Director for digital transformation at one of the most advanced shipowners, Van Oord, explains what is needed for company-wide digitalisation
A shipping company’s digital transformation needs to start with the top management. Once top executives are on board and understand the technology, then digitalisation can cascade down into all areas of operation, says Van Oord director for digital transformation Mare Straetmans.
He presented his opinion during Riviera Maritime Media’s ‘How to develop and implement a digital performance strategy to optimise vessel performance’ webinar on 14 May.
Transformations are hard and digital ones are harder, said Mr Straetmans, particularly in maritime.
Everything that makes a digital impact in your company, on ships and on shore, is about understanding where the opportunities are and how to grasp them.
What I have seen with a lot of leadership in different companies, is that it is still difficult to understand what digitalisation is about.
There are leaders who say “I have to lead a team of youngsters, but I do not understand how, because I cannot understand what they are talking about in terms of technology and digital”.
So how can you as a leader, lead a digital transformation if you do not understand the topic and the opportunities?
We have difficulties as a sector in understanding what digitalisation is and what it can bring to us. I think it includes a generation change, which is also a change in attitude and in capabilities in this new age of disruptiveness.
We are all being challenged by coronavirus and need to be more agile, which requires a lot of new capabilities in different fields.
Leaders need hyper-awareness. Knowing what is going on in your sector, in your company and with your client. It is crucial to make sure you know where to develop capabilities if you want to build something digitally for your clients or for yourself.
It could be knowing where every ship is, or what your ship is doing well. Or how well it is maintained, or when clients want to inspect your ship.
If clients are unable to get to the ship, how do you help them inspect the vessel? You need to know what is going on and what technologies can help.
You need to know what clients want and expect, so hyper-awareness is a crucial aspect of leadership in the digital age.
It is also challenging, because you must be willing to be challenged on what you think you know. There is always more to learn and understand.
We cannot know every aspect of what is going on so we need more specialist people around to challenge us and help in new aspects. This means working within partnerships. But sometimes I still see the attitude of “let’s fix it ourselves”.
We need to find partners that are technology-wise better and together we can offer a better solution to our clients and resources for our operations.
I see being agile and able to test and build digitalisation for operations as crucial aspects.
Some companies have mastered developing, within three months, new pilots or proof of concepts with digital technology in their operations.
These capabilities should be developed quickly and to do this, it is about leadership and understanding what digital technologies are needed.
Van Oord has developed principles we focus on when doing projects. On every pilot we are doing on a ship, we have selected the project on these principles.
We do not do ’nice to have’ projects, nor projects just to make 5% gains. We only do projects where we think we can make a 50% increase in efficiency, or 50% reduction in costs or 50% more impact for our customers.
We ask who is it for? Is there real value? Is it a problem worth solving? We want to make a real impact.
We can start small and if it works and if the client is happy, we can scale up. But it is very crucial to fail fast. If it is not working or if it is not bringing any value, we will kill it. We do not keep pet projects going for a long time.
Digital transformation must make an impact. And is not only about the technical aspect. The most challenging part is talking about leadership, changes in culture and the way of working.
Mr Straetmans was joined on the panel during the webinar by DNV GL business and segment director for special ships Arnstein Eknes, VAF Instruments director of research and development Erik van Ballegooijen and Startup Wharf founder and managing director Leonardo Zangrando.
Watch the How to develop and implement a digital performance strategy to optimise vessel performance webinar in our webinar library