Wil­helm­sen Ships Ser­vice has found a process- cen­tric ap­proach to dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion in­volv­ing every­thing from smart ropes to 3D printed parts.

Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion is com­ing to the mar­itime in­dus­try. Ship­ping com­pa­nies will need to de­ter­mine how they em­brace it. For many, data will be the pri­mary driver.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - CHEYENNE HOL­LIS

How­ever, Wil­helm­sen Ships Ser­vice has found a process-cen­tric ap­proach to dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion can be just as ef­fec­tive. There is a lot of ex­cite­ment in the ship­ping in­dus­try about the role data can have in terms of in­flu­enc­ing dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion.

It will un­doubt­edly play its part in shap­ing the fu­ture for mar­itime, but it isn’t the only as­pect that will drive dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion in the com­ing years.

“Data is im­por­tant, but in or­der to trans­late data into knowl­edge and then us­able in­tel­li­gence for de­ci­sion mak­ing, you need an in­ti­mate un­der­stand­ing of the busi­ness,” Mr Nakul Mal­ho­tra, Vice Pres­i­dent of Tech­ni­cal So­lu­tions and Mar­ket­ing Marine Prod­ucts at Wil­helm­sen noted. “You need to know the me­chan­ics of to­day’s pro­cesses and pain points and have the clar­ity of thought to iden­tify rel­e­vant, tan­gi­ble de­vel­op­ments that can solve real prob­lems, par­tic­u­larly at the tran­si­tion phase.”

For Wil­helm­sen, dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion was about co-cre­at­ing with cus­tomer and sup­plier de­vel­op­ment part­ners and bridg­ing the vast amounts of do­main ex­per­tise that ex­ists in the cur­rent ecosys­tem and com­bin­ing it with new com­pe­ten­cies that are in­creas­ingly show­ing rel­e­vance in the mar­itime con­text, ac­cord­ing to Mr Mal­ho­tra.

“The abil­ity to find prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions is when you get to­mor­row’s so­lu­tions to to­day’s prob­lems,” Mr Mal­ho­tra stated. “This doesn’t hap­pen if you cre­ate a dis­con­nect be­tween the ground-level re­al­i­ties that ex­ist in the in­ter­faces or busi­ness pro­cesses that make this in­dus­try turn to­day to the new vi­sions that are be­ing put for­ward.”

This is what led Wil­helm­sen to adopt a process-cen­tric ap­proach to dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. While this ap­proach doesn’t ig­nore the role data can have, it may be bet­ter suited to cope with the unique chal­lenges of the ship­ping in­dus­try.

“Process-cen­tric dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion is just a more fo­cused ap­proach that lever­ages use­ful data early on. I think this is all the more rel­e­vant for an in­dus­try deal­ing with huge dis­ag­gre­gated do­main knowl­edge and legacy sys­tems,” Mr Mal­ho­tra said. “We wanted to utilise the tremen­dous re­la­tion­ship we have with stake­hold­ers across the value chain. So, rather than ar­bi­trar­ily col­lect­ing mil­lions of data points and deal­ing with the mam­moth task of data cleans­ing with­out a clear out­come, we fo­cused on spe­cific process pain points that had rel­e­vance to our own busi­ness.”

How­ever, not ev­ery­one is as bullish on process-cen­tric dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion as Wil­helm­sen. Op­po­nents of­ten cite a be­lief that the ap­proach only has a lim­ited scope and is cre­atively re­stric­tive.

“The no­tion that a pro­cess­cen­tric ap­proach will only cre­ate mi­nor im­prove­ments to cur­rent busi­ness mod­els and not al­low for cre­ative ap­proaches is a my­opic one in my view. I be­lieve that new and cre­ative ap­proaches to busi­ness stem, not from whether the de­ci­sion is process or data cen­tric, but rather from a pointed fo­cus on the out­comes de­sired from any model,” Mr Mal­ho­tra con­tends.

He con­tin­ues, “The fo­cus on out­comes cre­ates the in­valu­able ques­tion of whether we are spend­ing too much

time, money or ef­fort on de­vel­op­ing things that will not have value go­ing for­ward. His­tor­i­cally, we have used the term mar­ket­ing my­opia, where com­pa­nies have de­fined their mar­ket in a short term and lim­ited way and as a con­se­quence get dis­rupted by new play­ers. Or­gan­i­sa­tions that con­stantly ques­tion them­selves on what it is they re­ally do and where do they re­ally cre­ate value will stay rel­e­vant, par­tic­u­larly in the face of dis­rup­tion.”

Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion is set to dis­rupt sev­eral ar­eas within the mar­itime in­dus­try as has been the case in nu­mer­ous other ver­ti­cals. How­ever, Mr Mal­ho­tra warns there will be win­ners and losers in the process as more firms jour­ney down the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion trail. It will be vi­tal to take small, mean­ing­ful steps given the chal­lenges many com­pa­nies will face along the way.

“To see the level of dis­cus­sion and in­tent tak­ing place cur­rently is great. But, I do get con­cerned when or­gan­i­sa­tions talk about many vi­sion­ary po­ten­tials, but with lit­tle or no tan­gi­ble de­vel­op­ments and make no steps to­wards the ful­fil­ment of that prom­ise,” Mr Mal­ho­tra said. “We can­not un­der­es­ti­mate the cul­tural bridg­ing that is re­quired in this tran­si­tion, par­tic­u­larly for large legacy or­gan­i­sa­tions where com­pe­ten­cies sit across mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions.”

As is the case with most tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments, the first movers and early adopters of dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion will need to cope with a steep learn­ing curve that will ul­ti­mately pro­vide ben­e­fits to oth­ers within the ship­ping in­dus­try. Those opt­ing to wait be­fore im­ple­ment­ing dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion will face their own set of chal­lenges when try­ing to repli­cate what has been done be­fore them.

“There will be many who are try­ing to un­der­stand what this means for them and the steps needed to en­sure fu­ture rel­e­vance which is part of the process. Those who ex­pect to copy and paste so­lu­tions with­out link­ing them closely with spe­cific busi­ness re­quire­ments and in­di­vid­ual en­vi­ron­ments will fail,” Mr Mal­ho­tra ex­plained. “It is those who ig­nore the fact that out­comes can be de­liv­ered faster, smarter and bet­ter with the new mod­els dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion pro­vides who will be­come ir­rel­e­vant.”

Data is here to stay in the ship­ping in­dus­try, re­gard­less of if a com­pany takes a process- or data-cen­tric ap­proach to dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. The in­dus­try as a whole will need to work to­gether to en­sure it can be used ef­fec­tively.

“Be­ing re­liant on data is not a bad thing, how­ever with it comes re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and new chal­lenges that need to be ad­dressed. Ig­nor­ing these chal­lenges is dan­ger­ous,” Mr Mal­ho­tra stated. “The in­dus­try needs to fo­cus, col­lab­o­rate and cre­ate an eco-sys­tem that is safe, sim­ple and re­li­able in or­der to al­low more stake­hold­ers to par­tic­i­pate and take steps to drive am­bi­tions for­ward.” Solv­ing pain points with tech

Wil­helm­sen’s process-cen­tric dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion ef­forts are start­ing to pay div­i­dends as the com­pany rolls out prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions to old prob­lems. One of these is the firm’s Smart Ropes sys­tem, a mod­ern ap­proach to elim­i­nat­ing the is­sues with moor­ing ropes that have been around as long as ships have been dock­ing in ports.

These ropes are em­bed­ded with a sen­sor pack that pro­vides real time in­for­ma­tion on a num­ber of char­ac­ter­is­tics with the data sent to a base sta­tion lo­cated on deck. This en­ables a crew to moor their ves­sels safer than with tra­di­tional meth­ods. More im­por­tantly, it is the type of in­no­va­tion that data-driven dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion alone wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily pick up on.

Another in­no­va­tion Wil­helm­sen is work­ing on is the Au­to­mated Wa­ter Boiler Main­te­nance So­lu­tion. The tech­nol­ogy uses sen­sors and com­mu­ni­ca­tion mod­ules to mon­i­tor and con­trol pa­ram­e­ters in the boil­ers used on board a ves­sel.

“With boiler re­pairs be­ing ex­pen­sive and crew com­pe­tence, or de­mands on crew time, an on­go­ing chal­lenge, this is an in­ter­est­ing so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of boiler wa­ter man­age­ment,” Mr Mal­ho­tra de­scribed.

Last year, Wil­helm­sen an­nounced it was col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Ivaldi Group to look at in-port 3D print­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for marine prod­ucts and spare parts. Mr Mal­ho­tra noted the two part­ners, along with other stake­hold­ers, are test­ing this at a pi­lot mi­cro-fac­tory in Singapore.

“3D print­ing has the po­ten­tial to re­duce lead times and freight costs for small non-crit­i­cal parts that are tak­ing up too much time and ef­fort for pro­cure­ment and tech­ni­cal teams to source,” Mr Mal­ho­tra said. “In ad­di­tion, we have seen ex­am­ples al­ready of po­ten­tial im­prove­ments in de­sign and as­sem­blies of small parts that in­crease ef­fi­ciency or ef­fec­tive­ness of the com­po­nents.”

Chat­bots to cut down re­sponse times and aug­mented re­al­ity are two other ar­eas Wil­helm­sen is fo­cus­ing on. The end goal with all of Wil­helm­sen’s dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion ef­forts is to find real, tan­gi­ble so­lu­tions to prob­lems, many of which can’t be iden­ti­fied with data alone.

“As you can see we are look­ing at a num­ber of tech­nol­ogy ar­eas with prac­ti­cal, rel­e­vant ap­pli­ca­tions that ei­ther cut down re­sponse times, help boost ef­fec­tive­ness or solve spe­cific is­sues on board ves­sels. There are a num­ber of other de­vel­op­ments in the pipe­line,” Mr Mal­ho­tra pointed out.



Above left: Wil­helm­sen is de­vel­op­ing an aug­mented re­al­ity so­lu­tion as part of its process-cen­tric ap­proach to dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. Above: Spare marine parts made by 3D print­ers, such as these, are an in­no­va­tion Wil­helm­sen is work­ing on with the Ivaldi Group

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