Implementation of technology and digitising processes and procedures is an obvious way to improve efficiency and ensure vessels are running at optimum levels, but many shipowners are still wary of changing the status quo, writes Alexander Buchmann, managing director of Hanseaticsoft.
This is something that is slowly changing, and technology is starting to reshape how shipping companies do business. Whilst shipping may be playing catch up compared to other industries there are exciting developments ahead for those that embrace digital technology.
One of the hot topics currently is ‘smart shipping’ – highly automised or autonomous vessels. The Clyde Co and IMareEST Technology in Shipping Report[i] found that most respondents forecast the introduction of smart shipping in the next 10-15 years.
Companies such as Rolls-Royce[ii] even suggest autonomous shipping is the future of the maritime industry. They say it’s as disruptive as the smartphone and the smart ship will revolutionise the landscape of ship design and operations.
Some though are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to adopting smart shipping technologies[iii] and it could be some years before the true impact of this on the shipping industry is known.
One of the barriers is likely to be the lack of technical expertise. Indeed, the Technology in Shipping Report[iv] highlighted that the skill set and competencies of crew to use new technologies was a concern when it came to smart shipping.
Whilst the industry hasn’t been renowned for innovation, one technology that has already had a big impact on other industries in the past ten years and is now causing waves in the shipping industry is the Cloud.
The cloud facilitates the access of business data and applications from anywhere at any time and with any mobile device. Investing in cloud technology is improving collaboration between teams on shore and at sea and creating a connected workplace culture that supports strategic business goals.
Cloud technology is straightforward and easy to implement, plus staff don’t need to have advanced IT skills as shipping cloud software is intuitive and requires minimal training. For those wary of change or who have concerns over the competency of their crew when it comes to technology, the cloud can be a great solution.
But what are the advantages for shipping companies?
How companies benefit from cloud technology
Cloud-based software is enabling companies to optimise the management of their entire fleet, automate their processes, improve their communications, increase their business performance, improve operational efficiencies and drive down costs.
A major benefit is the improved communication between staff on board ships and those in head office. Whether that’s crew planning, the execution of payroll or the evaluation of seamen, digital data is always up-to-date and available where it is needed.
Without the cloud it would be difficult for crews, head office teams and other parties to keep up to date with processes and other management and administrative issues, making companies less agile and able to deal with issues immediately.
Additionally, cloud solutions enable companies to drastically reduce their IT spending. Using a cloud-based system, there is no need to buy any additional hardware, take care of servers or pay costly maintenance or up-front fees.
The cloud is also helping companies integrate systems and processes from different departments to a central data source, which is still a major challenge for many companies. With tasks carried out by both land and sea teams a lack of integration has previously meant less transparency across the business.
The cloud enables information to be centralised in one place and made accessible no matter where staff are based – ensuring that systems and processes are integrated and data silos removed – which in turn allows operators to gain a complete 360-degree overview of their fleet and entire operations.
Most importantly the cloud is changing how information is exchanged and accessed. There is no more need to send emails back and forth, requesting or forwarding information. Data that is entered at one end is automatically available to everybody else using a cloud-based solution. Information is available in real-time regardless of time or location, reducing time spent on administration.
The cloud is helping automate and improve tasks such as purchasing and stock planning, as well as complying with regulations such as keeping track of waste, sewage and sludge disposals. Even staff wellbeing can be addressed using cloud applications, as crew shifts and rest periods can be tracked to ensure companies comply with industry guidelines and standards.
A key benefit of using cloud applications is that they are constantly updated and improved as new technologies become available. These updates are automatically installed with no need for manual effort and can help shipping companies’ future proof their business.
Committing to the cloud
Increasingly, CEOs and managers want new technology because it will cut costs and make them more competitive, but they also need to keep in mind that the adoption of new technologies and trends always opens new ways of handling processes.
Technology can change the way companies access information, the way they communicate, how they share data, how they interact with their vessels and crew or how they collaborate with partners or contractors.
This re-evaluation is one of the biggest challenges that companies are facing on their digital journey – whether to employ new people or train existing staff. To reap the full benefits of technology, companies need people with different skill sets who are more analytical to be able to understand and rethink processes.
However, change is happening, and many shipping companies are embracing cloud platforms as they become increasingly affordable and accessible. This is enabling companies to implement smarter, faster and more effective processes to streamline their operations and remain competitive.
The big winners are the companies that are willing to adapt their processes and procedures, hire tech-savvy staff and take full advantage of technology, whether that’s the cloud or smart shipping in the future, to change the way they work for the better.
Article by Alexander Buchmann, managing director of Hanseaticsoft