Supply chain disruptions have defined the last couple of years. And while COVID-19 continues to showcase its volatile brutality and the world adapts to a new ‘normal’, 2023 looks set to bring its own set of challenges. Continued geopolitical tensions, persistent inflation, and increasing interest rates portend a much tougher looming global economy. With the impact of this uncertainty already playing out within ocean freight, it will be critical that this sector embraces digitalisation to optimise their performance and further unleash their competitive advantage in 2023.
Despite global trade estimated to have reached a record of $32tn for 2022, economists predict a loss of momentum for the year ahead – all the while pressures on supply chains remain high. At the same time, consumers within our modern global marketplace expect products to be delivered quickly, cheaply and, increasingly, sustainably. So, going into 2023, it’s more important than ever for the maritime industry to look inwards as to how they can save costs while ensuring they meet customer expectations. Investing in digital technologies that makes businesses more efficient, resilient and sustainable provides the answer.
The industry is already heading in the right direction. Two-thirds of shipping companies have already started on their digital journey and, within the next two years, 70 percent of UK businesses plan to adopt new technology specifically to overcome supply chain challenges, according to a recent survey by SAP. But there is still a long way to go. Take how the industry still processes the bill of lading. In 2020, it was estimated that of the 16 million original bills of lading issued, only 0.3% were digital, costing the industry around $11bn a year. At the end of 2021, this had only increased to 1.2%. This is not just a drag on efficiency and costs; manual processes are error-prone and insecure, increasing the potential for fraud.
So, what’s next? Headline-grabbing technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and digital twinning will be critical for the future of maritime, and will see markedly increased use over the next few years.
For example, AI is already being used to optimise shipping routes, predict equipment failure and make routine back-office work more efficient. In fact, the shipping industry is estimated to have spent $931m on AI solutions alone last year, according to a recent report from Lloyd’s Register and Thetius. That amount is expected to more than double in the next five years to $2.7bn by 2027, with the global supply chain tech market as a whole forecast to top $6tn by 2025. This includes the use of technologies like electronic bills of lading to power instant, secure document transfer and insurance. And digital twin technology, where a digital representation of an upcoming real-world physical product is used for testing, is starting to model the potential impact of disruptions on supply chains.
However, at SEDNA, we believe the biggest improvements and impact in 2023 to come from innovating the more regular, day-to-day, but just as impactful, innovations. And this starts with email.
Email is the currency of work around the globe, the key way every player across the supply chain receives and processes crucial information – yet it’s also the biggest source of friction. With a traditional email system, you might set a search among your hundreds or thousands of emails running in the morning and, if you’re lucky, find what you need some time after lunch. And the sheer volume of email in shipping buries crucial data and slows teams to a crawl as they try to work through it, having to manually save, file, and action individual items. The repetitive tasks mean that employees often cannot get on with the more important and skillful tasks on their to-do lists. Little wonder that 38 percent of office workers say email fatigue is likely to push them to quit their jobs.
At SEDNA, we’re focusing on making email better through making your inbox the central hub for business intelligence. Compared to traditional platforms, SEDNA uses clever features, like AI technology, shared inboxes, and third-party app integrations, to automate workflows and unleash digital innovation without fundamentally changing the way you work – or overhauling your business systems.
Through giving the right teams and individuals access to the information they need, whenever and wherever they need it, our ultimate goal is to reduce time and manual processes and give the world back a billion hours a day. Our global customer base is already taking on this vision, with the likes of Ardmore Shipping, Norvic Shipping, and Casper Group saving up to 2 hours per employee per day when using SEDNA.
With inboxes a treasure trove of untapped potential, the next step for 2023 is to look at how digital technologies can help businesses do more with the data held within their emails. More individuals now have the ability to access and share information more easily. Now, with more automation and third-party systems enriching this data, the focus will be on the next generation of communication systems able to spot the connections between this data and turn knowledge into action.
And it’s not just a case of efficiency. Digitalisation and data sharing will help the industry with its emission reduction targets and decarbonisation strategies in 2023. For example, faster data exchange between all relevant stakeholders enables just-in-time arrivals (meaning that a ship’s speed and route are adjusted so its arrival time coincides with the port’s handling operations), allowing ships to reduce fuel consumption. This both reduces operational cost, and could cut carbon dioxide emissions by 14% per voyage, according to a recent study commissioned by the International Maritime Organisation.
At a time when businesses may be cautious of investing in new technology or big transformation projects, 2023 provides an opportune moment to focus on improving the everyday business-critical systems that can hone in on longer-term visions. Alongside the big technology efforts, updating your inbox can be a catalyst for creating a more efficient, resilient and sustainable maritime industry in 2023 – and beyond. Investing in effortless operations now, allows the maritime sector to make waves in the future.
By Bill Dobie, Founder and CEO of SEDNA