5 Common Challenges Of Digitizing Technical Operations, And How To Overcome Them

Even the ones that have successfully implemented digitalization will tell you that there are new hurdles in planning and execution at each phase.

Organizations lose on average 20% to 30% of their revenue annually due to inefficient work processes.

Non-automated workflows and documentation of technical operations through forms and papers are common practices in the shipping industry. This leads to complicated and inefficient operations, and can easily result in a high human error rate.

While greater technological capabilities are emerging in the market, many executives in shipping are expecting that digitized workflows can make work like onboard technical operations simpler and more effective.

But even the ones that have successfully been through the process will tell you, the digital transformation road is not straightforward, and there are new hurdles in planning and execution at each phase.

What are the most common roadblocks? What can be implemented to improve the success rate?

Hurdle 1: Audacious goal comes with overwhelming process

Technical management is a complex socio-technical system. Digitalization means changes in team members' behavior and current operational processes. Aiming at a big overhaul of the system or implementing a new system can be a long daunting process and full of uncertainties.

Solution: Start with something that brings value from day 1. Modularizing the needs and target fast returns with fulfilling results.

For example, predictive maintenance is the end goal for technical management. It involves data collection, cleaning, structuring, algorithms testing, etc. Implementing predictive maintenance will take a long time and deep expertise. For most companies, the most urgent need is to collect reliable data, which digitization can bring value to both crews and shore teams right away. This essentially is also a step towards predictive maintenance.

Hurdle 2:  Working the new tool into the current workflow

There’s no talking around it – Simply buying a new software can not resolve long-standing efficiency problems. Software applications inherently re-engineer operational processes. This means that employees may not be able to do their job like they are used to. Too often, organizations go-live with their newly configured software solutions without adjusting the workflow according to the team's behavior. This eventually lead to low adoption rate.

Solution: Conducting a trial with the software provider. This not only helps to show the actual benefits of the new solution, but also is useful to review the optimization areas in the current workflow. Kaiko Systems breaks the trial and implementation into 3 phases:

  • Evaluate: Understand the current workflow and pain points through interviewing different stakeholders
  • Align: Propose trial goals and new workflows
  • Iterate: Conduct mid-trial and final trial reviews, apply changes on the weekly basis

With many trial experiments that Kaiko Systems has done, one month of intensive trial gives the best result in momentum and workflow iteration.

Hurdle 3: Map out expectations

Many times when team members work in silos on a new digitization project, there tend to be unmet expectations when the project is ready to be rolled out. This might lead to another revamp of the project.

Solution: Involve decision makers, crews, superintendents, IT to highlight any requirements as early as possible.

Hurdle 4: Failure to address end-users

Once first users start using the system there will be feedback that wasn't even considered in planning and will require additional changes. If this is not taken care of properly, it can lead to resistance among employees.

Solution: Proper onboarding is essential for a new solution to have an immense effect. As a matter of fact, poor onboarding is the most common reason for failed digitization projects. A proper onboarding process reveals end users day-to-day life. With which, software providers can integrate and add value to the work process.

Hurdle 5: No project manager or lack of project commitment

Technical departments normally operates with a tight schedule every day. Without personnel dedicated to the new project, it’s easy to cause delays and misunderstandings during the project roll-out.

Solution: Choose a software supplier that has a strong project management capability. Once the project vision is agreed upon with decision makers, a rollout timeline with clear objectives and tasks assigned needs to be drafted.

When there are rising levels of uncertainty and volatility in the market, companies tend to first observe the costs and experiences of others before taking action. But when it comes to workflow,  digitalization rewards first movers and fast followers. Each shipping company has a very different setup. Those companies that act earlier will reap the benefits of efficiencies earlier and therefore have a first-mover advantage over their competitors.

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