Unlocking Opportunities

Digital initiatives in the marine industry can lead to a wealth of benefits
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Digital initiatives are becoming more relevant in the marine industry. They’re used for implementing new technologies, streamlining and automating processes, creating new-business opportunities, and transforming supply chains. Primary areas of technological development include Internet of Things technology, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Perhaps the greatest driver for marine businesses is the use of real-time data and analytics.

The need to make faster, more accurate decisions to gain a competitive edge is critical as industry stakeholders work on strategic initiatives to automate their operations and transform their business models. The use of data and the underlying decision-support technologies will play a pivotal role in the marine industry, helping to improve sustainability, safety, performance and supply-chain transparency.

Data Opportunities

Every stakeholder within the industry, from industrial to commercial supply chains, generates an enormous amount of data. While many people recognize the importance of data and the scale of leveraging digitally connected devices across the supply chain, there are still considerable challenges in this area, prompting you to focus on improving data quality, completeness, visibility and distribution.

Establishing automated and scalable solutions to manage data volume and complexity will create the foundation needed to achieve strategic goals and sustain long-term business efforts. Additionally, using cloud technologies will be foundational in consumer and business-to-business relationships and processes across the end-to-end supply chain, driving agility and resilience.

Likewise, cross-functional cooperation and buy-in, and enterprisewide data usage, are critical for establishing long-term data-driven tactics and strategy. Substituting data silos and spreadsheets with user-friendly, data-driven technologies will enable data to become a true and sustaining asset to your buiness.

With greater reliance on IoT, security will be key. Risks can be mitigated through the proper implementation of encryption applications and blockchain technology. Ensuring a strong cybersecurity architecture with an impenetrable basis focused on security, privacy and reliability of underlying systems should be a business priority.

Data Initiatives

From initial design, boatbuilding and maintenance to the optimization of cargo routes, the marine industry is continuously evolving and creating exponential amounts of data. The ability to pivot and shift priorities in real time will rely heavily on leveraging data and new technologies.

Vessel engineering, design and manufacturing are heavily iterative and multifaceted stages where innovation is a driving factor. For example, through intelligent simulation, engineers can leverage real-time IoT data in virtual models to test and optimize systems before implementing change — a process that reduces machine downtime and increases the speed of production.

Integrating IoT technologies into boats provides opportunities for stakeholders to collect and process data to identify equipment issues, perform predictive maintenance and monitor vessel performance. Manufacturers are also leveraging 3-D modeling data to deliver improved performance, address complex geometries and simplify fabrication. By way of AI, engineers and manufacturers are using robots and automation to facilitate fabrication across all sectors, from the cleaning, maintenance and inspection of vessels to launching fully autonomous vessels.

Additionally, engineers and manufacturers are using advanced algorithms and machine-learning tools to create AI-based predictive analytics positioning systems, to help navigators and shore managers monitor the positioning of vessels and improve situational awareness and safety.

Supply Chain and Data Management

By incorporating new technologies, materials and optimization processes, engineers and designers can meet the requirements of the customer and develop cost-efficient vessels while maintaining strict adherence to rules and regulations, which in turn drives value throughout the supply chain.

Increasing consumer demands, evolving regulations and a competitive international shipping system are placing greater pressure on supply-chain stakeholders as customers expect real-time updates on freight locations and delivery dates.

Given the complexities of the marine industry, stakeholders are reducing their reliance on antiquated reporting and legacy databases, and are implementing robust supply-chain and data-management platforms. The quality and accuracy of the underlying information feeding into these platforms will be critical as companies work to improve efficiencies and the overall customer experience.

Promising Opportunities

The transition to data-driven and automated business systems is promising for the marine industry. Leveraging digital technologies and data-driven solutions in a more meaningful way will be key to achieving transformational success. While many stakeholders recognize the importance of data and are embracing digital technologies, more can be done. To secure efficient and sustainable operations and strengthen competitiveness, marine stakeholders should continue to revisit their digital strategies and adapt. 

Bryce Gartner and Robert Misch, PMP, are part of Cherry Bekaert’s digital advisory team.

This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue.


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