Germany’s Closelink offers users much more than just the ability to source marine lubricants online, writes Brian Dixon for our latest Startup 2020 profile.
Lubricants are an essential component in the smooth running of any vessel, whether large or small. What’s more, sourcing these critical products has itself become arguably a lot smoother thanks to Germany-headquartered startup Closelink, arguably the first independent spot market platform for marine lubricants. Describing itself as an “intelligent digital platform”, Closelink, the company says, “aims at improving lubricant purchasing and reducing operating costs by increased transparency through aggregated information”.
“Closelink digitises the purchasing process specifically for marine lubricants. [Accounting for] 45% of all consumables, marine lubricants are one of the leading cost drivers in ship operations,” the company says, adding that the platform allows for “easy contract management in order to evaluate lifting options among several ports, products and even suppliers with a single mouse click”.
Furthermore, vessels, it continues, “can be assigned to a specific contractual partner and liftings can be analysed in depth” based on respective key performance indicators (KPIs). On top of this, the Closelink platform also facilitates “the tracking of rest-on-board volumes to detect upcoming demand as early as possible” to ensure maximum efficiency and the streamlining of a user’s operations.
“In connection to the vessel’s route that can be integrated and displayed in Closelink, a purchaser receives sufficient options to manoeuvre to always go for the best choice. These options can always be evaluated and double-checked with an integrated approval process,” Closelink states. And on the subject of integration, the platform, which has been designed to be both “intuitive and user-friendly” in nature, can itself be integrated with a user’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) or purchasing software as needed.
However, “the major benefit” of the platform is the transparency it offers “through aggregated data incorporated in a tailored purchasing process for marine lubricants”. Indeed, Closelink, the company reports, not only “supports the purchasing team to better detect upcoming demand”, but also “allows an easy comparison of options and price scenarios” while providing support in the event of an emergency through “a broad and global network” of reliable suppliers. “The aggregated data also allows automation for recurring processes, such as the supply of lubricants to a large container vessel in a liner service,” it says.
Currently “in full use by more than 300 vessels”, Closelink “is the first platform that puts a specific focus on marine lubricants”, something that the company sees as clearly setting it apart on the market. “Existing software usually does not tailor its processes and features to the specific needs of the respective consumable,” it says. “This leads to the fact that toilet paper is purchased the same way that lubricants are. With Closelink, we focus on the leading cost categories.”
Established by three friends in Hamburg in September 2016, the company’s core team is able to draw upon significant industry and tech experience, with CEO and founder Philippe Lavarde training with BP and commanding six years’ experience in European marine lubricant sales. Meanwhile, co-founders and software engineers Eike Lawatsch and Tobias Schumacher were involved in setting up the ShareNow car-sharing platform that previously operated as mytaxi.