To survive and stay competitive in the current economic climate shipping companies must find innovative ways of working by embracing modern technology. In a complex industry known for being conservative and slow to adapt to new technologies, are companies aware of the possibilities?
Outside the industry technology is causing the biggest shake up of processes and ways of working since the industrial revolution and shipping companies are beginning to understand its potential. Global management consultants McKinsey recently highlighted: “Over the past few years, rapid technological advances in digitisation and data and analytics have been reshaping the business landscape, supercharging performance and enabling the emergence of new business innovations and new forms of competition and business disruption.” Many technologies used in other sectors can be applied to shipping. There is now a huge opportunity to accelerate the digital transformation of the shipping industry.
Technology enables shipping companies to optimise the management of their entire fleet, automate processes, increase their business performance, improve operational efficiencies and drive down costs. We see enormous potential for further progress driven by technology. Already, there’s been commitment from the industry to bring the internet on board and make it available constantly. This will bring great advances in terms of real-time data exchange, integrating the fleet directly into all processes and enabling operators to gain a 360 ° overview of all events that are happening within their fleet. This is a major step forward. Currently most ships are hardly integrated into the internal processes of the companies. As an industry with such complex management processes, this lack of ability to collaborate and poor visibility of operations is risky and can lead to decisions and forecasts being made based on minimal information. But even without the option for constant internet connection on board – the use of modern management solutions, potentially cloud-based ones which offer one central source of information for the office and the fleet is already bringing great benefits in terms of improved data and information exchange, as well as reduction of communication expenditures.
There will also be great advances in terms of data analysis. Starting in 2018, the new EU MRV regulation will become effective. This will force shipping companies to monitor a variety of parameters. This also marks the first step towards actual performance management and should lay the foundation for an increase in the use of data analytics, leading to better predictions for optimal routes, fuel consumptions and the maintenance of machinery. The result will be a massive saving of costs. Other potential game changers include mobility and cloud-technology, which are expected to have a significant impact on the way shipping companies operate in the future. There have been considerable advances in these fields. The benefits of using cloud technology, as well as mobile devices, are numerous. They include the ease of data access and the availability of information regardless of time or location. Additionally, the cloud makes it much easier to integrate external systems and processes, through interfaces (APIs), e.g. web hooks into each other.
The cloud is being embraced by some of the world’s leading shipping companies who are taking advantage of increasingly affordable and accessible cloud platforms to implement smarter, faster and more effective processes. Having up to date and reliable information available in real time supports better decision making, helps companies reduce costs, increases the return on investment and drives economies of scale from a single ship to the fleet. Often for the first time, shipping company employees, external agencies and crews at sea can work collaboratively and share up to date, critical business information and manage all their processes efficient, accurate and reliable. The technological revolution within the shipping industry is already underway for these early adopters. It’s expected that more companies will follow their lead over the next few years in a bid to gain competitive edge and ensure their long-term survival and profit.