Seaports are rapidly turning to automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in their search for more productive automation to transport containers and loads to and from ships, according to a study from analyst firm ABI Research.
But to gain the full benefits of the investment, facilities must also apply change management tactics to control related variables like an initial loss in productivity as workers learn to use the new equipment, the New York-based firm said.
The trend comes as the maritime industry has drastically surged its automation efforts in the wake of global seaport congestion. Other autonomous horizontal transport modes that are also seeing a bump in orders include gantries, automated port gates, and stacking cranes, ABI said.
As a result, AGV seaport deployments worldwide will have a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 26% from 2022 to 2030, and exceed 370,000 global deployments by 2027, the report found.
“Automation improves port operations' reliability, consistency, and workplace security. Also, from an environmental perspective, automation can lead to efficient operations and faster services. Automated ports are also far safer than conventional ports. The number of human-related disruptions falls as performance becomes more predictable with automation and data capture solutions,” Adhish Luitel, Supply Chain Management & Logistics Senior Analyst at ABI Research, said in a release.
Automation is also set to rise in other transportation modes such as rail, air, and road. ABI cited an example of growing numbers of rail camera systems and inspection robots used in rail infrastructure.
However, companies must support that rapid adoption with careful change management practices, ABI warned. “Automation in various modalities, despite its benefits, can also bring costs of which supply chain managers might need to be wary,” Luitel said. “Although automation can streamline workflows and make tasks easier in the long run, they come at the expense of initial potential productivity losses that come with equipping workers with the right skillsets to operate and maintain these solutions. So, there is a change management aspect of which managers and authorities must be more mindful.”