top of page

Just in time operations, Part 1:

The industry news has been flooded with talks of digitalization, automation, efficiency, and optimization. Maritime industry and overall supply chain logistics is not an exception to this.

According to the Smart Ports Market analysis, 30% of shipments are delayed and 25% of trucks on the road are empty. It is also estimated that ships spend up to 9% of their time waiting at anchorage, which results in high fuel consumption (IMO, 2020). Additionally, 28 parties are involved per port call and 35% of emissions could be cut if just in time (JIT) shipping was utilized (Smart Ports, 2020).

The desire to enable short turnaround times for visiting the port is driven not only by the economical reasons (resource utilization), but also by the service provider’s responsibility to the customer whether it is a shipping line or the end customer who has to wait. Therefore, when talking about eliminating the waste (time) and the overall efficiency in the supply chain, Just-in-time arrival is the first step and metrics towards optimized operations.

The Just-In-Time concept has been also widely recognized in the maritime sector. JIT operations in maritime logistics is referred to as a means of increasing port efficiency and port call optimization. According to IMO’s Just-in-time guide, “the successful implementation of JIT Arrivals can have a significant environmental impact through reduced GHG emissions from optimizing the ship's speed to arrive just-in-time.“

What is JIT?

As it has been already established, Just-in-time operations can reduce the time vessels spend idling before entering the port, reduce emissions and cost, and increase customer satisfaction with shorter turnaround times. All the mentioned factors accumulate a great potential for many port stakeholders. So, let’s take a closer look at what is JIT, how it can be implemented and who would benefit.

Just-in-Time perception originates from lean process thinking and constant process improvement (Kaizen) (Lind, 2018). In port call, Just-in-Time operations associate the time and activities that happened from the previous port to the pilot boarding place. According to IMO, the JIT operations are based on “maintaining an optimal operating speed, to arrive at the Pilot Boarding Place when the availability of berth, fairway and nautical services is assured”. In other words, JIT concept means elimination of the waiting time where each actor performs its operations just-in-time i.e. the processes happen one after another without wasting time between them.

In JIT operations, arrival is synchronized between all port actors when the port and terminal infrastructure, equipment, labor and cargo taking part in the port call will be ready in all respects to ensure zero waiting times. This requires that the service providers have a great traffic and resource management system to handle the constant change and different variations (Lind, 2018).

Communication - the root of the problem

The above mentioned delays and time excess spent in anchorage, are mostly due to the lack of transparent information sharing and disconnected processes throughout the supply chain, a lot of time is wasted in inefficient communication, ship operations and sub-optimized port calls.

Another obstacle is high quality data (timestamps, ETA and ETD predictions) for decision-making in order to plan their operations to not only minimize their slack resources but also meet customer needs. According to the STM report, to have sufficiently accurate data, port ecosystem needs a platform “capturing the spatial and temporal dimensions for planned and actual physical movements and service provisioning throughout the value creation process”.

Awake.AI has developed artificial intelligence enhanced predictions for key processes in port operations, providing a real-time (holistic) situational awareness of the entire maritime logistic chain. This can be used to enable Just-In-Time operational planning and reducing harmful emissions and operating costs for ship and port operations.

Holistic approach towards JIT

It is essential to take a holistic approach to JIT Arrivals. For example, Smart port as a Service™ application addresses not only situational awareness and accurate data, but also communication problems and offers tools for all port actors to securely share real-time information, communicate any changes in advance and thus make better-informed decisions toward optimized port operations. Port Authorities and Terminal Operators can optimize their port operations with AI-powered and accurate ETAs and ETDs; meanwhile, Ship Operators and Cargo Owners can utilize situational awareness to enjoy JIT operations.

JIT concept is also related to the berth availability i.e. is the port ready for the ship arrival. In order to improve the JIT arrival, we have to first make sure that the berth and terminal operators are ready to discharge and load the ship. Therefore, Awake.AI also estimates the ETDs (estimated time of departure) of the currently occupying vessels and thus providing berth visibility for the upcoming vessels, inspections, mooring, pilots and towing. As it has been emphasized earlier, this requires information exchange with the port operator. These types of information exchange and operational activities require a trusted collaboration platform.

Real-time & transparent communication among all the port call stakeholders will make sure that everybody is ready when the ship arrives. If somebody lacks capacity or time, it can be easily shared between all parties. Predictions are for everybody to know when the vessel arrives, so you’ll be able to plan your operations days/week ahead or inform everybody if you can’t provide services when the vessel is arriving.

Utilizing this type of situational awareness and communication tools, terminal operators will increase the loading and unloading efficiency and get closer collaboration with other port call actors, enabling JIT operations. And ship operators’ fleet will spend less time waiting, arrive JIT, reducing energy consumption, congestion and emissions in the port area.

If handled well, situational awareness can help them, their customers, and other stakeholders in optimizing their day-to-day business.

Together we can make an impact

Maritime industry is traditional and slow to change. Though, changing economy, new technologies, environmental impact and striving for economic growth forces even the most conventional ports and ship industry actors to amend their operations.

Aforementioned transparency and open collaboration are not possible when information is withheld due to competitive reasons or trust issues. This together with the changing port actors’ mindset will result in JIT operations.

Awake.AI and other industry players are trying to facilitate the implementation of the processes above through promoting information sharing and transparency. To achieve a positive outcome, a joint effort and multiple stakeholder involvement is vital. Additionally, some enablers such as standardization, legislation change, trust, etc. are needed too.


JIT concept is built on waste reduction (waiting time, slack resource management) principles originated from Lean and Kaizen thinking. Successfully implemented JIT operations will reduce time at anchorage, emissions, energy consumption, turnaround time and actual sailing speed deviation from optimal sailing speed. JIT integration requires situational awareness predictions with accurate data, collaboration and resource management tools, and readiness to share information. Industry players, such as Awake.AI promotes information sharing, transparency and offers AI-enhanced predictions in their holistic platform.

In the second part of the report we will cover some practical examples and ROI calculations on how much time and money different sizes of ports can save when utilizing this type of holistic approach. Contact sales to find out more.


  • Smart Digital Ports, A Market Analysis for 2020, Port technology, 2020

  • Lind M., Bergmann M., Balancing just-in-time operations – Coordinating value creation, SMT Technical report, 2018

  • Just In Time Arrival guide, IMO; 2020

  • IMO Alliance to establish Just in Time operations, Port Technology, 2020



bottom of page