As global trade recovers from the pandemic-induced slowdown, many industries today are investing in automation technologies to enhance their supply chain management and boost competitiveness in the cargo import and export business.
Kenya has been progressively embracing automation in its cargo import/export business. Its Single Window System (SWS), a digital platform that allows traders to submit all the required documents and payments for clearance of goods through a single-entry point, is a good example of an initiative that minimises time wastage while handling cargo. It also significantly reduces bureaucracy, eliminates duplication, increases transparency, and facilitates compliance with trade regulations.
According to the Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade), which operates the SWS, the system has reduced the time and cost of doing business by 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
The SWS has also improved coordination among various government agencies involved in trade facilitation, such as customs, port authorities, standards bureaus, and revenue authorities.
The installation of a modern scanner system at the Port of Mombasa has also transformed Kenya's cargo trade. The scanner system uses advanced X-ray technology to scan containers and detect any illicit or hazardous materials without opening them.
The scanner system has enhanced the security and safety of cargo at the port, as well as improved efficiency and productivity. According to the Kenya Ports Authority, the scanner system has increased the scanning capacity from 200 to 800 containers per hour, reducing delays and congestion at the port.
This has reduced the dwell time of cargo at the port from an average of 11 days in 2018 to seven days in 2021.
Another area where automation is gradually picking up is inventory management, helping shipping businesses keep track of their inventory levels in real-time, enabling them to optimise their inventory levels and reduce waste.
With the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), supply chain managers can design and execute optimal routes and schedules for trucking, taking into account factors such as traffic conditions, weather forecasts, and fuel costs.
However, the use of automation does not spell the end of human involvement. It paves the way for a future where humans and machines collaborate seamlessly, and where the human workforce shifts from repetitive and mundane tasks to more strategic and value-added functions.
Kemboi is Group Chief Operating Officer at Siginon Group.