Port operations involve a wide range of activities, including cargo handling, vessel operations, storage, transportation, customs clearance, and administrative tasks. Productivity improvements in these areas can lead to significant benefits in terms of cost efficiency, faster turnaround times and economic development among others.
As part of its ongoing programme of investment and improvements, a major international container port brought in Renoir Consulting to assist them in getting better utilisation and productivity to optimize their assets. With an annual capacity of over 1.5 million TEU’s, and over 1,000 employees the challenges were significant.
The container port operator had made significant investments in software and new cranes & gantries. What hadn’t happened was the expected rise in port performance. The Operator turned to Renoir for assistance.
A 3-week analysis convinced both Renoir and the Client that significant opportunities were available for improvement. Renoir recommended a program to achieve an initial milestone of a 10% productivity improvement.
A Task Force comprised of selected Port staff underwent an intensive 5-day “boot camp” training to prepare them as key agents for change during the subsequent Focus Process®. To further support the required changes, detailed training was provided to over half of the workforce, resulting in reduced resistance to change.
This training also fostered a better understanding and appreciation of each employee’s role and interconnected responsibilities, leading to a strong sense of accountability and ownership of performance. As one Task Force member commented, “Our training aimed to cultivate excellent relationships among all involved employees.”
In addition to the comprehensive training, employees at all levels of the business participated in observations of operations in their respective areas. They were then guided in System and Process mapping to facilitate critique and brainstorming of opportunities and solutions. Balanced Scorecards were developed, and employees received coaching to help them adapt to the new ways of doing things.
After a thorough ground-up analysis, two new systems were developed and implemented.
Firstly, a Revision Vessel Monitoring Program was designed to monitor, 24/7, the key performance indicators across the entire port. Staff and management can access the monitor the data real-time, which provides excellent and timely information to generate new insights and fix problems at root-cause level.
Secondly, an Accountability Program monitors every employee’s performance on a vessel-by-vessel basis. One may think that this surveillance system embodies a repressive system implemented by company management, but nothing could be further from the truth. Both employees and the union have been heavily involved in the design of this system with many suggestions and ideas coming straight from the work floor. In fact, it has become a positive focal point that has spawned healthy competition between staff and has lead to a major increase in employee morale and satisfaction.
By the end of the 25-week program, productivity had improved by 15%, with performance continuing to improve. As a result, customer satisfaction improved as delivery times decreased markedly.
“ Now I have the courage to suggest to my boss what the real problem to solve is. I’m going to help my colleagues increase quay crane productivity by giving them correct information and by communicating clearly. ”
Providing clear visibility into performance metrics, fostering a culture of ownership, and promoting continuous improvement will make your workforce thrive. There is no real secret here, although this approach is not used nearly often enough. Ask your employees how they can perform better and how they would like to work, design the systems and processes together, so that everyone owns the solution.
Trusting employees to make informed decisions based on real-time data creates a dynamic and engaged team that is aligned with company goals. These benefits of a motivated and empowered team will drive productivity, efficiency, and innovation for your business for years to come.