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Benchmarking maturity for the future of Port 4.0

Benchmarking maturity for the future of Port 4.0

In my last blog post, I shared the key elements for simplifying digitalization in port terminals, along with some insights on enhancing operational control and improving yard automation. To better understand the current competitive landscape and digital transformation status of the maritime industry, Nokia partnered with ABI Research to survey port operators in five key markets. Together, we studied their barriers to adoption, and the degree of alignment between their technology infrastructure (IT) investments and operational technology (OT) use cases underpinned by digital technologies. 

This research was part of a survey of 500 enterprise leaders across seven industries. Our aim was to create a maturity index that would help port operators understand how well they are positioned for Industry 4.0 success.

What are the key digitalization priorities for port operators?

Workforce optimization and safety are key concerns for port operators, and can make important contributions to increasing throughput at ports. Operators believe that improvements in collaboration and communication between teams are essential for addressing these concerns. The key to making these improvements is to get rid of paper-based communications and upgrade from Private Mobile Radio (PMR) to more dynamic, diversified and ruggedized mobile devices that provide advanced push-to-talk (PTT), push-to-video (PTV) and group call features. These new capabilities must be enabled by an advanced ecosystem that seamlessly connects with the terminal operating systems (TOS) and vehicles without any signal drop. Ports play a very important role in global trade. Port operators must onboard and offload containers quickly to keep pace with high volumes of goods, meet customer expectations and remain competitive. To improve their organizational agility, they will need better ways to manage the peaks and troughs of economic cycles. This calls for solutions that can help them gain good visibility across their respective supply chains and tackle shortages in labor supply. 

priorities for post operators

Where do ports rank on Industry 4.0 readiness?

According to our analysis, ports scored 60.9 out of 100 on IT maturity, which covers technology deployments with industrial Wi-Fi, private LTE/5G, edge compute, cloud, ruggedized devices and management systems. They scored 67.3 on OT use case deployments, which covers asset performance improvement, operation optimization, worker collaboration and data analytics. When these two scores are close, there is greater alignment between the IT and OT teams. This alignment is a prerequisite for success with common Industry 4.0 use cases that focus on outcomes such as reducing yard accidents and optimizing vehicle connectivity and communications. Ports lag behind other verticals in both IT and OT deployments. 

industry 4.0 matrix index by vertical  
In the OT environment, our survey studied the most common use cases, including equipment and asset performance improvement, operation optimization, data analytics and work delivery. Port operators are generally behind enterprises in other verticals in digitalizing existing assets and operations and connecting them to the Internet. They have also been slower to deploy use cases such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and digital twins, and need to take advantage of their IT infrastructure while prioritizing workforce operations and worker safety. The top OT use cases for port operators are data analytics-driven root cause identification and video-based quality inspection.  

it investments and plans   
In the IT environment, port operators have been rolling out industrial and mesh Wi-Fi and supporting their workforces with mobile devices. They score nine out of ten in both areas, in line with enterprises in other verticals. With respect to private wireless, port operators score seven out of ten for private 4G/LTE and three out of ten for private 5G, which is two points behind other verticals.

If you’d like to understand the your port’s readiness for digital transformation using Industry 4.0 technologies, try our assessment tool today.    

IT/OT alignment: A top challenge for all industries

Many industrial enterprises believe that devising, implementing and harnessing digital transformation projects is a straightforward crawl, walk, run process. But there are many pitfalls along the way.   

barriers to digital transformation  
Our survey asked all 500 respondents to rank the barriers to investing in and delivering on digital transformation projects. Misalignment between IT and OT teams is the top challenge, along with a lack of internal expertise for delivering on projects. Secondary challenges are that staff fear being replaced by technologies and losing their jobs, and that cybersecurity and data security concerns preclude investment. 

Read the full insights in our white paper.

Three key recommendations for port operators striving for Industry 4.0

  1. Accelerate the deployment of private wireless and edge compute    
    While industrial Wi-Fi helps port operators connect yard assets and provide basic connectivity for communications, it has fundamental drawbacks in coverage, latency, security and reliability that hinder digital transformation. When it comes to automating machines and vehicles such as straddle carriers, ship-to-shore cranes, rubber-tired gantry cranes (RTGs) and automated stacking cranes (ASCs), private wireless must be deployed in addition to Wi-Fi. To take advantage of enhanced capabilities such as low latency and real-time analytics, port operators should consider adopting edge compute and streamline application connectivity. The Nokia MX Boost solution even helps port operators combine the power of Wi-Fi and private wireless technologies to increase network capacity and guarantee flawless performance.     
    One of our port operator customers in the United States saw zero packet loss in its recently launched private 4.9G/LTE network. Before this upgrade, the operator’s network had sporadically dropped connectivity or failed to provide smooth handoffs between access points. The move to private wireless resulted in more than 83 percent fewer IT support requests, with none of these caused by network-related issues.  
  2. Explore digital twins    
    Some industrial enterprises have already adopted digital twins to simulate key processes and collect real-time insights. Nokia Network Digital Twin enables port operators to monitor their network operations in real time and predict maintenance needs and potential downtime in advance.    
    Taking things a step further, a digital twin is the ideal solution for fully automating yards and processes and ensuring worker safety. The deployment of digital twins across an enterprise’s full operational environment can pave the way to the industrial metaverse. 
  3. Drive sustainability with technology    
    Energy consumption in a private wireless network is up to 84 percent lower compared to industrial Wi-Fi, thanks to a drastic reduction of the number of access points required to cover a given industrial site. Streamlining ship-to-shore communications using private wireless, radio, satellite and microwave technologies would reduce idle time for ship anchorage, thereby mitigating impacts on the surrounding environment, air quality and water quality.    

One Platform for port digitalization

To learn how Nokia One Platform can help you use industrial-grade private wireless, Wi-Fi, industrial edge, industrial devices, and one-click-to-deploy digital applications to build a smarter and more automated port, visit

Eric Yu

About Eric Yu

Eric Yu is responsible for marketing Campus Private Wireless and Mission-Critical Industrial Edge for Nokia’s Enterprise Solutions business. He is experienced in driving strategic marketing engagements and global demand programs on private wireless and edge computing solutions for the industrial sector. He offers insights about how industries should adopt mobile technologies and transform their industrial operations through low-latency, high-bandwidth mission-critical mobile communication networks.

Eric holds a master’s degree in marketing and a degree in industrial and systems engineering.

Connect with Eric on LinkedIn

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