The technology of digitalization has been a game-changer, disrupting operational workflows and pushing businesses on a quest to improve efficiency. Digitalization has created an environment where data generation, access, and connectivity have become as essential as the product itself. The impact of digitalization on the maritime industry has been equally as transformative.

Digitalizing operations have led to a situation where quoting and back-office operations are resolved in a matter of seconds, while shipping processes are remotely monitored in real-time.

Nevertheless, the apparent fear of anonymous, impersonal business relations are often reasons for smaller stakeholders to be overwhelmed with concern – holding their companies back from scaling to their true potential. Till date, stakeholder skepticism within the industry remains the most significant threat to companies missing the boat to usher in the new digital age.

Old-fashioned problems within the maritime sector

The maritime space is a very fragmented market characterized by complex contracts and operations on a massive scale. The growing global trade demands highly seamless transactions, which would not be possible without a reasonable level of visibility and transparency in the end-to-end supply chain.

The thousands of small stakeholders who rely on traditional back-office operations like fax, mail and paper documents continue to miss out on new opportunities brought in via digital technologies. Factors like human errors, workflow inefficiencies, and siloed data streams restrain optimization, automation, agility, and profitability of smaller businesses within the logistics ecosystem.

The digital age

Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change manual business operations to more efficient and value-creating processes. Traditional operations are giving way to big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) as the global demand for fast and transparent shipping emerges, fomenting an environment where delivering on time becomes a significant competitive advantage.

Different stakeholders have different work processes and goals within their business. They are often cautious when it comes to new technologies and business models. The lack of visibility of technologies, the fear of cybersecurity risks, or the lack of a clear distinction on digitalization’s advantages drive stakeholders to continue maintaining their ways of operation.

Digitalization in the maritime industry would mean an increase in efficiency and information quality through data collection, simultaneously lowering mistakes and redundancies. Data processing and interconnectivity capabilities enable new opportunities such as automated systems to be controlled remotely or through artificial intelligence.  

While end-to-end digitalization helps with interoperability, processes such as quoting and back-office operations would also become much shorter and more efficient with digitalization. Several companies introduced systems like ERP and CRM to streamline their operations and gain untapped efficiencies. These specific softwares simplify internal processes and make them more efficient and faster. That said, for these systems to be interoperable, it is critical that data being stored is standardized across the end-to-end supply chain.

FreightBro – An example of how digitalization can help

 Carriers, forwarders, or NVOCCs are operating in a very fragmented industry. For decades they focused more on fast expansion and volume business than on efficiency or new technologies. Due to this toxic self-organizing and fragmented nature of the maritime industry, too many operations are not optimally synchronized. That leads to massive inefficiencies in collaborations with other stakeholders in daily operations within the company. 

The procurement and organization of rates are complex because of individual carrier’s varying rate sheets and formats. Data can only be manually compared and is never real-time or up to date. Due to that, quoting can be erroneous and time-consuming. Using handwritten data or introducing incorrect data into the system leads to wrong quotes. The manual quoting process generally requires around 15 minutes for an enquiry and four hours for a quote. 

Companies like FreightBro address such problems, selling data as a service, and predicting global trade movements based on insights derived from their data. They do this by aggregating and storing large data sets, which are made accessible to their customers and internal sales and pricing teams. 

FreightBro wants to enable its customers to make better-informed and quicker decisions to increase revenues while improving productivity and operating margins. An inquiry is generated in 15 seconds through the digital platform and a quote takes only 30 seconds. The quoting process is much faster, flexible, and lets shippers immediately accept the quotes online; the rates are also available from liners and NVOCCs. Online booking, rate comparison, analytics, and track and trace functions take the back-office processes to an efficient digital level.

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