You’re really smart if you know what you don’t yet know

30 April 2019
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Making waves #2

In Rotterdam we are continuously searching for answers to make the port smarter, more efficient, better and more sustainable. How have partners addressed this, why, and what could they have done smarter?

Mark Oosterveer is Programme Manager at iTanks.

Mark Oosterveer
Mark Oosterveer

‘For me, the Port of Rotterdam is the place where ambition, innovation, hard work and sometimes a tall tale converge in a kind of industrial village square. Many people know each other or have heard of their neighbour’s current projects. The lines are short and people know how to find each other. In the world in which I work, industry and business services, I see parties being competitors on one project while in other jobs they’re working together on the contract. Everything for the client and the project.

In recent years things have really taken off again in maintenance work and big industry projects. Things are going so well that companies are industriously seeking employees to carry out the tasks. From standard work to large projects, the cracks are beginning to show here and there. And if the staff can’t be found, the work will need to be done differently, smarter or less often. Innovations can ease the situation.

There are always issues at clients and contractors, depending on the economic season. Economic head and tailwinds both create their own challenges. From: ‘How do we shut down a factory temporarily - or “mothball” it - because we’re no longer producing?’ To: ‘How can I automate the work because I can’t get the staff?’ And everything in between.

I have the impression that companies throughout the chain have become more open in sharing these types of issues. It takes guts to show your weaknesses, if you want to call them that. But I think you’re really smart if you know what you don’t yet know and go in search of the answer. Whether it’s a technical or an employment issue, if you have a problem, often someone will have already considered it!

At the iTanks meetings we organise for our networks, we stimulate connection and innovation among our partners. We like to give our network a platform for new ideas and try to help partners find a solution to issues. The art is to keep things tangible and measurable. We don’t produce huge studies, but do deliver real evidence as to whether something’s possible or not. I think it’s also important to start small and scalable. If it goes wrong, then it goes wrong on a small scale and you’ve learned something. If it does work, you can scale up a few steps.

One of the processes that comes to mind in that respect is the cooperation between Deltalinqs, Port of Rotterdam, Municipality of Rotterdam, Innovation Quarter and iTanks. At the end of 2018, we organised a joint Christmas breakfast in the Submarine Wharf at RDM Rotterdam. Five parties from the region presented a topical issue to the audience. Vopak, ECT, Port of Rotterdam, Municipality of Rotterdam and 4Shipping pitched their challenges. After that people - with or without knowledge of the issues - could help think of a solution. And that is smart. We examined which ideas were viable and who wanted to work on these.

We have since organised various follow-up sessions. Sometimes we discovered that one solution would be easy to implement and another definitely wouldn’t be. But posing your problem and using the strength of the network to find a solution: that’s smart and that’s what it’s all about.’