Labour Management Software & Port Efficiency

Labour management software has become one of key tools used by ports to improve efficiency to meet the growing needs of the global supply chain.

To meet market demands, shipping lines are expecting faster vessel turnaround times, high berth and crane availability, service availability, competitive rates, and good port worker relationships. Likewise, Third-party logistic companies and freight forwarders are expecting reliable service, low time cost of goods, the security of their cargo and prevention of damages, all at competitive prices. Port Terminal operators are therefore challenged to meet these expectations if they want to attract cargo and ships.

The Role of Port Labour Management

Port labour management plays a critical role in the process of meeting market demands. It impacts supply factors such as container handling rates, service reliability, vessel turnaround speed and berth availability. It is therefore essential to have a robust system in place to manage the labour force to ensure optimum efficiency.

Due to the 24/7 nature of port operations, workers usually operate in three 8-hour shifts. However, port labour is governed by specific labour laws that speak to how many consecutive shifts workers can be assigned. Employers have to also consider the providing unemployment benefits for workers while they are not working. Ports therefore often supplement their permanent labour force with contract or seasonal workers governed by different labour contracts and requirements. These factors all have to be taken into consideration when scheduling these workers.

The Labour Scheduling Process

In speaking with Cecil Williams, Operations Manager at Kingston Wharves Limited, and Nakeita Addiman-Anderson, Operations Transformation Manager at Kingston Freeport Terminal it is clear that there are common factors that must be considered in the daily labour scheduling process. These include:

  • Event Requirements – This takes into consideration the vessel arrival and departure time, the expected output of vessels (cargo type and spread). Also, the need to perform supplementary activities (i.e., yard and domestic activities)
  • Resource Availability – The number of equipment (cranes, straddle carriers, trucks etc.) available to be deployed to the required activities.
  • Skills Availability – The number of employees who are trained and available to adequately execute the activities. This also directly relates to how leave and other absences are managed.

Once a labour requisition is prepared outlining the labour need for each shift, it is then translated into a daily roster. This roster details the exact specifications of where the employees are assigned to work, their rest/break periods and the equipment that they will use for the various shifts. Then comes the process of notifying workers and confirming their availability as well as consolidating weekly payroll and HR details (sick leave, time-offs, days-off and disciplinary actions etc.)

Advantages of Labour Management Software

Manually completing and managing such intricate scheduling rosters each day taking into consideration all the various factors, is undoubtedly a time-consuming process. Port terminal operators such as Barbados Port Inc. and Kingston Wharves Limited have therefore turned to labour management software such as ADVANTUM eLabour. These applications are specifically designed to meet the complex scheduling requirements of the maritime industry.

Frances Yeo, CEO of ADVANTUM shares, “In developing the ADVANTUM labour management software, we worked closely with our partners on the port to determine the critical success factors and delivered on that. The software was originally developed to meet the unique labour management needs of the Shipping Association of Jamaica. Now 11 years later, the application has transformed to address the needs of all industries while retaining and upgrading its special features for ports.”

Labour management software improve efficiency by automating the scheduling process. Once the list of workers and their specific work skill definitions are uploaded into the application, port terminal operators can set up user-defined rules for worker preferences. For example, permanent workers being assigned before seasonal workers unless unavailable. Terminal operations managers can also set different availability rules such as the number of consecutive shifts workers can be chosen to work and to exclude workers for selection when indicated that they are on time-off or sick-days etc. Once the various rules are set, when a labour requisition is uploaded to the system, the roster is automatically produced within seconds.

The ADVANTUM eLabour Software

With the ADVANTUM eLabour labour management software workers are automatically notified via text alerts or through the new eLabour mobile app. They can then accept or reject the job. If the job is rejected for whatever reason, the application will then reassign that specific task to the next eligible worker, and so on until all labour requirements are filled. If no available worker is found based on list of workers in the system, the application will send an anomaly alert to the user so that manual steps can be taken accordingly. The software also provides comprehensive workforce reporting helping users create better workforce forecast plans for each department.

Another advantage of modular applications such as that of the ADVANTUM software, is that the efficiency is doubled when interfaced with its other modules such as ADVANTUM Payroll which processes wages for hours worked. The application can also be seamlessly integrated with the ADVANTUM Equipment software for a full-service platform for resource management including scheduling of equipment maintenance, repairs, insurance, and licensing as well as automating billing for equipment hire/lease.

Perhaps the greatest advantage to using advanced labour management software, especially in this remote work era, is that the applications are now cloud based and thus can be accessed from anywhere in the world and from any device using secure log-ins.

Taking another look

As terminals seek to improve their efficiency and thus attract more business to their ports of call, it is important to take another look at the current software applications in use and whether they are providing all possible benefits to improving the operation processes. To learn more about how the ADVANTUM software can help improve business efficiency email or call 876-923-7022.

Originally published in Portside Caribbean Magazine Issue 2, 2021, pages 18-19.