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Digitalisation – Leap of Faith or Fact?

Technology, digitalisation, and the promise of maritime informatics are shaping change in the industry. So what are the signs we are on the right track to Shipping 2050?

The key to digitalisation delivering value is not just optimising any one aspect of a voyage, but instead bringing together datasets from multiple and sometimes unexpected sources and applying them systemically. In this way we ensure we are able to give seafarers, crew and operators the big picture they need, whilst giving clients, regulators, and even society, the answers they want.

We are at a waypoint where data can not sit alone in silos, but needs to be brought together and applied. Using the past, present and future we can analyse, monitor and optimise the voyage, giving the full data rich “big picture”. We see voyage informatics, as a step forward to a future of maritime informatics. It is not enough to churn out numbers, it is about applying them and transforming base data into good decisions, with the observance of good seamanship at its core. 

The digital transformation is not just about the quantity of data, but how we use it to deliver value. The key to success is how we can index, search and manipulate data, coming up with new insights which drive optimisation. Every decision can build on what has gone before, use it to monitor the present and improve every aspect of future operations. 

There is a need to make all parts come together, to use technology, solutions, data and human intelligence which encompasses the whole of the voyage. There is still a lot of work to be done by the industry on this digital transition and journey to increased automation and benefit. 

“To do” list of Digitalisation

George Westerman of MIT and author of Leading Digital: Turning Technology Into Business Transformation said that “When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.” When it is done wrong, it is like using a hammer to put a screw into a wall. You may get it in, but there will be wasted energy, a mess and the solution won’t be all it could be. You’ll also look a bit foolish while doing it. 

Owners, Operators and Managers are on a business voyage that we need to help them navigate, step-by-step. While on the other side of the equation, the technologists need to understand that the wrong solutions are not solutions at all. The digital transformation needs to be rolled out with thought, strategic vision and with the observance of good seamanship, which a system should not be built without. 

Acting fast, with good information and the intelligence, skill and knowledge to make the right decisions will mean that we can make the data work for all of us. It can save time, effort and safeguard against wasted resources. It can provide insight and oversight and can make shipping safer, more efficient, cleaner and more secure. 

So, what are the secrets to successful digitalisation, what do you need to do to make the successful leap for your company? 

Well, you need to…

  1. Build the connections, with systems that are willing and able to mesh together to be smarter. 
  2. Think digitally at every stage of every operation.
  3. Promote the rationale that information matters, and it needs to be shared, learned from and used. 
  4. Be focused on better management, used for efficiencies and results. So reducing consumption, but all the while boosting results. 
  5. Think strategically and understand where the business needs to be, and how digital tools and systems will get you there.

Making the possible probable

This is about using the right tools and knowing how to use them. Digitalisation brings information to you thanks to the centralisation and accessibility of data. Know what the purpose is, know what you want to make the most of it and make it work. Having built the connections, understood the potential of smart technology, and being open to the changes in management approach to allow positive things to happen, what are the other areas to consider in making the most of digitalisation?

Digitalisation must be a strategic priority:  They say that failing to plan is planning to fail. Your digitalisation strategy must be based on a clear plan. If you only have a vague idea of what you’d like to achieve, it’ll be difficult to assess the success of your efforts. Know what you want and why, otherwise you will be chasing the wrong inputs and outputs. 

Know what better decisions are: Digitalisation is a means of streamlining, and it will accelerate the decision-making process. That means that you need to ensure you are all geared up to make good choices.

A culture of innovation: The companies which have always looked to innovate and explore options are the ones that make the most of the new opportunities of digitalisation. Maritime informatics is powerful data and information, it is not for those who think, “we’ve always done it this way”. 

Willing and able communication: With transparency and openness must come goodwill and a desire to share. Communication and connection are core elements of digitalisation. As StratumFive founder Captain Stuart Nicholls puts it, “Digitisation is the tree chopped into logs, whereas digitalisation is everyone warming their buns around the roaring fire”. You have to want to share the warmth! 

Embracing change management: Those who fear change, avoid it. That is not the fertile ground for a digital transformation. The companies who manage their evolution, who understand the risks and rewards, and who see change as positive, are the ones who are best positioned to excel and get far more from the process.  

Move faster, but don’t outrun yourself: Act in haste, repent at leisure. So the saying goes. Those who throw themselves into a process of digitalisation without fully joining all their dots will be doomed to lose out. This is about companies who prepare the groundwork, and who ensure the structures are in place to make the most of the benefits which such a business transformation can bring. 

See the insights, and act on them:  The greater efficiencies which are achieved through integrated and connected technologies onboard ships, such as sensors, app-based controls, analytics, edge computing and smart machinery give powerful advantages to companies. Collectively, they provide intelligent automation and data insights that have a big impact on overall performance. Seeing the insight is not enough, you have to have a plan to act on it. 

Stay connected and safe.

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