When Levi9 was tasked with the challenge of building integrated solutions for a ‘smart port’ for a specialist technology customer, we quickly mobilised a multinational software development team and got things moving.

While a project like this would be complex even in ideal conditions, the fact it landed during the COVID-19 lockdown made it even more of a challenge…

Lifeblood For Commerce

Global supply chains have never been more important. Marine traffic remains the lifeblood of international commerce. Given the 24/7 demands, the infrastructure of a busy commercial port has to be, well, watertight.

Every single process – from the moment a ship docks to container pick up; as well as lorry loading and exit to the onward journey – needs to run like a well-oiled machine.

The never-ending challenge to improve efficiency and effectiveness drives the logistics sector – which is why the technology is being fast-tracked in the race to convert shipping hubs into smart ports.

So when we were contracted to help develop software solutions to transform one of the world’s largest, most advanced, and most environmentally friendly container terminals into a 100% automated smart port, the Levi9 team couldn’t turn the opportunity down – particularly given our long track record in the transport sector.

Involving An International Team

However, one major disruption that no-one could have foreseen was the COVID-19 lockdown.

This was to be a multi-country development – one that required a 60-strong expert group, composed of several Levi9 teams – from Kyiv and Lviv in Ukraine, and Iasi, Romania – alongside customer teams based in the UK, so communication was essential throughout.

As a result of the lockdown, physical onboarding wasn’t possible – nor were onsite visits or knowledge sessions to get the team up and running. But as well as teams working remotely from the client, they also had to work remotely from their peers, which posed a new challenge for all.

But possibly the biggest challenge was absorbing the large volume of information needed to understand the customer’s business; which had to be imparted via video-conferencing – not easy given the scale and scope of the smart port and the need to have every function automated.

Results While Working Remotely

Despite all of this, our team carried on regardless; delivering parts of the software in sprints using Agile methodology. This approach actually helped a great deal given the additional challenges, as constant reviews and daily planning were required – helping us stay focused on the mission and ensure prioritisation – even with a project with so many variables and incremental additional requests.

Although our teams missed out on sharing their workspace, remote working also helped in maintaining focus – and in some areas increased productivity. It was important to keep teams together and to share information through online video sessions and scrums.

Our team was primarily concerned with coding the port gate operating systems – integrating this info and making it compatible across different systems. As a result, the range of development tools used was extensive and involved the use of other third-party systems to make the entire thing come together.

Groundbreaking Work

All in all, working under these conditions really helped to shift our mindset. And despite what were initially seen as ‘setbacks’, we remained super-focused and even hit the original deadlines – which were set before the pandemic hit.

This really has been excellent progress, undertaken in arduous conditions. However, it has set the bar for further exciting programmes for the development of solutions at this ‘smart port’ – and for potentially rolling out the tech across other transhipment centres worldwide.

And, for Levi9, well, we knew our teams were great – but it’s been a real confidence boost for them. Remote working under these conditions has been a challenge, but it’s one they’ve risen to.