The Online Boating and Maritime Exhibition

#5 - Smarter and More Secure

How Big Data Is Lifting Cranes


Rostock-based German manufacturer Liebherr is one of the first maritime companies to use big data as an IT tool. With the introduction of the LiDAT smartApp and a big data platform, which optimizes the performance of its cranes at ports and terminals globally, Liebherr has made it possible to quickly analyze operating and performance data from cranes.

Big data as applied to ports and shipping is still in its infancy. But the continuing rise in port and terminal automation where technology and especially communications that are essential to the industry can provide a platform that welcomes and integrates big data across the board.

Three Main Aims for an App

Liebherr manufactures a comprehensive range of port cranes, including ship-to-shore container cranes; mobile harbor and permanently installed cranes; portal cranes; rail-mounted and rubber-tired stacking cranes; plus cargo-handling equipment like straddle carriers and reachstackers.

The company’s telematic LiDAT smartApp has three main aims,

1. Optimize cranes’ cargo handling performance, and,

2. Monitor working progress in real time;

3. Enable processes to work more efficiently.

To do that, LiDAT combines crane technology and data transfer logic and uses big data analytic techniques in the following way:

• Crane sensors record specific values online, during operations;

• Process data is then transmitted in real time to the LiDAT server center, where it’s analyzed;

• LiDAT displays relevant data/variables as key performance indicators (KPIs) on any device (PC, tablet, smartphone, etc) and its analysis results can also be fed to crane operators’ displays.

Big Data Analytics

Speaking to NauticExpo e-Magazine, a Liebherr spokesman explained: “Numbers are everywhere in our lives. Statistics is about turning these numbers into useful information that we can take action on. Big data analytics examines large amounts of data to uncover hidden trends, anomalies and other insights importantly, it helps to detect bottle necks and identify new opportunities.

Big data analytics examines large amounts of data to uncover hidden trends, anomalies and other insights

“With LiDAT, it’s possible to analyze cranes’ operation and performance data and get answers almost immediately which leads to immediate decisions. In turn, that leads to smarter, faster, more efficient operations, higher profitability, and gives ports a competitive edge they didn’t have before.

“It’s not the case that we anonymise the whole data,” the spokesman explained. “As we are trying to optimise each machine, we gather data separately for each machine and operator.”

Terminal Tests

“Right now we are testing the app with customers, and in order to get the big picture we’ve chosen terminals of different sizes, logistic chains and types of goods,” he continued.

“The purpose of this testing phase is to get reliable figures about the real potential of our innovation. These figures will help us to illustrate the actual benefit for each customer depending on their terminal configuration and main turnover.”

With such data on demand, Liebherr expects terminals to enjoy four further major benefits, the spokesman said:

1. Status reports and fleet management. “Users can customize their dashboard by defining important key performance indicators in accordance with their tasks in any given port or terminal. KPIs allow for a quick overview about a set of machines to allow for decisions on any further actions. Basically, the cargo-handling process can be visualized at a glance and working progress can be monitored in real time.”

Calculating Forecasts

2. System integration. “By adding connectivity and intelligence, a certain system integration is achieved. Intelligence means LiDAT can show calculated forecasts, such as the number of hours it will take to fully unload a vessel. LiDAT will also propose optimization measures to allow cranes to work as efficiently as possible.

For example, if the crane is not positioned to make use of its full handling potential, the system proposes the ideal position and calculates the expected gain in turnover. And connectivity means that LiDAT can communicate directly with crane operators for immediate actions.”

3. Training and simulation. “By comparing multiple cranes, LiDAT may reveal further optimization potential. Such data can be used to create realistic training scenarios on a simulator, allowing inexperienced crane operators to improve their operating skills in a safe environment. And the effectiveness of such simulator-based training can also be monitored.

“Big data used to be a technical problem, the art is to break down numbers to key performance indicators,” the spokesman concluded. “But now it’s a business opportunity and with LiDAT, ports and terminals are able to discover facts they simply didn’t know before.

About the Author

Formerly editor-in-chief of IHS Maritime, Tony Slinn is an independent maritime journalist.

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