Shipping leaders set course for digital future

Momentum is growing across sectors as leading companies collaborate to realise efficiencies through digitalization, writes Stuart Brewer, founder of Norway’s Beacon Communications.

Services to help Norwegian businesses make greater use of digitalisation, and create new business models, methods of production and customer interfaces are included in the Digital Norway Centre designed to achieve a step change across the Norwegian commercial sector, including shipping.

The idea to establish the Digital Norway Centre has been endorsed by some of the leading companies, organisations and academia in Norway, including Telenor, DNB, Statoil, Aker, DNV GL, Kongsberg, Wilhelmsen, Schibsted, Ruter, Jotun, NTNU and SINTEF.

“Digitalisation creates great opportunities for growth and innovation. At the same time the digital transformation – and the need to attract new competences and knowledge – is difficult for any organisation,” said Walter Qvam, board chairman of Digital Norway and driving force behind the initiative. “To succeed with digitalisation it is necessary to share knowledge and experiences between companies and cutting edge professionals. Norwegian businesses need guidance, arenas for cooperation and facilities to create new business models, methods of production, customer interfaces and services.”

The Digital Norway Centre will officially open in the spring. The first services have already been identified and piloted, and include the establishment of a disruption lab, digital hub and digital maturity index. Competence sharing will be facilitated through digital trainers, digital board and trainee programs, expert communities, executive forums and conferences.

The industry transformation process will bring together a broad spectrum of companies and experts to help facilitate change across the Norwegian commercial sector. Initially Digital Norway will focus on the digitalisation of the oil, maritime, smart power, food production sectors and develop Norway’s future transport system.

Digital Norway comes at a time when the drive for sustainability is gaining momentum across most industries and there’s broad consensus that a sustainable world will also be highly digital.

Even traditional industries like shipping are working to embrace digitalisation in order to keep pace with its transport cousins and indeed the world which it serves. Torvald Klaveness is one of the leading companies putting technology innovation at the heart of its strategy. The dry bulk specialist believes companies like Uber and Airbnb have given a face to the ‘sharing economy’ and is working to fulfil its ambition to become the leading digital bulk operator

Wilhelmsen is another company using a digital approach to business. It has developed a digital platform which is the base on which it’s building the next generation of solutions. It recently launched the first-of-its-kind digital, cloud-based, automated boiling water closing technology which reduces the risk of boiler failure.

There’s also the Kongsberg Group which has established Kongsberg Digital to exploit the potential to help make maritime, oil & gas, renewables and utilities more efficient. Kongsberg Digital heads firmly believe that technologies such as the IoT (Internet of Things), big data, automation and robotics will lead to significant changes for the industry as well as for the public sector.

DNV GL is also playing an integral role in the digital push. It recently launched an industry platform – Veracity – to facilitate connections between different industry players, domain experts and data scientists. The data platform, built in collaboration with Microsoft Azure and other leading companies, will help maritime and energy industries boost profitability and explore new business models through digitalisation.

Another company worthy of a mention is Xeneta. As reported in Splash recently, the owners behind the ocean freight benchmarking and market intelligence platform, have raised $12m in investments to fund its continued global expansion. The business has already had a major impact in the $200bn+ container shipping market.

Whilst the benefits of digitalisation adoption are widely lauded, there are some aspects of its adoption that makes many quite sceptical. For many, it is easy to say that business and society needs to adapt to the digital economy but the practicalities are daunting. They fear digitalisation will bring disruption and the loss of many jobs.

Indeed, the challenge to balance business and broader societal interests is by no means insignificant and it’s welcome that a progressive group of companies are working together to push digitalisation and sustainability higher up the political agenda.

To paraphrase Bjorn K. Haugland, DNV GL’s chief sustainability officer: The digital economy will accelerate the shift to a green, sustainable future. But technology alone is not enough. There’s a need to draw on human innovation. Through collaboration with like-minded people in business, government and civil society, there’s a better chance for high impact and real transformation.

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