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Lean IT management in shipping

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In maritime shipping, a continually growing part of day-to-day business operations involves collection and distribution of real-time data between stakeholders in the supply chain.

As digital communication is being used to conduct business, manage operations, and retain contact with head office, ships are becoming more and more integrated with shoreside operations.

Thus, shipping companies depend on both onboard and land-based IT systems to operate efficiently and be highly available and secure.

Read on to learn how lean thinking and lean IT management can pave the path towards a smooth-functioning IT environment and maritime-optimised ICT solutions that contribute with real value to your business flow.


What is lean IT management?

Lean is all about maximising value and eliminating waste. Lean IT basically translates into getting the most of IT with the least investments and resources. In other words, everything has to work optimally – being that money or people.

For shipping companies, staying competitive is paramount, and this, in turn, hinges on their ability to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace, aka. business agility. Optimising IT operations and processes supporting the most business-critical onboard and shore-side systems is essential for you as a shipowner or operator to be able to respond to internal and external opportunities and threats as they appear.

Read more: How ICT solutions can be used strategically in shipping


How does lean IT management apply to shipping?

Today, shipping companies manage their business and information processes with an array of software, hardware and communication technologies. In fact, IT and digital solutions underpin almost all modern-day vessel operations in one way or another.

Data collection, processing and sharing, automation, and ship-to-shore connectivity have opened the door to previously unimagined capabilities and efficiencies.

At the same time, challenges are lined up. With competitive pressure growing and focus on sustainable transportation increasing, shipping companies are expected to operate according to well-documented procedures and provide transparency in all parts of the supply chain.

The current development to always be connected to cloud services is not feasible over a satellite connection. Bandwidth is still expensive and not as plentiful as in terrestrial settings, and internal changes and budget limitations are forcing industry leaders to use resources more effectively.

In order to meet these technical and operational challenges and cater to rapidly transforming customer expectations, shipping needs to invest in a digital strategy and adopt user-friendly, easily integrable IT solutions seamlessly delivered by trusted maritime ICT vendors.


Real value for your IT strategy

Maritime ICT is all about adding value and streamlining ship operations, allowing you to operate your ships more efficiently.

As a shipowner, you’re concerned about safety, security and protecting your assets. You need a standardised range of services securing your whole fleet as well as good reporting on the condition of your ships.

Furthermore, you need to maintain ownership of onboard data and ensure its safe transfer to shore, making it possible to monitor and analyse assets and take immediate action if needed.

There is no doubt that advances in maritime ICTs have the potential to drive substantial performance gains in shipping. To be able to harvest the business value – productivity increase, reduced ecological impact, cost reduction, quality improvements, and better decision-making – investing in IT solutions on your ships is a necessity.

A full suite of ICT services, solutions and products custom-built for the data-smart ship will provide the reliability you need to be able to operate optimally in a highly competitive environment. Lean thinking offers a program for identifying value as well as reducing waste and inefficiencies to inform your ICT strategy.


Lean IT management requires trusted partners

Shipping companies are not famous for having a large IT staff, so in one sense they are practising lean IT management already. However, this also puts pressure on the other side: the selection of equipment, applications and particularly partners is critical.

In Lean IT, value streams are the services provided by the IT function to the parent organisation for use by customers, suppliers, employees, investors, governmental bodies, the media, and any other stakeholders. These services may be further differentiated into:

  • Business services (primary value streams). Examples: e-commerce solutions and supply chain optimisation
  • IT services (secondary value streams). Examples: email services, cybersecurity services, application performance management, data backup, and data transfer solutions

The distinction between primary and secondary value streams is meaningful. Given Lean IT's objective of reducing waste, where waste is work that adds no value to a product or service, IT services are secondary (i.e. supportive) to business services.

In this way, IT services feed and nourish the primary business service value streams. If an IT service is not contributing value to a business service, it is a source of waste. Therefore, waste must be identified and removed if you are to make your business as efficient as possible. Conversely, services that add value should be nurtured and continually improved to maximise its contribution to the business as a whole.

A critical step in the Lean process is to identify and categorise waste and eliminate it. This also involves a thorough evaluation of whether an activity is:

  • Value-adding – activities that are of value to the stakeholder.
  • Value enabling – not valued by the stakeholder, but required for the process.
  • Non-value added – creates no value and is avoidable.

You must be able to trust that your supplier or vendor has not just the superior products that you expect; you should also pay attention to the level of operational excellence they can provide. There is no good in having an email system that regularly malfunctions or becomes inoperational due to excess spam. A data transfer solution that doesn't perform well in terms of usability or doesn’t work within the limitations of your current satellite setup is no good.

As in many aspects of life – and business – the words of Benjamin Franklin hold true also in IT: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” If the supplier is not reliable and fails to provide excellent products and services, action should be taken to remedy the situation.

You want simplicity and a single point of access to manage your ships’ IT. Maritime-optimised software enables your digital strategy and ensures that your onboard ICT operates smoothly and creates value. Lean IT management offers a methodology to focus on the stuff that matters.


ICT as a value driver

Lean IT management in shipping
Written by Rune Larsen, Service Marketing Manager

Rune Larsen is Service Marketing Manager in Dualog, with responsibilities for user experience design, visual design and marketing of existing and new services. Educated in business strategy and marketing from the Arctic University of Norway, he has more than 25 years of experience from the creative industry, where he worked as a writer, consultant, designer and creative director in various advertising agencies and design studios. He's been orchestrating brand identity projects, design work and brand building campaigns for a wide range of organisations. He brings a passion for great design to the team, never compromising on the importance of the 'experience' part of UX. When not at the office, he enjoys hiking with his wife or is busy being a football coach for his youngest daughter. His fitness regime involves either running or cross-country skiing. Rune is an avid reader of business-related books, and he loves the occasional bottle of Barolo.

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