Operational efficiency: The art of the possible in maritime

I want to walk you through a day aboard a modern catcher-processor, a ship like the Alaska Ocean.

These incredible vessels have efficiency down to an art.

The day begins with a crew of about 150 people shipping out to catch and process up to 225 metric tons of frozen, finished products.

Hi-tech electronics help the fisherman focus their search for the catch-of-the-day, which could be Alaskan Pollock or Pacific Whiting.

Then a one-of-a-kind trawling net – fitted with sensors – goes into the sea, sending back data about the catch being funneled in. Once full, the net returns to the vessel, and the fish are released to start the processing work, right on the ship.

The fish move through different steps – gutting, filleting, peeling – via assembly line. They’re cut and cleaned by workers and then sent on to be sorted by size and weight. They’re portioned and packed, then frozen in neat little boxes, ready to ship to your local grocery store.

At the same time, other fish parts are ground into fish meal or turned into artificial crab meat. Caviar is separated and packaged, and fish oil is produced to, in turn, fire up the boiler aboard the ship.

There’s virtually no waste in the process, and every scrap of the catch is turned into something useful.

It’s amazing to watch (check out a fascinating YouTube video here) – and even more amazing to think that this efficient end-to-end operation takes place fully at sea. As one worker aptly sums up in the video, “It’s all about efficiency. That’s the name of the game on this boat.”

I love this example of an efficient operation to illustrate the art of the possible in maritime. Vessels like these have the catching-and-processing of fish products down to a science.

But I wonder about the other parts of the business, the behind-the-scenes aspects of human resources, finance, customer relationship management, shipping operations – departments that don’t get screen time.

Are those operations as efficient as they could be? Are they using outdated applications and devices, struggling with IT that doesn’t meet today’s demands?

Truth is, the digital technologies of today allow for efficiency across the full enterprise. Data can be captured and analysed to improve business insights and boost performance and productivity. Sensors and mobile devices can feed into the data pool, and new, digital applications can leverage existing resources to create efficient workflows. Cloud technologies can allow employees at sea to work seamlessly with those on land.

A system that connects data and processes across the organisation has many applications. It could be used to optimise vessel speed to reduce fuel costs and determine precisely when a ship will arrive in port; to contact and assemble a crew with the right certifications and clearances; to speed up the process of loading and unloading goods at port; and so many more scenarios.

When you think about it, the technology of today can help the maritime industry apply the efficiency seen in fish processing to all aspects of the business. Business leaders can catch and filter the right “inputs,” slice and dice them into useful insights and separate the true “data caviar” from the fish meal.

That’s a process I’d like to watch on YouTube.

Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing the process of IT modernisation in the maritime industry and hopefully bring to light some new ways of thinking about this industry. Join me on the journey, and please add your thoughts here on the blog space or by connecting with me on social media (LinkedIn). I look forward to interacting!

Anna Cebaseva, a CSC client relationship executive supporting global engagements in maritime, brings a new perspective to this historic industry. As the only services integrator with a dedicated maritime focus, CSC offers leading solutions to maritime organisations navigating the journey to the digital enterprise.


Modernising an ancient – and important — industry

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