Most of today’s major players across the marine industry’s various segments have committed to, or are considering, some level of digital investment. The cruise industry has taken the lead in embracing digitalisation to boost business performance through improved customer experience and operational efficiency in the form of various ‘smart ship’ concepts. The cruise industry is years ahead in using advanced solutions for data collection, real-time optimisation and remote monitoring. The reason for this is probably a combination of owner-operator type long-term thinking, highly complex onboard systems, and the fact that the vessels can cost as much as a US$1billion to build. Cruise operations are more complex and have much higher energy consumption than cargo operations. All this justifies investing in the latest high-end digital technologies.
Thanks to improvements in satellite connectivity, continuously connected vessels are already a reality. Improvements in cloud computing and analytics mean that the infrastructure exists to enable solutions that assist both onboard and onshore operations. Indeed, a competitive advantage can be achieved by enabling efficient communication and cooperation between onshore and onboard personnel, which in turn increases flexibility and enables continuous improvements.
Making data useful
Like all business processes, digitalisation needs to be carried out correctly if it is to deliver tangible business benefits. Investing in data collection systems to reduce human error is a start, but it is rarely sufficient. The reality is that using people to analyse endless data streams across multiple vessels to create insights in a timely fashion is often not possible, leading to a situation where data does not translate into improved performance. In order to avoid this kind of result, organisations need to first understand where they are on the digitalisation journey and then decide how they want to move forward.
The level of digitalisation in a shipping company can be viewed as a spectrum, ranging from traditional operating practices to autonomous operations. As a part of our research into the shipping market we have identified four stages of the digital journey – traditional, connected, smart and autonomous.
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