Shipping companies turning to digital technology to assist with performance management must ensure they understand what technology they really need and how to implement it to get the quick wins and maximise ROI, agreed a group of panellists speaking in Copenhagen last month.
As part of a forum hosted by VPO Global, four industry specialists gave their perspectives on how to implement digital technologies to maximise vessel performance.
There was a general agreement that there is no silver bullet to performance management and figuring out what is needed and where to start the digitalisation journey is key to finding the solutions that best fit individual operations.
“The first thing you need to do is to know what state the company is at when deciding what systems to have and what quick wins they want,” Ms Serena Lim, chief scientific officer at Ascenz Solutions told the audience.
Mark Streuper, strategic account manager shipping at MeteoGroup said that starting with the technology that everyone is using is important. This will make it easier to implement and expand later on. “The trick is also to connect all the systems together to make the perfect solution,” he said.
“It also depends on your ship and where you are going. Every company needs to start with an ROI calculation and determine what is doable,” said Mikael Laurin, chief executive officer at Lean Marine. “We need proven technology to start with as that’s where you get the low hanging fruit. There is a lot to be said about doing thing incrementally,” he advised. “Start with one small project, get your ROI, do that, do it properly, and communicate. Don’t forget to involve everyone. This is the way to achieve success. Once you have done something well you can promote this internally and show everyone how it’s done, how you made a success. It is easier to show the benefits and then easier to attack the next problem.”
Andreas Brekke, CEO of Norwegian company Miros believes that shipping companies should start implementing digital technology into their operations by getting their noon reports automated. “You want to start with automation, maybe even with sensors and not people trying to estimate,” he said. “That’s a good start for whatever other project you are trying to do because you need to find baselines.”
The importance of finding the right partners to ensure success was also raised during the panel discussion. “Finding who to partner with is very important to find the culture in the company itself. You want something reliable and one that can walk with you as digital technologies are changing every day and moving fast. You want someone to understand your problem so they can sit down with you,” explained Ms Lim. “Most systems are not plug and play, not like a USB or light bulb. A lot of these systems need proper configuration, proper problem definition. So, find a company that can look at your problem and find a solution that suits your specific needs,” she told delegates attending the forum.
Mr Streuper added to this, saying that “communication and mutual development are of utmost importance. Trust is also a big thing in shipping. You need to define the goal and understand what you want to achieve as an industry.”
The panellists were also in agreement that in order to start implementing digital technology successfully, data must talk to other data to provide real use.
Mr Laurin at Lean Marine explained that while a company may have all the data they need and all the measurements available, if they have no analysis, implementing a strategy for performance management will be challenging. “Take the customers first, see what they want, what data they have and whether they have any analysis.” Mr Laurin said that sometimes technology companies and solution providers need to be careful as “on the technical side we forget to make the data useful and meaningful for the end user. Often, we create the data and we are very happy with it, but we forget the final step which is to make it understandable and good for the company to act on.”
Mr Laurin went on to say that bringing the customer into focus at this point is crucial. “The customer is focussed on how the information transfers from one database to another and we as solution providers need to make sure they understand how they can do this.”
He believes that standardisation will be key here. “We’ve seen that in other industries where standardising communication and how you analyse data has been the critical point at where data goes from plain data to useful information.”
Mr Streuper added that, “integration is necessary and standardisation is needed. We need to standardise but have competitive systems that talk to one another.”
However, Ms Lim warned that while standardisation is in theory a good idea, there are a lot of missing models out there and it will be a big challenge to truly standardise. “I think the trick is to actually standardise how you want to transfer the information, rather than how you physically log it in your database.”
She went on to say that technology allows the industry to change from one format to another and advised companies to look at what and where they can standardise relatively easily. “Standardise where your database is accessible,” she said.