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Leveraging technology for enhanced organisational efficiency in the shipping industry

In today's fast-paced world, businesses are constantly seeking ways to enhance their efficiency and performance. The shipping industry is no exception, as it grapples with the challenges of globalisation, increasing competition, and the need to meet customer demands swiftly. In a thought-provoking discussion between Jenna Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of Shipamax, and Martin Hjelle, Head of Technology and Digital Strategy at Western Bulk, the pivotal role of technology in revolutionising the shipping industry's efficiency and organisational performance was explored. Let's delve into the key takeaways from this enlightening conversation.

Exploit and Explore: Balancing Change for Optimal Efficiency

Before diving headfirst into technological transformations, organisations should conduct a thorough audit of their existing processes. Change can be both disruptive and costly, and it's essential to identify areas that genuinely require improvement. As Martin Hjelle wisely suggests, the focus should be on "exploiting" existing systems and processes (70%) while dedicating a portion of effort to "exploring" new possibilities (30%). This balance ensures that decisions made add tangible value to the business and its customers.

Engaging with teams and gathering diverse perspectives on the performance of software and systems is essential. By pinpointing inefficiencies and pain points through dialogue, companies can streamline their operations effectively. Jenna Brown emphasises the importance of addressing low-value tasks that can be automated, such as generating market position lists from scattered emails. By doing so, employees can allocate their time and skills more efficiently, leading to substantial improvements in productivity.

It's important to note that technology isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. While it excels in tasks requiring repetition and data analysis, it may not be suited for situations demanding judgement and relationship management. In essence, effective utilisation of technology begins with a comprehensive understanding of the organisation's unique needs and challenges.

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The Vital Role of APIs in the Shipping Industry

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have emerged as a game-changer in the shipping industry. Both Jenna Brown and Martin Hjelle have recognized a growing trend in the industry towards vendor collaboration. Western Bulk, for instance, adheres to a strict rule of exclusively working with systems that offer and support API integrations. According to Martin, APIs are driving innovation and fostering collaboration among companies. This collaboration enables organisations to create an interconnected network of systems, reducing the need for context switching and enhancing overall efficiency.

Two noteworthy examples were discussed during the session, highlighting the transformative power of APIs:

a. Sedna & Veson’s Veslink IMOS Platform: Operators in the shipping industry receive a high volume of emails daily. Missing crucial emails can have severe consequences. The integration between Sedna and IMOS allows users to sort and filter emails by operator, ensuring that each individual only sees the most relevant emails. This integration not only saves time but also reduces the risk associated with missed emails.

b. Sedna & Shipamax: Western Bulk uses the integration between Shipamax and Sedna to synchronise their inbox with an automated position or cargo list. This integration streamlines searches and reduces information overload compared to using two standalone systems. Martin attributed a remarkable 70%-85% reduction in the number of emails for chartering managers to this integration. Such efficiency gains would have been inconceivable without the use of APIs.

Effectively Managing Change for Maximum Adoption

The process of embracing new technology and driving innovation within an organisation can be fraught with challenges. One of the central questions posed in the discussion was how organisations can balance innovation with effective change management to maximise adoption and minimise disruption.

Managing Change Internally

Commitment emerged as the top indicator of success when implementing IT projects. This commitment should extend from top-level management down to individual employees. Half-hearted change efforts can lead to undesirable consequences in the long run. The vision for change should be clear, and companies should be resolute in their pursuit of progress.

Change can be daunting, and there is often a temptation to revert to familiar practices. Companies must stay focused on their vision and the path they want to chart. Martin Hjelle illustrated this commitment by implementing a range of tools, including Sedna, OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint, cloud clients, and Exchange Online at Western Bulk. These tools empowered employees with mobility and the ability to make informed decisions on the go. As Martin succinctly puts it, "Learn new things, be curious, then you'll be ready for whatever comes."

Keys to Success in the Maritime Industry When Leveraging Technology

Three key takeaways emerged from the discussion on how maritime organisations can successfully leverage technology to increase efficiency and drive organisational performance:

Exploit and Explore

A strategic approach that involves auditing existing systems and processes before exploring new avenues. Change should only be pursued when it adds substantial value to the organisation.

APIs Help Companies Save Time and Work Together

APIs enable organisations to create a collaborative ecosystem, reducing the cognitive burden of context switching. Real-world examples demonstrate how APIs can streamline operations and improve efficiency.

Commitment is the #1 Key to Success

From top-level management to individual employees, unwavering commitment is essential for successful change implementation. Setting firm deadlines and having champions for new systems across the organisation can facilitate change management.

In conclusion, the shipping industry stands at a transformative juncture, where technology is poised to reshape the landscape. By carefully balancing the exploitation of existing systems, exploration of new possibilities, and harnessing the power of APIs, organisations can significantly enhance their efficiency and performance. However, the key to success lies in unwavering commitment, clear vision, and effective change management. As technology continues to evolve, those who adapt and innovate will thrive in the dynamic world of shipping.

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