Ship Supply: Technology transforming procurement

Technology is transforming the way ship operators can source and order supplies for their vessels and an ever increasing number of suppliers are investing in the software required for e-procurement.

One such project is the introduction of a new customer portal by Wilhelmsen Ships Service, which is said to slash customer response times.

Launching at last month’s SMM trade fair in Hamburg, the FRED (Framework for Enterprise Data) customer portal will provide WSS customers with an, until now, largely unseen instant overview of all their transactions, on-demand.

As Nakul Malhotra, Vice President, Technical Solutions & Marketing, Wilhelmsen Ships Service, said: “Whether it’s online banking, or e-commerce, as consumers we take for granted that we can access our account details, or ordering information anywhere, anytime with just a few keystrokes. But shipping, as an industry, is typically slower to realise and effectively harness the power of new technologies. We’re focused on changing that, and especially when it can totally transform our customers’ experiences and interactions.”

He added: “FRED is about us being able to personalise what we actually want to see. We need to start bringing what we are used to as consumers into our B2B world. Most importantly we need to make sure that the maritime industry gets into 2018.”

Developed by Wilhelmsen Ships Service’s Marine Products Division, the FRED integrated platform enables customers to securely access their transaction information, including invoices, delivery notes, their order history and view the current delivery status of orders. It also allows customers to retrieve certificates for products such as ropes, along with providing an instant overview of which cylinders they have onboard, and where.

The numerous calls and emails that are typically needed to track current orders, chase invoices, retrieve certificates, or get transaction overviews will become a thing of the past, slashing the time and effort needed from days and hours to minutes.

The portal allows customers to access the information they need wherever and whenever they need it, via a computer or mobile phone and along with transactional data, FRED is inbuilt with alert settings relating to order status or usage such as highlighting when cylinder assets have been onboard for extended periods.

There is also a voice-activated Chatbot facility, where customers can ask about current orders and get an immediate response.

Mr Malhotra said: “The foundation for co-creating value-driving applications and easy to use tools FRED eliminates real pain points with the current transaction mechanisms in our business and wider industry.”

Currently available as a limited release, FRED’s development is constant, with Cargo Hold Cleaning selectors, the next generation of Waterproof – Wilhelmsen’s water treatment logging and reporting tool, and a host of other applications and tools in the pipeline.

He is adamant FRED and its latest iterations will become an invaluable part of Wilhelmsen business.

Mr Malhotra said: “FRED was developed as a direct response to customer feedback and it cures an established and totally avoidable pain point. Transactional data on demand frees up an enormous amount of time. But more importantly it allows us to provide customers with invaluable insight into specific needs and create efficiencies related to the pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase processes for the management of marine products for customers. It’s a massive leap forward for us, our customers and the industry.

“Welcome to a new way of transacting.”

Digitalisation is also driving new business at maritime e-procurement platform ShipServ.

It recently announced that it had delivered a full integration solution to global marine and offshore supplier and logistics company Francois Marine Services, which is a subsidiary of the Northern Marine Group.

The full integration has been built to connect Francois Marine’s new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and will enable the company to increase efficiencies and the speed of processing multiple transactions, responding to RFQs (request for quotation), as well as driving customer retention and winning more business through faster turnaround times.

By fully integrating with ShipServ, Francois Marine can respond to RFQs and quote directly from their new ERP system, enabling the company to better automate the fulfilment of orders with existing and prospective customers, as well as providing greater visibility and control over the entire process.

Manual errors are also said to be significantly reduced ad re-typing is eliminated and efficiencies are gained through time savings.

Francois Marine, which is headquartered in Singapore and has subsidiary offices in South Korea, Rotterdam and Shanghai, procures a wide range of ship stores, marine and oilfield equipment and general consumables for all types of vessels, semi-submersible rigs, jack-ups and drill ships.

Commenting on the agreement, Dominic Fernandez, CEO of Francois Marine, said: “The growth of Francois Marine and the global nature of our business, as well as the markets that we work with makes it essential for us to have a state-of-the-art back office function that is seamlessly linked to all our operational processes.

“Fully integrating ShipServ into our platform is an important part of this and enables us to have real control over the entire RFQ and order transaction process with customers and prospects, driving operational and time efficiencies. The new integration is also an example of where suppliers to the marine and offshore industries must take advantage of developments in digitalisation, enhancing the services and solutions that can be provided to purchasers.”