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Embracing the best approach to digital innovation to maximise opportunities.

With the right approach to innovation, the right skills and the right partnerships, the maritime sector can capitalise on the opportunities of digital technologies.

Digital technologies have changed our lives beyond anyone’s prediction and led to new trillion-dollar industries.

Having now become common in sectors such as consumer technology, finance and retail, data and digital technologies are gradually opening up possibilities in deep industrial sectors. Cheaper sensing, increased connectivity, the internet and the cloud, the ability to capture and store vast quantities of data, advanced analytics, robotics and autonomy, and blockchain are perhaps the most notable technologies in this digital transformation, which is also known as industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution.

With the right approach to innovation, the right skills and the right partnerships, the maritime sector can capitalise on these opportunities too. So, with the required technologies largely available, what is holding us back?

The obstruction lies in adoption. For every reason there is to innovate, there is a reason not to – uncertain return on investment, past failure or short-term commercial pressure, for example. But the inevitable approach of innovation can be heard, whether from the competition or from adjacent industries.

The first imperative of adopting innovation is increasing performance, which is traditionally the main driver to innovate and the one with the clearest return on investment. It is believed that the maritime sector, and shipping in particular, is one of the least optimised industries and therefore offers abundant opportunities for improvements through data and digital transformation. Areas ripe for a new wave of innovation include fuel efficiency, routeing, maintenance, risk to crew, insurance risk profiling, real-time logistics and environmental impact.

The second imperative of adoption is that clients and suppliers alike will soon expect the maritime sector to adopt digital interfaces in their operations, as has been the case in other industries. This requires careful review of internal operations but not necessarily large investments. Increasingly important aspects, such as transparency, supply chain compliance and ethics and environmental impact, are just a few of the issues that will put further pressure on digitalisation.

The third imperative of adopting innovation is perhaps the subtlest but the most radical in the long run; industry 4.0 enables new business models and industry dynamics. Digital technologies powered by vast flows of data are transforming linear supply chains into digitally interconnected networks with entirely new opportunities.

Advanced data and digital technologies are changing shipping, but, to maximise opportunities, the maritime sector needs to embrace the best approaches to digital innovation. Thanks to technology, innovation cycles can be very short and focus on proving value quickly. Best practices now allow maritime domain experts to work with leading technology companies, clients and suppliers to co-create bespoke solutions.

At LRQA, we are going beyond traditional engineering, combining our unparalleled knowledge of, and data on, marine components, systems, procedures and regulations to co-create state-of-the-art digital tools with strategic technical partners. By addressing the risks and building a safe and secure foundation, we are helping our clients to realise the benefits to their business that are possible through digitalisation, as well as helping them prepare for forthcoming regulation.