With ABB Ability™, we are creating a collaborative environment to help drive marine digitalization and change the way we work – to our customers’ benefit.
Back in the day, I was asked more than once, “Why do you want to turn our service organization into Collaborative Operations? What’s driving this?” This journey was not a simple one. We have come a long way.
The shipping industry has been under intense cost pressures for over a decade, and so the promise of increasing efficiencies has been a main attraction for owners when it comes to their technology decisions.
Remote diagnostics of shipboard equipment has become a feature of shipping over the last decade. Monitoring of equipment flags performance anomalies that can be addressed before they become operating issues. It is a practice proven to cut maintenance costs and optimize efficiency.
ABB, like shipping, is a business with operations, offices and support all over the world. Consequently, our role in digitalization the maritime industry goes beyond supplying and servicing ship systems at sea and extends into the shoreside management offices of our customers. This creates a new relationship between us and our customers – based on Collaborative Operations.
Over the last two and a half years, we have been rolling out our ABB AbilityTM Collaborative Operations Centers to develop a worldwide support network, which offers “always awake” hours that ensure ABB experts are available 24/7 to support the needs of ships at sea.
But Collaborative Operations is more than just a catchphrase. It represents a change in the dynamics between us and our clients, which has evolved from our recognition that shipping needs the transparency of a common platform to realize the full benefits of digitalization.
In an industry where – until very recently – ships engaged with IT systems sometimes as often as their ports of call, and personnel ashore worked in isolated Excel files. Implementation has by no means been straightforward.
The journey started as recently as 2012, when we first discussed a “global ticketing system” of shared information. And it was only in 2015 that “Global Technical Support 24H” delivered a common platform for data available to ABB offices and ships at sea.
By then, our Collaborative Operations Center in Norway was up and running, we had opened a second center in Singapore and we were connected to 600 vessels. Today, we have seven Collaborative Centers on locations around the world and we are increasingly connecting to more ships; by 2020, we expect to pass the 3,000-ship milestone.
Route to digitalization
However, no matter how progressive, it will not be in ship numbers alone that ABB measures its enablement of maritime digitalization.
Another catalyst is ABB AbilityTM – our unified, cross-industry digital offering extending from device to edge to cloud, integrating data to and from products, systems, solutions and services to deliver actionable information. The ABB Ability™ platform is based on Microsoft Azure cloud technology. From a marine and ports business perspective, these solutions take shipping’s common platform to a new level by bringing our customers’ shoreside operations into the loop. Now, customers themselves can have operations centers that share vessel data, including predictive maintenance proposals, and so on.
Collaborative Operations is becoming the operational backbone we can no longer do without, representing our best tools and our highest competencies. And the results are measurable in our NPS (Net Promoter Score): customer satisfaction is improving – on our response time, on our technical support capabilities and on collaboration in general.
Shipping itself has been quickly evolving, making digitalization even more compelling. Today, we have more ships, of course, but they are also taking new routes. Now, cruise shipping is mainstream in the Baltic, in Alaska, Australasia and across Asia, not just in the Caribbean and the Med, and exploration vessels set for polar seas are a shipbuilding phenomenon. Today, too, cargo ships routinely transit the unforgiving Northern Sea Route, and drilling takes place in ever more remote locations.
In all cases, cost efficiency, safety and the environment will surely benefit from the collaborative support that connects the ship, the customer and systems experts ashore, all working together to optimize operational performance. This is what our “Electric. Digital. Connected.” approach to shipping is about: our drive to deliver solutions that maximize the full potential of vessels and ultimately enable a safe, efficient and sustainable maritime industry.