Increasing Operational Efficiency: An Old (But Newly Urgent) Imperative

The present economic and health crisis has brought a raft of new challenges to companies, many of which were already looking for ways to improve their operations. Global value chains have been disrupted, and these disruptions have increased the need for operations to become as efficient as possible. New social distancing guidelines also have many companies considering how they can automate certain operations to keep their workers safe. 

Meanwhile, the old imperatives remain the same. Most people working in the industrial operations sector have heard the phrase “improving operational efficiency” many times before. Efficiency has long been regarded as goal of paramount importance, particularly in periods of economic strain. But what are the elements of operational efficiency? And how do companies improve it?

The concept of efficiency can often be broken down into two areas of concern:

1.The speed and accuracy of production

2.The efficient use of energy resources

During a presentation at PI World 2020 online, representatives from TraPac, a leading terminal operator, explained how collecting and analyzing operational data can help companies make improvements in both these areas simultaneously. Such improvements can lead to cheaper, faster, more ecologically sustainable operations, while increasing customer satisfaction.

TraPac manages container terminal operations at the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Oakland, and the Port of Jacksonville in Florida. In 2017, the company opened the world's first automated on-dock rail terminal, using a combination of electric and hybrid automated straddle carriers (auto-strads) and rail-mounted gantry cranes. Long-time integration partner Hatch recommended a methodical approach that included a detailed system of record to help them drive continuous improvement to meet their goals and was swiftly deployed.

TraPac's goal was to improve their customer service by keeping within contractual time windows for unloading containers. But they also wanted to improve their sustainability. “If we can […] reduce the amount of time that it takes to move containers, [that's a] measure of efficiency. Better efficiency boosts our sustainability.” Mark Jensen, the Vice President of Asset Management at TraPac said during the presentation.

TraPac's automated terminal equipment relies on multiple control and operational systems from different vendors. These systems use custom algorithms to manage the routing and scheduling of the movement of TraPac's automated equipment within the shipyard. To reach their efficiency goals and improve customer satisfaction, the company combines crane telemetry data with operating systems information like job status (which indicates if a job has started or completed). The company moves their telemetry and process data into the PI System via Restful Webservices using the PI UFL interface. They also collect data from traditional ship to shore cranes using the PI System's interfaces for RDBMS and OPC. TraPac then uses PI Asset Framework to analyze the data, passing some of it to Tableau using the PI System's integrator for business analytics for further insights.

The company uses PI Vision to create operational dashboards and do ad-hoc operational analyses. These dashboards break down equipment work cycles into the major steps like picking up, moving, or placing a container. The PI System allows TraPac to compare cycles or steps within each cycle to similar steps from different time periods, providing insight into operational efficiency.

Watch the full presentation at PI World 2020 online to learn more about how TraPac is using the PI System to increase efficiency and achieve operational excellence. There will be a Live Q&A Session on June 16th at 10am PDT to address inquiries from the original presentation.