Before you begin your company's digital transformation, you need to create a road map for implementation, says John Snyder
At this year's Offshore Technology Conference in Houston – as they did at our own annual Middle East Offshore Support Journal Conference – vessel owner and marine logistics provider Topaz Energy & Marine offered up their business' last six years as a case study in how to successfully navigate a business' transformational digital journey.
Invest to optimise
As its starting point, Topaz Energy focused on using digitalisation to optimise fleetwide operations.
“We looked at what technologies were available to enable us to achieve that goal and approached the subject in a structured manner to ensure we were not embarking on an initiative that did not have a value attached to it,” said Topaz Energy & Marine head of IT Kris Vedat.
Topaz wanted to operate its fleet as a single unit, a tall order for a company with more than 100 vessels. Optimising operations to this level of efficiency required that Topaz improve the digital infrastructure and systems in place on board its vessels and ashore. The company assessed what investments and upgrades were needed and made the decision to add VSAT across its fleet. Adequate connectivity, they believe, is the first step to a successful digital transformation.
Use your data wisely
Next, the company sought to define which tasks on board its vessels could be digitalised.
Moreover, Topaz wanted to be able to leverage real-time data in order to make smarter decisions and drive transparency with its customers as well as internally for its staff.
To achieve this, Topaz implemented a maritime enterprise resource planning system covering maintenance, drydocking, procurement, QHSE and document management. This enabled the company to create fleetwide key performance indicators and to make sound decisions based on data.
“Data, dashboards and analytics are part of our DNA," Mr Vedat explained. "We use these dashboards to make key business decisions.”
In this vein, Topaz now benchmarks its vessels, displaying each vessel's performance on leaderboards. The initiative creates a form of competition across its fleet based on data, rather than a subjective evaluation.
Monitor and adjust
The company's next project was to implement sensor technology to get more accurate data from various equipment on its vessels that could be displayed in real-time to a dashboard.
It identified several problems with its lubrication oil analysis programme. Among them were human sampling errors and delays in getting oil samples from the vessel to the shore to the lab and the results returned.
“We couldn’t make a decision in real-time because the sample had been taken two to three weeks [before the results came back]. There was no real analytics and no trend analysis," Mr Vedat said.
Traditionally, lube oil is changed based on the number of operating hours recommended in a manufacturer’s guidelines. However, Topaz has been able to move to a condition-based maintenance model for lube oil. Working with Baker Hughes, a GE company, Topaz automated the lube oil sampling process, monitoring 13 separate parameters in real-time on board its vessels.
With real-time sampling and data, Topaz can look at the condition of the oil to see when it needs to be changed. If there is an issue, an alert is seen on board and on shore at the home office. As a result, Topaz generates cost savings based on reduced lube oil changes – savings that are compounded when multiplied across its fleet.
Ultimately, through its use of internet of things technology and advanced analytics systems, Topaz has been able to reduce maintenance costs and ensure high asset uptime.
For many OSV owners, the prospect of transforming a traditional business model with digitalisation might seem a daunting task. However, the competitive disadvantages of for those who avoid digitalising are making digitalisation almost inevitable. As long as you plan properly, your organisation and your customers both stand to benefit from digitalisation.
The key is creating a structured, step-by-step road map for your own digital journey that will allow you to realise and deliver on your specific business value propositions.