See what are the impacts of Industry 4.0 in shipping agencies

  • 16/07/2019
  • 10 minutes

Technological advances and the influence of new resources and tools are not exclusive to only one sector or another. The impacts of Industry 4.0 in shipping agencies represent that very well.

Since this is a subject of the utmost relevance to the segment, we prepared this special article. So we talked to specialist Flávia Carvalho, who is operations manager at Wilson Sons Agency’s division.

Throughout this article, you’ll find a series of consequences that news brought to the area. We’ll also show you how shipping agencies transformed themselves in the last few years. Enjoy!

What is Industry 4.0?

In very short terms, “Industry 4.0” is an expression used to characterize the “improvement of machines and new technologies to automate and develop new solutions for traditional services and production”, explains Carvalho. Some examples of that are resources such as:

  • big data;
  • internet of things;
  • cloud computing;
  • artificial intelligence;
  • electronic documentation;
  • among others.

The idea dawned at the Hannover Fair — one of the most important ones in the sector — in Germany, in 2011. The goal was to represent the fourth industrial revolution, which went beyond the assumptions established by methods such as Fordism andToyotism, connecting machines to automated control.

Those are transformations that reach not only the means of production, but consumer behavior itself. Despite the name the concept carries, the impacts are not restricted to industrial structures, also reaching the commerce and services areas.

What are the impacts of Industry 4.0 in shipping agencies?

One of the notable changes is the appearance of electronic portals and the use of technology on the part of the government. “Some port authorities, which previously dealt with 100% of their processes on paper, were very bureaucratic. Nowadays, that changed and routines have been optimized”, explains Carvalho.

“An example of that is the creation of the Paperless Port (PSP, for “Porto Sem Papel”, in Portuguese), which aims to facilitate merchandise analysis and release in Brazilian ports. With it, several paper forms were converted into a single electronic document, the Documento Único Virtual (DUV) — Sole Virtual Document, in a free translation —, which generated agility and savings”, highlights the operations manager.

Besides, the possibilities associated with the use of robust databases contribute to the efficiency of port intelligence services. The strategic use of information can improve the negotiation of sea freight shipping, for example. Charterers and shipowners can count on personalized support to trace routes, comprehend the particularities of each port, etc.

Do they result in significant advantages? Which ones?

Process optimization, step verticalization, and the reduction of the waiting time at the ports, are relevant advantages. To Carvalho, “the combination of those factors will lead the sector to become more efficient”. However, in order for the benefits to be a consistent reality, “a series of transformations needs to be done in port infrastructure”, adverts her.

In this context, the role of the shipping agent will be geared towards market and port intelligence, acting as a consultant, that is, someone who works with rich data and information, that make a difference in the day to day work of other professionals. The so-called “physical service”, done in person at the vessels, will remain relevant, but tends to become more and more punctual.

“We’ll need to change the method of hiring and training our employees. They’ll have a fundamental role in this new work environment, because the evolution will certainly pass through them and through what they have to offer”, complements the operations manager.

What are the technologies adopted by shipping agencies today?

From Carvalho’s perspective, “blockchain represents the sector’s great transformation, because it qualifies several commercial partners”. It will also be the one responsible for establishing a single view on the transactions. “Those involved will be able to verify the details, without compromising the privacy or the confidentiality of the business”, justifies her.

Blockchain started to gain prominence less than a decade ago, when it became known for enabling transactions involving cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin. In general, it’s similar to a book of accounting records, in which entrances are scattered in various computers.

Since the data is decentralized, it’s almost impossible to erase something registered in it, leaving it secure — any person can verify and audit the moves made in blockchain. In order to keep the integrity of what’s in there, the system is formed, as the name suggests, by a chain of blocks. A set of transactions is put in each block, which is then “locked” by an encryption layer.

“Transporters, agents, importers and exporters, customs brokers, and government agencies, such as the Federal Revenue, will be able to collaborate in business processes between companies and with the exchange of information”, points out Carvalho. To her, the great advantage is that “everything will be supported in a safe, auditable environment”.

The use of port drones also deserves to be highlighted, considering it’s becoming more and more common. In 2017, according to an article published by G1, Codesp (Companhia Docas do Estado de São Paulo, or “Docks of the State of São Paulo Company”) worked with the initiative of using 16 drones at the Port of Santos. The devices might be operated every time they are necessary — in the case of calls or fires, for example.

“Drones are already a reality in the delivery of documents and parts. Many tests are happening in Singapore. Anyway, we still have to advance in the regulation and creation of port areas that are appropriate for this kind of operation”, analyzes Carvalho.

Are there prospects for the future?

As Carvalho sees it, some adjustments still need to be made. “Since shipping agencies are a sector with a high level of bureaucracy, we’re still in the phase of converting data to the digital format. That’s why the use of blockchain will help us change our level”.

Despite the challenges, several advances have already left the theoretical field. In the last International Maritime Organization (IMO) convention, which took place in April 2019, a mandatory requirement relating to the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention) was established.

“That is for governments to introduce the electronic exchange of information between ships and ports. In this way, we’ll have the reduction of administrative cargo, increasing efficiency in maritime commerce and cargo transportation”, points out the specialist.

Finally, the impacts of Industry 4.0 in shipping agencies are encouraging, since they may lead the sector to be much more productive. With time, the tendency is that the changes will be adapted to the Brazilian context.

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