KEEPING THE MARINE AND OFFSHORE INDUSTRY
AFLOAT WITH ONLINE STRATEGIES
by Ken Soh, Chief Information Officer, BH Global
The world is moving faster, but it is not getting any smaller. The pressures of speed and the limitations of distance are felt acutely by the Marine & Offshore industry.
To keep operations efficient, offshore sites and vessels need to be well-maintained at all times. Downtime is very costly. This requires timely procurement of Maintenance and Repair Operations (MRO s), including electrical solutions and services and even tools, such as navigation and lighting equipment, marine and offshore cables, wiring devices and more. Getting the supplies to the sites or vessels in a timely manner is a non-trivial pursuit. With every hour ships are docked, the costs add up.
Streamlining the procurement process and giving every user the power to easily access MRO parts such as marine and offshore electrical products right when they need it, or even before, is key to operational performance.
Online strategies go offshore
With time being of essence, and lost time incurring financial losses, marine and offshore employees expect fast return and response times at value price points for their MRO needs.
Typically, when employees identify a need for MRO solutions, they need to request for a quote before placing their order, and wait for their item to arrive. This also depends on whether the provider has ready stock on hand. On the other side of the fence, solution providers are unable to anticipate any hiccups in receiving stock. To curtail this, they tend to overstock, and unsold items become lost investments.
There was a lack of customer accessibility to what they need, and solution providers also lacked insight into their anticipated needs. The marine and offshore industry and its supporting solution providers should not have to bear the brunt of the volatility of MRO supply chains.
The buying experience of the marine and offshore industry needs to keep up-to-date with other industries, such as retail. On-the- go, fast, online engagement readily fills up the accessibility gap that the industry has not been able to close.
BH Global launched its first e-store, effectively communicating with its channel partners and customers on a new engagement platform. Ad-hoc search for products via keywords is now readily available globally. It is the first-step towards a full-fledged online B2B “shopping” platform for channel partners and end-customers. This cannot be done without insights of what the marine offshore industry needs.
Visualising the right resources
The key to unlocking the success of enhanced customer experience sits with data. The true value lies in identifying connections between customer feedback, timely inventory, financial and sales positions, and any strategic information lying within the company to constantly innovate and develop solutions that are relevant to the evolving needs of customers and increasing customer satisfaction. Putting the power of this directly in the hands of users provides them with the elements to plan and complete their service and procurement processes via new and alternative channels.
Through online platforms, BH Global is able to track customers’ usage behaviour. Keeping visibility and insight into the customer’s mind is essential.
Using Qlik’s platform approach to visual analytics, BH Global has access to customers’ purchases, when they tend to purchase it, how large a quantity they need, their estimated budget range and much more. Having all this information presented on a single, user-friendly, graphical platform affords the company the ability to make sense of and identify correlations between these data sets. This helps the company keep track of inventory, customer consumption patterns, peak and off-peak sales periods, and more. This can lead to better planning services and procurement processes.
Improved demand forecasting not only drives higher availability and quick response times; it also creates a sustainable supply chain that is able to fuel the needs of the marine and offshore industry.
Emphatic implementation approach key to digitalising supply chain management
The marine and offshore shipping supply chain has been held back by physical order form submissions that are manually translated into purchase requests before the final deliveries are made. The growth of the industry led to the improvement of the internal processes over the years. However, it is still not keeping up to date as fast as other industries.
The only way processes can take flight faster, is if the users manning these processes are fully on-board with new IT initiatives. To do so, IT solutions not only need to be cost-effective, but most importantly they need to be user-friendly and intuitive.
Internal organisational functions such as finance and sales departments benefit highly from a transparent platform approach to visual analytics where they have a full view of sales performance and financial data at the desired levels of abstractions. This allows departments to be able to conduct more powerful and complex analysis to identify patterns and develop reports to make data-driven decisions to increase sales revenue.
In the past, BH Global had to wait up to three days at each time to generate new data reports. By the time the reports came through, the company was faced with a new set of business priorities that needed to be addressed. There were stuck in a vicious cycle where progression was slow. Today, having the staff adopt and leverage a platform approach to visual analytics and business operations, BH Global has been able to reduce backlog of data reporting and analysis by close to 70 per cent.
The next step is to fully integrate analytics solutions with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to allow for the full analysis of ERP data from the e-store with additional customer, channel partner, and industry data from across all ends of the supply chain. By linking up all the parts of the supply chain, we will be able to progress further and look forward to digital and seamless integrated automation systems for straight-through MRO supply chain management.
Not least, BH Global has also learned from the experience of this initial phase of project the importance of adopting an emphatic approach to system implementations. IT needs to understand users’ challenges in their daily operations, devise value-adds that blend into the operations and most importantly, to communicate and illustrate the values to the users in a stepwise approach at users’ pace. With that, buy-ins and adoption would then come naturally.