As shipping companies move towards having a digital workforce they need to be aware of the key challenges and strategies they need to implement
Coronavirus Covid-19 has led to travel restrictions and tougher commercial environments, challenging shipping companies.
In order to survive, shipowners, operators and managers need to implement digital strategies and enable staff to work remotely to support their seafarers.
These companies, both big and small, should consider the technology and strategies many other organisations, such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Oracle have instigated to enable remote workers to complete tasks, manage workloads and work safely during this coronavirus pandemic. Shipping companies need to prepare to minimise business disruption.
Software company Hanseaticsoft has summarised its top eight requirements and strategies for thriving when increasing numbers of staff are working remotely.
Ramp up cyber security before giving employees laptops. Companies need to ensure they have adequate security for employees opening up laptops on unprotected home networks. It is also essential to give employees training on security best practice and proper mobile device management for remote administration. It is best practice to ensure all hard drives are encrypted in case of a loss and login credentials are not left on view.
Upgrade internet connectivity
Ensure employees have good internet connections. Team members working at home need wifi setups that are robust. There is nothing worse than poor wifi performance or constant drops during a conference call. One option is to cover the difference between low-cost wifi and upgraded speeds and invest in upgraded modems and wifi routers and expert installation for team members. Depending on the size of the workforce this could be a hefty upfront investment, but it will help keep the business running if employees are forced to work at home.
Messaging for information flow
Without regular face-to-face communications businesses could find information flow is much slower, so it is important to establish good communication systems, using phone, email or messaging services like WhatsApp, iMessage, etc. Set up a channel for every department and every fleet team to replicate the physical office space, alongside some standard channels for general announcements.
Deploy web conference software
The ability to conduct web conferencing for face-to-face team meetings is important. Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Meet, LogMeIn GotoMeeting, or Zoom are available for video conferencing. Vendors of these services have started to offer special plans for their conferencing software solutions due to coronavirus.
Central file storage
Accessing a shared local file server is important as remote workers would not have access to physical storage. Shipping companies should migrate to cloud-based data storage. Companies may want to take a more in-depth look at solutions, such as Microsoft OneDrive for Business, Dropbox for Business or Google Drive, to utilise globally available secure file storage with fine-grained control and visibility settings to centralise team files.
Shipping companies should set up company-wide project tracking software system. For companies that rely on whiteboards and sticky notes, tools like Trello or Asana are good options. It is important to establish some kind of traceable mechanic to enable everyone to see what others do to avoid duplication of work and to prevent manual questioning through the messaging service.
Rules, regulations and expectations
For employees working away from the usual office environment it is important to have written policies around rules and regulations, and what is expected of them during work time. These policies will help everybody to know how to meet expectations and to sustain self-discipline.
Introduce industry-specific software
Shipping companies should streamline business and management processes to achieve greater efficiencies and profitability by considering software specifically developed for the shipping industry to improve collaboration between teams on shore and at sea, creating a connected workplace culture that supports strategic business goals.
These were tips software provider Hanseaticsoft suggested in its latest newsletter.
Hanseaticsoft managing director Alexander Buchmann said coronavirus is causing an unprecedented change in working patterns and business.
“While not every company will be able to introduce remote working practically, those that can are being asked to do so,” he said.
“Increasingly, the shipping industry is embracing digital ways of working, which are helping employees work together more easily and efficiently,” Mr Buchmann continued.
“The digital workplace provides opportunities for a company’s employees to communicate, connect, and collaborate.
“It also eliminates the risk of information silos and supports employees in keeping track of their tasks. We recommend that shipping companies not already using digital tools introduce these so they can improve the way they work and ensure they remain competitive in a digital world.”
Hanseaticsoft is offering small to mid-sized shipping companies its Cloud Fleet Manager – Efficiency Booster. This bundle contains over 15 software tools designed for shipping companies to eliminate hidden information silos and share information no matter where employees are located.
All applications for employees run natively in the browser, so no desktop applications or browser plug-ins are required. Most functionality is also complemented by a free Android and iOS application.