Logging logs? Port Nelson leads the way

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:00 25/02/2013

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A new tablet app developed at Port Nelson has brought the process of logging log loading into the digital age.

The app, developed by the port's Information and communications technology team, allows wharf workers to update the progress of loading a ship into a database that can be seen by managers and others in real-time.

ICT manager Hugh Stark said that information was previously recorded by a wharfie using a pen and paper, and then that was collated and summarised later on by other staff.

It was time-consuming, wasteful and slow, he said.

Nelson Forests had asked the port to come up with a more up-to-date tool, so the ICT team began to brainstorm possible applications.

The development process only took three months, and once the first version was complete the team had already been devising updates, he said.

"It's a continuous process; we will never be perfect."

Rather than pay thousands of dollars for rugged, purpose-built systems, the port had opted for software running on cheap, easily replaceable technology.

The app was running on a dozen $500 Samsung Galaxy tablets, and was designed to be as "idiot-proof" as possible.

Wharf hands or their supervisors can use the app to record each load, record and explain any delays, and compare their progress against teams working other loading bays on the same ship.

The information can then be used to generate reports about everything from the average number of lifts per hour to the overall progress of a ship's loading.

Development included the app itself, the database system it connected to, and a web access portal.

Stevedores were keen on embracing it, with about half owning smartphones, and so the app had been a hit, he said.

"They like it, they want to just use the digital system rather than paper."

Because the system was developed in-house, staff knew which features were needed and could quickly get feedback from those who would be using the product, he said.

One priority was conserving power, so the developers chose a simple interface using plenty of black in an effort to use as little battery power as possible.

When in use, the tablets spend most of their time connected to large truck batteries, which can power them for several days, but it was still important to keep their battery requirements low.

Other ports from around the country were interested in the technology, he said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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