The role of digitization is to bring the parts of the supply chain closer together. At times that means linking ship, crew and cargo closer with the customer’s customer says OSM in the third part of our digital ship management series.
Over the last five years all the major ship managers have rolled out digital solutions targeting better vessel performance, crew performance and cost reduction. Engine, weather and sea data are now easily matched, analysed and used to create a more dynamic feedback loop to onboard crews, and of course the advent of the digital control centre has increased this ability across multiple ships to help gain economies of sale.
For OSM, one of the Singapore based Ship management firms, the need to explain this journey to clients has become paramount. The ship management industry is cutthroat, and as shipowner fleets merge, highly lucrative if one can have a relationship with a large owner.
But as OSM CEO Bjorne Sprotte says, a one size fits all approach is no longer a workable business model.
“As a ship management company our challenge has been, we tried to make a one size fit all approach, but that has been challenging. There is a broad client base that is varied in size and needs. A liner shipping company versus operating a relatively different bulk carrier”
He explains that this approach has to be applied to digital products too., An operator of a small fleet of bulk carriers taking iron ore, coal or woodchip, from one place to another has different needs, and available investment, than an operator of a fleet of liner vessels with multiple customers and potentially sensitive cargoes.
Closing the gap, nearly. Connecting the dots
But he admits it has been a challenge to explain this so called digital journey to clients, and in the beginning he felt the whole ship management industry got their message off to a bad start – expecting the clients to pay for digital services- which improve the ship manager’s processes while not offering any obvious benefit to a sceptical ship owning client
“The client will make a knee jerk reaction and say you should do it anyway as they expect you to have the best tools”
What is important he says is to look at any digital service or solution from the clients perspective, to explain the business case of a technology that helps clients sell their end product to their own clients.
“One example we have with a car carrier we look at the needs of the fleet in the logistics chain, so we help with the improvements of loading and discharging processes with the fleet and the terminal operator,” he said. “It is about connecting the dots”.
This he says is where the real difference is. It is where digitalisation has now created the ability to more easily connect with the customers and help them in ways not possible before.
“For us our philosophy is to connect closer, work closer, collaborate and communicate differently. In the last few months we have extended our internal communication tools with our customers and already it is better. Now er share information and data and not just say “this is mine this is yours”.
His belief it that transparency will gain momentum in the industry and this is being supported by technology developments.
“If you see the technology we have today on connectivity there is a huge price drop the applications are more meaningful, simpler and easier to deploy”.
Supply Chain Communications
Chakib Abi Saab is OSM’s Chief Technology Officer, joining the company in late 2017 after years at other industrial businesses, to help speed up its change. He sees the digital change sweeping across the shipping industry like it is in other sectors and welcomes it.
He points out that the maritime sector has now realised it needs the technology efficiencies to be competitive, and there is now a major effort by most of these companies to see what technologies there are to tackle their challenges in raising efficiency.
As an example he points to OSM’s improved support systems on ships that allow the crew to communicate in a proper way, and do it with a proper cyber security set up.
“As we get more technology there is also ways opportunity and a risk, so we need a fine balance to get things faster cheaper better and fully cyber secure.”
The virtual future
When it comes to IOT different ships will of course require different things. But it will always be a challenge of who pays for the solution, which of course the third party ship management firms know all too well.
“But a differentiating factor with OSM is that we test the systems to understand the value, so we have a proof of value not just a proof of concept,” argues Ali Saab. “so there is a likelihood to understand the need for investment when they [the owners] see the value”.
But the risks associated with data transfer have to be managed, and for that the concept of edge computing has evolved. For OSM, and no doubt other firms, the data is stored locally, such as vessel’s own data hub, and only what is important gets sent to an operations centre.
Ali Saab points out that OSM customers will not have direct access to the ship’s onboard information for security purposes. They get to see what is important through the data shared by the operations centres while the ships’ crews still get to make decisions onboard the vessel.
After all, this is all about transport chain visibility and empowerment.
Digital Ship Management Review
Further parts of this series to be developed shortly