SMT Shipping focuses on Data Analytics to strengthen its market position
“It’s not our ambition to become the largest shipping company in the world, but we do want to be the most successful in our segment,” says CFO Marcel Heijnsbroek of SMT Shipping. The international company focuses on industrialized shipping and is the owner, operator and manager of the vessels. A unique market position. Nevertheless, competition is fierce. To gain better insight into its own performance, and how the organization compares to the market, SMT is investing in Data Analytics.
Like in any industry, the demands of SMT’s customers change. With the advent of digitization and IoT, it is becoming easier to track and monitor ships in real time. This creates new requests, such as the desire for insight into the location of a ship, the exact loading and unloading times and a forecast for future geographical vessel positions. “These are actions that we now often perform manually,” Heijnsbroek explains. This resulted in stacks of Excel sheets. And according to SMT, these Excel sheets simply had to be banned. So when the pandemic broke out, the focus shifted from business development to internal development. Data Analytics became one of the core projects.
Steven van den Haak was appointed project leader. “Before I started at SMT, I worked at PostNL,” he says. “One of the Dutch frontrunners in automation. Because of this, I knew that if we wanted to realize SMT’s growth ambition, we had to improve our service portfolio. The solution is not in continuing to grow in number of employees. We need to do things smarter, and automate.” Van den Haak approached his former PostNL colleague Roeland van Hattem for this. “Roeland was our API specialist and now works at Rubix.” After having a good conversation, followed by a team meeting at SMT head office, Rubix started a Proof of Concept (PoC). With the aim of simplifying the analytical processes whilst improving data quality.
“In six weeks, Rubix made a scan of our landscape and created a test dashboard,” Van den Haak explains. SMT’s commercial, operational, financial and technical systems, which are distributed worldwide in both on-premise and cloud-based systems, were brought together in a TIBCO Spotfire dashboard. An intuitive BI tool, on which SMT employees can not only see what happened, but also why and the story behind the results. “Internally we call the platform SAMs”, says Heijnsbroek with a laugh. “That stands for SMT Analytics Management System. But it is also a nod to our favorite Kebab place in Cyprus.”
One version of the truth
The Proof of Concept was an important test for SMT. “We not only wanted to see what Rubix had to offer, but we also needed to test whether our organization was ready for this step,” explains Van den Haak. Setting up a data analysis system involves more than just connecting systems and unlocking the data. “As a user, you are forced to consciously enter your figures, because they are reused in analyses. Previously, there were still many discrepancies between definitions. But with this system we work towards a ‘single point of truth’. That gives focus.”
Working with data analysis software requires a curious attitude from the employees of SMT. “What we sometimes forget is that we can also figure things out ourselves,” says Heijnsbroek. “People are still waiting for the next report to be delivered. With this system we make the data, on which the analyzes are based, available in a simple way. In the place where people know the most about it. So that they can draw their own conclusions from this.”
Expectations and predictions
After the Proof of Concept, the project officially started. Heijnsbroek is convinced of the added value: “We get a better view of our own performance. This teaches us a lot and shows us points eligible for improvement. It also helps us to better position ourselves compared to the competition. Thereby providing a good basis for structural growth.” Beyond the insight and commercial opportunities, the data analytics system brings another advantage: the ability to do predictive analytics. “We want to get the basics right first,” adds Van den Haak. “But predictive analytics will definitely come after that. For example, if you know where you are, how fast you are sailing and what the time slot of a port is. Then you can calculate how fast you can sail to arrive at the port exactly on time, with the lowest possible fuel consumption.”
Predictive analyzes are currently still a the future plan. In the meantime, SMT is taking the next step: sharing data with external parties. “Society as a whole requires digitization,” says Van den Haak. “As a result, corporations that we jointly purchase with are also digitizing and developing their platform. We have already mutually agreed to connect our platforms. When they are ready, we will be the first to join their new platform. As a result, we get a very nice interaction with the companies we already had a relationship with.”
SMT will eventually also share its data with its investment partners and customers via SAM’s, predicts Heijnsbroek: “This shows that we are a modern company that follows the developments and is transparent about it’s performance.”
Feeling curious about what Data Analytics can change for your organization? Feel free to contact one of our specialists. They are happy to think along with you, without any obligation.