Sydney’s automated shipping terminal

Terminal Manager Jamie Wardley and his team explain the benefits of the redevelopment of the Port Botany container terminal in Sydney, now with giant automated robots.

Video source: Asciano / YouTube.

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JAMIE WARDLEY, Terminal Manager: Sydney AutoStrad Terminal took us three years to create. It spans 1,400 metres of quay line. We have 10 ship-to-shore cranes, 45 AutoStrad that facilitate the exchanging of containers to and from our quay line. 31 truck grids that are underpinned by OCR gates. We have gate transaction times below one minute, so it's pretty special.

In a manual environment we had a deployment system which was X amount of machines per point of work. Those machines were exclusively allocated to those points. With Sydney AutoStrad and our AutoStraddle technology, these machines are all now pooled. So in a sense it's the best job for the next job. What it allows us to do is to actually optimise our system. There is no more idle time with our machines. Whilst those lids are discharging, those machines are redeployed elsewhere within our business. And they continue to work in that domain until they are required to return back to the point of work.

JOEL MAYBURY, Stevedoring Manager: Essentially, we are the biggest AutoStrad terminal of its kind in the world. The experience a customer gets is second to none.

NEIL TRUSKETT, Landside Manager: The truck grids here at Port Botany: we went from 21 manual truck grids to 31 automated truck grids. They're all individual usage for each carrier. This has increased our capability and efficency, so we'll be able to service more trucks per hour per day.

Before, the truck grids behind us were an open facility. Now each individual grid has its own gate system, so a driver can back onto a grid, come out of his truck, swipe on a panel, which is his own individual panel for each truck grid, and then the gates will close, and that separates him from the process of his truck being serviced. 

I think that's the big thing with automation. It's a safer working environment.

ANNA KERRISON, Production Manager: We have some really fantastic people here in this terminal, and I really have to say that working together with the guys has been a really amazing experience, and seeing the terminal go from a manual terminal, watching that transition through to a fully automated terminal and the way that everyone has dealt with that has been pretty amazing.

WARDLEY: The ability now with our three new cranes coming online, it opens us up to new additional ship-to-shore cranes. So for our customers, it's all about a berthing schedule. The predictability for them is knowing when they're going to berth at Sydney AutoStrad terminal, but more specifically, when are they going to depart. We believe this technology, our step change in regards to automation, will deliver that certainty that our customers need from us.

MAYBURY: We're seeing gains in safety, so we're moving our employees away from the mobile plant, we've also seen a gain in operational efficiency, which drive better outcomes for our customers.

WARDLEY: One of the beauties of Sydney AutoStrad Terminal is we can effectively discharge a box into the yard now, and through the associated systems that connect with our facility, we can make that box available in real-time. As we learn, and we become more understanding of our capability through automation and what automation can deliver, the real winner will be twofold. Our customers will benefit, and the organisation will benefit, because it's the people and what they bring to the table that'll unlock that customer's service piece.

KERRISON: I feel very grateful, I suppose, to be working at the forefront of port technology. It's absolutely phenomenal what we do here, and like I said, I never would have imagined that I'd be sitting in that chair just behind me on a daily basis working with giant robots.

WARDLEY: To me, the people are very important. We can have automation, but without people driving, enhancing, challenging the automation ... the more broadly speaking, we're believers in automation at Sydney AutoStrad Terminal. It is the right step change for our business. It is the future. And for us here at Sydney AutoStrad Terminal, it's growing that capability even deeper.

The robots among us: automated labour

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