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Workshop on 19 October 2022 - Automation in freight transport and logistics

19 October 2022 15:00 - 18:00
Geneva Switzerland

This workshop offered an opportunity for WP.24 to review the efforts taken in automating the freight transport and logistics sector by various players with the aim to provide the necessary insight to WP.24 whether it should engage in the development of a handbook on automation. This handbook should facilitate embracing automation in the sector at various levels by different stakeholders, including business and public administration. 15. Background information on the workshop is contained in Informal documents No. 2. The workshop informed about various projects piloted in countries, group of countries, companies or consortia to better embrace automation in freight transport, intermodal and logistics sector. It covered successfully implemented solutions (at maritime terminals, inland terminals, or railways) as well as solutions in testing phases. It offered insight into benefits from correctly approached automation, as well as possible automation pitfalls. It presented how virtual simulations through digital twins can help find solutions to optimize transport and logistics processes in the physical world. Last but not least, it discussed impacts from automation on the workforce and how the “human element” should be considered in automating the freight transport and logistics industry. The workshop showed the following:

• Automation requires a business case, proper management approach and stakeholder dialogue including workers and/or unions. For terminals, specific size, cargo volumes/turnover, functionality or capacity gains need to be achieved for investments in automation to pay off;

• Automation should be tailored-made to the needs. There are various levels at which automation can be introduced, for example: automation of vehicles/equipment at terminals, automated systems for entry and exit from terminals, digital twins, data and information exchange platforms, paperless train management, track and trace, digital seals, etc. Some of the automated solutions can be implemented independently of others. The companies or industry should, however, develop and follow a strategic business plan for automation, ECE/TRANS/WP.24/151 5;

• Not all automation solutions would lead to productivity gains compared to manual handling processes, for example in considering automated versus manually operated terminals. At the same time, automated processes result in more constant productivity over time. Savings can also be achieved in maintenance, as automated vehicles which operate at more constant speeds can have a longer lifespan, • For some automation solutions to be successful, they require the alignment of the entire sector, for example with digital automated coupling, or digital rail platforms for the exchange of information. Interoperable solutions based on widely accepted industry standards need to be prioritized, • Automation may bring more safety to the sector if it is appropriately managed. It can replace unsafe or hardship human activities. The interaction between technology and workers, especially at terminals, needs to be defined and controlled to avoid safety incidents. The separation between manual and automated container operation should therefore be applied at terminals;

• As technology is expected to develop and improve, the pace of automation uptake in the sector is expected to increase. Automation would thus become more accessible including for small- and medium-sized enterprises. As its role would increase, workforce and society at large need to be prepared to embrace it effectively;

• Cybersecurity is at the heart of automation. Proper approaches need to be taken towards securing Information Technology (IT) systems. The workforce needs to be trained against cyber-attacks such as phishing, • Humans should be in control of automation and manage it so that it benefits society at large; and

• Automation should be managed hand-in-hand with reskilling, retraining or upskilling the workforce. Job restructuring should be planned and managed to help workers requalify in time for new requirements in a more automated work environment.