeks to days. One can also use machine-based reconciliations, predictive data entry, visual recording or inspections to further eliminate processes.

The right approach to solving the problem and the right use of the digital tools have shown remarkable benefits of even 10X improvements and any investment could ideally be recovered within the year.

How Ramco could address the limited availability of space in Indian ports?
The solution to limited space in the ports can be alleviated by faster throughput. This would mean real-time planning, collaboration and evacuation of cargo by the logistic players. However, achieving faster throughput means improving the entire port. For instance, the right sequencing of the pick-up trucks can reduce traffic jams in the ports. This should be done for both the loading and unloading sequence. The system offers real-time collaboration between the trucks, shipping lines, ships, gates, crane operators, and employee allocations. The solution can integrate with other systems using video feeds to recognize patterns and prediction of events, blockages. Predictive maintenance based on real-time mechanical sensor inputs is also possible.

How real-time monitoring facilities could help Indian ports?
The real issue is the non-availability of real-time system inputs, real-time machine processing and predictions prompt and alerts and non-availability of real-time dashboards. Some examples are –

  1. Real-time, GPS based system to show current bottlenecks, machine suggested automatic re-planning, scenario analysis
  2. Real-time collaboration of all parties for last-minute changes. This reduces cycle and response time
  3. Real-time alerts for breakdowns, delays in ship arrivals, weather changes, and allowing for rapid re-planning
  4. Real-time labour and resource scheduling and allocations
  5. Real-time health of equipment
  6. Real-time status updates on custom clearances, bottlenecks in processes
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About Author

Harsh Vardhan G

Harsh Vardhan is an Adventurous Marketer, who loves to explore new frontiers. From emerging companies and leading outsourcers, he has had an exciting journey packed with learnings and challenges. In his words, he loves to ride the business roller coaster, albeit sometimes without seatbelts! After a 12 year stint in the Global System Integration industry which covered the lay of the land from Deep East in Fukuoka (Japan) to West in Abuja (Nigeria), Harsh boomeranged into his second stint in Ramco Systems. Now as Ramco’s Chief Marketing and Ecosystem Officer, Harsh Vardhan is accountable for driving revenues along with building brand Ramco and also developing the ecosystem which will help in force multiplying the reach out.

No more lip service. Time for a true digital transformation
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