Peter Bakker is set to head the biggest IT project at Ports of Auckland after 23 years in IT. Bakker came to New Zealand as a teenager from Holland and in a career focused on IT development, has had roles at Zespri International where he helped implement SAP, Air New Zealand and ASB Bank, where he was latterly GM technology, strategy and planning in its Sovereign Insurance division.
Late last year, Bakker moved to Ports of Auckland as group manager information technology, attracted to the “effectively a CIO role” where he could “make a real difference” in improving the performance of the port’s IT team and align it better with the business.
Bakker, who reports to the CFO, says the port’s IT team had grown to 25. He has bought project and management discipline to the position, saying that has been one of the job’s challenges.
His role is like any other CIO role, though you are “right at the coalface of an operating business”, as it is situated outside his office door.
“If something doesn’t happen, people will tell you in no uncertain terms,” he says.
Technology is critical to the operation of the port says Bakker. “Essentially, nothing moves without it. Every straddle carrier, every hoist has a router and a screen. It’s like a traveling office in the yard linked by a wireless network to our core systems. Nothing moves in the port unless it is enabled by IT. The entire business operates on the IT platform essentially.”
Ports are also low-margin, high-volume businesses, he continues, working 24x7 with high infrastructure costs.
The port has announced a scoping project for a Terminal Management System from Korean-based Total Soft Bank, with final approval expected in six months.
The new system will give the port a step up to deliver world-class productivity and service Bakker says.
It is called the Computer Automated Terminal Operating System and is a fully-integrated container terminal operation system with customisation and process optimisation.
Bakker says the port chose the system to boost productivity and improve risk management at the port. It is thought to be the first TSB system operating in the Southern Hemisphere, though it operates in more than 70 ports across America, Asia and Europe.
Research into the project began in January, with Bakker spending one to one-and-a-half days a week on the project, working with a project director. He expects the project to consume a similar amount of his time each week over the next two years, more during key decision and delivery points.
The Terminal Management System will be used by terminal operations staff, those working on planning and control, billing and finance staff and IT staff too.
It will replace the port’s old legacy system which comprised of several separate systems: PIMS, PACTS and SPARCS, plus bespoke systems based on Ingress, with applications on ABF and Open Road. Such systems were 15 to 20 years old.
Bakker says these were niche technologies increasingly hard to find. Agility was also becoming an issue and enhancements were becoming increasingly difficult to implement.
“Implementation will also give us a good chance to look at our current business processes and improve these as well,” he says.
Bakker says the port looked at five other systems, selecting TSB for its good service and support model, which port staff noted while visiting reference site ports overseas in their selection process.
“They [TSB] put engineers on the ground to support on a long- term basis,” he says, adding he expects the Korean company to train port staff as well.
In addition, TSB also won on breadth and depth of functionality, having the ‘largest footprint’ of functions covering marine and cargo solutions.
Bakker says the port is finalising costings and a process blueprint covering all aspects of terminal operations, container freight station (packing) billing and e-commerce services. Future phases will also look at conventional cargo and marine service modules.