As the global economy is growing more uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players in almost all industries are looking for ways to cut costs, uphold margins in the short term, and ensure the ability to weather the storm. Often, innovation suffers. But there are ways of innovating that are smarter, more cost-efficient and generate results faster.
By Vigleik Takle, SVP Maritime Digital Solutions
One could argue that the degree of uncertainty in the global markets has never been higher. The COVID-19 pandemic and related regulations are impacting production and global trade, consumption patterns, freight rates and oil prices is severe. The economic impact will be significant, we just don’t know how significant, and companies are already adjusting to the new situation. For a lot of companies, this means cutting costs on non-core initiatives in the short term. One area that often suffers in situations like this is investment into new innovative solutions. This is a challenge. If we assume that innovation fuels developments that improve efficiency, builds sturdier margins and tackles major challenges like climate change, it is worth considering how we should deal with a lack of funding in innovation when the world experiences crises.
Traditionally, much of business innovation has been done inhouse and behind closed doors. Going it alone means you can reap all the benefits of the innovation yourself and prevent others from doing the same. This gives you and your business an upper hand on the competition. The downside, and this is a major one, is that you must figure everything out by yourself. When talking in terms of industry digitalization, doing everything in individual workstreams is not only inefficient, it is impossible. There are too many moving, interdependent parts that need to work together to realize the massive potential for increases in productivity, efficiency, sustainability and safety that digitalization can offer. This forces us to look towards more collaboration, and we argue that this is good, and perhaps particularly in times of crises when resources are scarce. Collaboration means reducing the unnecessary cost of development when many companies are investing in the same thing, but not working together to find a solution. Collaboration also means enhancing the overall value offering to the industry, ensuring higher quality in more parts of the digital ecosystem.
Thankfully, in digital, collaboration is not a big technical hurdle. The “API economy” makes it simple to share and consume data across various stakeholders, and success and growth is best achieved through close collaboration between industry players, software leaders and customers. In the new digital landscape, there will be plenty of opportunities for companies to utilize their core competency in order to build new and unique value offerings to the market. But we will never get there if we all focus on solving the same challenges. As an example, KONGSBERG built the maritime data infrastructure Vessel Insight to facilitate the extraction and collection of contextualized data from vessel to cloud. Although this solves a vital challenge in digitalizing the maritime industry, on its own it is far from enough. Quality data is only one part of the equation, to truly harness the value potential in digitalization you need access to domain knowledge. That is why we also built the Kognifai Maritime ecosystem around it where we invite all software developers, OEMs and other industry players to join. This way owners and operators get access to world leading domain knowledge and applications that can help them to get more efficient, greener and safer operations. Collaboration in this scenario means increased innovation, a deeper digital saturation and faster realization of industry 4.0.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty in the global markets and put a stopper for most non-core business activities, we all know perfectly well why these activities were started in the first place. Innovation through collaboration is not a new concept – we have seen major breakthroughs in other industries through companies joining forces. There are some good initiatives in maritime but there is still a huge potential fore more industry players coming together. Perhaps this new crisis will make competition for the same positions in the new digital landscape a luxury our industry can no longer afford, and instead force us to collaborate. If it does, it could help the market recover faster and set individual businesses on a trajectory towards a healthier and stronger position than they were in before the crisis. Perhaps increased industry collaboration and innovation could be the silver lining we all long to see behind today’s dark clouds.