As a rapidly growing product and chemical tanker operator since 2010, Ardmore Shipping quickly realized it had a common challenge in its industry. The volume of emails they were receiving, time spent managing them, and opportunities for critical information to slip through the cracks was severely hindering their team’s efficiency and productivity.
Estimating around 550 hours lost chasing email in their current system per week, they turned to SEDNA to create a single, accessible, searchable home for all external and internal communication.
We talked to Ha Eun Ruppelt, Ardmore’s Commercial Project Manager, about exactly how SEDNA helped cut down and better organize their email volume, work remotely, streamline workflows, and introduce a level of teamwide transparency.
Talk to me about your situation before SEDNA
It was in the early stages of our business, in which we realized very quickly that due to the large volumes of emails being received on a daily basis, our traditional email systems could no longer fulfill our communication requirements. As a shipping company, the volume of emails that we have to sort on a day-to-day basis is unlike any other industry.
The biggest issues we found with our previous system were lack of storage, loss of information and time, lack of transparency—which impacted teamwork—and inadequate search functions.
Additionally, we also experienced a loss of access to our emails because of our individual inbox system. Which meant no one had access to the emails of an employee who either was on annual leave or who had left the company. Such an approach was not conducive to continuous operations, teamwork, or our one-team value.
We estimated the cost of the original email system to be as much as 10 hours per week, per person. With 55 shore staff in the organization, this amounted to nearly 550 lost hours every week.
We also had issues with our current system freezing due to becoming overwhelmed with the sheer volume of emails it had to handle. We’re talking about a lot of frustrated users, as well as the loss of precious time for the company.
Where did you start looking for a solution to this?
We first started looking at different data management systems, hoping we could maybe archive our communications to be able to access emails more effectively. We also conducted a lot of research talking to peers and found that the biggest players who had internal IT departments were making their own bespoke systems to solve this problem. However, we knew we didn’t have the same resources or time to create something ourselves.
We knew once we received a demo of SEDNA that it was going to be a game changer for us. I think the number one feature for us was the searchability, which was completely missing in our email system. Every time you searched for something [in our previous solution], the system would freeze and wouldn’t produce the results that you were looking for.
We could see SEDNA also offered transparency to support teamwork, which was very important to us. We felt that we were able to better manage our information and documents as a team.
We conducted some further research and spoke to other customers who were currently using SEDNA, and found day-to-day users to have zero complaints—which was especially impressive with an IT system.
Time is shipping’s biggest commodity. The ability that we currently have to connect with our ship and customers 24/7 means business time requirements are continuously becoming more efficient.
Everything should be answered with controlled urgency and it’s becoming more essential that we communicate more effectively and efficiently. For example, it could be a few minutes’ difference between you losing business or cargo because you were too slow in getting the information.
At the end of the day, if we are to work together more effectively and communicate across the teams, the better the results are for everybody.
How do you quantify the benefits of SEDNA?
One area we hadn’t anticipated was the huge benefit of onboarding new starters, who were working remotely during COVID-19. The ease and transparency of the system meant that we could conduct onboarding and enable them to send out emails and work productively from the get-go.
For example, they can see all the previous emails, templates, and documents within the system and are able to search for information themselves. You don’t have to worry about signing on to VPN, waiting for the terminal server, and downloading a document. It saves so much time.
This was a tremendous help during lockdown with several new hires. You cannot put a dollar sign on that.
Also speaking of transparency, our commercial department was able to identify and secure niche business that brought about new opportunities—simply by having seen non-related correspondences via SEDNA. This level of transparency would’ve been impossible through a more pillar-based system like traditional email.
Another reason for choosing SEDNA was that it could easily integrate with the tools we already used through its open APIs. That alone made it easier for us to promote SEDNA to senior management and roll out.
Did you try other systems to solve these challenges?
We looked into many other data management systems and email alternatives to deal with our main challenges, however, no single system seemed to be able to deal with the issues we were facing. The benefit of SEDNA in comparison with other platforms we looked into is that you’re not only working within your email, but can also communicate with your team in the same space without having to download yet another platform.
Implementing it doesn’t require great change and provides the benefit of being able to communicate openly and quickly with your colleagues, whether they’re sitting next to you or more importantly, abroad in a different office. It allowed the team to focus on what is important and to use historical and parallel experiences to learn and grow as an organization, which is hugely beneficial.
What advice would you give a company looking to pursue transformation like this?
Change on such a monumental scale is difficult to obtain and deliver. I think the biggest lesson learned is that you really need to understand peoples’ needs. If there is no inherent need or they don’t feel they are missing anything, then the project will either not succeed or will be exceptionally difficult to roll out.
It seems strange that we tend to work “around” day-to-day frustrations instead of trying to find solutions. In relation to computer issues, we all just kind of deal with it and come up with a workaround solution that might not be the most optimal or efficient, but gets the job done.
Your pitch needs to change that mindset by focusing on a need for real change instead of stopgap solutions. And at that point, it’s definitely doable.
Which other areas do you think present great opportunity for innovation at the moment?
I think there’s opportunity in the analytics portion of shipping in general, whether that be in performance or market information or operations. We have so much available data, but it’s not always being applied and used to create value.
If we can get the analytics behind what happened on each of the voyages, each of the shifts, the technicalities, and the operations, I think that could potentially revolutionize shipping!
There are currently very few people in the industry that actually understand and can dissect the information different parties are looking for. For most people, 90% of the data is not necessary. It’s about harnessing the 10% that they’re looking for, and identifying what their needs are. You have to present it in a way that’s palatable and easy to use because it’s so dynamic.
The disconnection across the shipping industry and between stakeholders means this is currently not feasible. But if somebody really took the lead on the analytics behind all the shipping data, then huge value could be obtained. It would be hugely beneficial, but it’s a giant task.
Get more insight into how SEDNA helped Ardmore Shipping’s team work effectively remotely, and learn how our smart team communication software can transform the way your team works with a personalized demo.