How Technology Can Help Shipping Companies Recover from the COVID-19 Crisis
The global coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on society and on business. Working from home has become the new normal and many industries have quickly adjusted. But in an industry as traditional as shipping, this is causing a major shake-up, not least in the uptake of technology.
According to satcom specialist IEC Telecom, the demand for digital technology has risen tenfold as maritime businesses embrace new ways of working during the coronavirus pandemic.
Another recent study from members of Maritime Singapore highlights that when companies digitalize their processes, they increase their performance, focus more deeply on innovation, and create more value. They report that digitalization must be on the agenda for shipping companies, because ‘competitors are doing it’ and there is a need to ‘future-proof’ business.
Whereas historically, shipping companies were slow adopters of technology, we are seeing many accelerating their digital strategy to improve collaboration between teams on shore and at sea, create a connected workplace culture and to generate major cost and efficiency savings.
Also, there are some companies who have already “digitalized” now realizing their technical solutions are not as sophisticated as they had hoped and offer only partial solutions to problems or are based on technologies that are already outdated.
Integrating these solutions with existing systems and processes can be very complex, and in some cases impossible. In addition, the option to work remotely is often not available due to licensing or technical restrictions. Some are now having to re-think their strategy.
To operate efficiently in the current situation and beyond, access to accurate and up-to-date data is crucial. Now, more than ever, having a digital system in place that is easy to implement and makes data centrally available and accessible, regardless of the user’s location, is vital for continued success.
Moving into the Cloud
One technology that shipping companies are increasingly embracing is Cloud technology.
Cloud computing facilitates the access of business data and applications from anywhere at any time and with any mobile device. This enables better collaboration between teams on shore and at sea, as well as allowing people to work remotely without any disruption to the business.
Cloud-based software like Hanseaticsoft’s Cloud Fleet Manager (CFM) is also enabling companies to optimize the management of their entire fleet, automate their processes, improve their communications, increase their business performance, improve operational efficiencies and drive down costs in many areas of business.
Here are some key areas where cloud technology can have a major impact:
Purchasing – using cloud technology like CFM companies can automate their entire purchasing processes and gain real time visibility into their budgets and operating expenditure (OPEX). They can keep on top of their stock taking and purchases and managers can even approve purchases on the go. This means that managers no longer need to pick up the phone to request prices or place orders, they can access the latest offers and deals automatically in real time, enabling them to make more informed and faster purchasing decisions. Using an advanced solution, it is also possible to directly integrate third party e-procurement platforms such as ShipServ or SeaProc, further accelerating the procurement process since everything is handled in a single solution.
Managing crews - many companies are using software to manage every aspect of their crewing. This includes planning staff and checking their availability, managing their contracts, planning their working and resting hours - ensuring they are in line with regulations and even checking the validity of seafarers’ documents. Automating such processes saves companies significant time and money spent in administration.
Maintenance – Going digital can give shipping companies full visibility of their fleet status and their maintenance jobs, so they can manage them and cost them more efficiently and enable crews to see immediately which jobs are most critical so they can carry them out quickly and productively. Leveraging modern solutions in the market, does not only streamline processes but also brings the possibility to accelerate a variety of tasks. For example, using the Maintenance module of CFM, once a specific maintenance job has been defined, it can simply be initiated again and again.
Information sharing – using software, companies can centralize and share information easily with all staff, which can transform the way they operate. For example, sending out a fire drill procedure can be done in one click to all the vessels that need it. This speeds up communications and saves fleet managers from having to manually send instructions or check if all vessels have received them.
Technology can also change how information is exchanged and accessed. Using a cloud solution, companies no longer need to send emails back and forth, requesting or forwarding information. Data is entered once at one end and automatically made available to everybody else regardless of their or location, improving communication and collaboration and reducing a great deal of time spent on administrative tasks.
As more shipping companies have access to 5G technology at sea, they can take advantage of cloud-based solutions and mobile apps on board and transform how they operate, saving time and money and ensuring their business will be more resilient and competitive in a post-Covid world.