Ports ensure smooth transfer of cargo from oceans to land through multiple freight vehicles. The gate system at the port is a critical link between sea-side and land-side operations in the oceans-to-cities value chain. The gates are required to meet national and international laws pertaining to safety and permits of goods. Multiple services (checks) are performed to adhere to these rules and regulations. Gate operators not only need to ensure a good customer experience (to vehicle operators) but also consider the impact of congestion in and around the port due to the movement of freight vehicles. In general, efforts have been in place to increase port throughput through berth and yard optimization. Our tool would help close the urban loop by enabling gate operators to plan on future scenarios with higher demand patterns and help design policies to mitigate congestion.
The gate systems operations tool is a hybrid platform that combines discrete-event simulation modelling to represent the gate system and optimization programming for decision support. The simulation model helps evaluate several what-if scenarios intelligently suggested by the optimization model. The solution enables gate system operators to make decisions on lane utilization management. The arrival and departure rates of vehicles vary considerably by the hour of the day and across different days. An efficient lane management policy would ensure that the customers are served within a certain accepted time limit while using limited resources (number of open lanes, manpower).
The decision support tool has the potential of a wider impact on queue management of not just vehicles, but people as well. Around us, many routine tasks of people involve passing through queues with sequential servers such as, selecting, ordering, paying for and receiving food in fast food restaurants. The billing and bagging process at supermarkets is another situation which involves lane management by trading off customer service levels with operational resources.
The solution framework developed is naturally extendable for people lane management (commuters, restaurant guests). The tool would aid service providers to maintain customer service levels across varying demand patterns, while efficiently using existing resources. Customers are also likely to benefit from this experience, by being guided to pick the right lane as well as being assured of an acceptable service time.