Digitalisation & Technology

A continuous improvement process

A new reality

The pandemic presented a new reality for the shipping industry by not being able to travel to the vessels, to other Gearbulk and G2 Ocean offices, attend drydockings nor meet customers and suppliers in person.

At the outset of the pandemic the Gearbulk fleet had already began it's journey with fleet management’s digitalization roadmap. This is structured around the theme 'Data Driven Decisions,' or known as the '3Ds' internally.

The core of the digitalization roadmap is harvesting data from the Gearbulk ecosystem, then processing and analysing it before putting the data to use in decision supporting tools.

Straightforward by the sound of it, but there is a little more to it than that. A key enabler is communication, data capacity and tools for collaboration. With VSAT rolled out across the fleet and the implementation of Microsoft 365 ashore, Gearbulk was, relatively speaking, well situated to shift from an office-based set up to working remotely from home whilst maintaining a solid level of efficiency.

The pandemic in many ways accelerated the digitalization path in Gearbulk, being forced to innovate and find new ways to collaborate.

Accelerated digitalisation efforts

Remote audits

The Covid-19 pandemic presented an opportunity, and a need, for many companies to be more digital and data driven and have more agile operations and automation. Many routine vessel activities, such as class surveys and audits, have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, which has required Gearbulk to think outside the box and adopt new solutions for conducting mandatory ship and office audits.

Class & Flag was consulted throughout the process, and a new audit format was approved. Audits are now carried out through the Safety Management software, Sertica, and audit meetings are hosted on online platforms like Facetime, Teams and Whatsapp. This practice will continue until physical audits are once again possible.

Manning agencies' access to Safety Management System, Sertica

During 2020 it was more important than ever to ensure that all stakeholders were aware of the Company's safety management procedures. As such, a unique login solution was created with the software provider, Logimatic, to allow restricted access into relevant chapters of our safety management procedures for our manning agencies. Access is monitored and users are notified about updates.

PowerBI dashboards

Work to capilatise on the PowerBi platform began in 2020 with the development of several customised dashboards to better present data from the Company's various eco systems.

Once finalised, these intuitive dashbaoads will provide a quick and concise overview of data, thus improving decision making. The dashboards will ultimately simplify reporting for areas such as OPEX, Emissions, Waste Management, Injuries, 3rd Party Vessel inspections, Near Misses Reported, to name a few. Further fevelopment will continue in 2021.

3D Printing

Over the last few years, Gearbulk has been closely monitoring the development of 3D printing for maritime use. The technology holds a very intriguing prospect, potentially reducing both delivery time and costs for marine spare parts.

Wilhelmsen Ship Service, one of Gearbulk’s long standing suppliers of safety services, stores, chemicals and gases, is now developing a 3D printing ecosystem for the maritime industry in partnersip with Ivaldi for software and logistics and Thyssenkrupp for metal printing.

After trials in 2019 and 2020, they launched their Fast Forward program and invited 10 select shipping companies to participate, with Gearbulk being one of these companies.

Altough 3D printing is still very much in its early days and there is a lot of development and challenges still to overcome before 3D printing can play a larger part in the maritime supply chain, Gearbulk's involvement in this development is in line with our digital roadmap.

Our approach is to learn by working with the latest 3D printing technology and understand how it can be used in the Gearbulk fleet, whilst playing our part in developing the future of marine supply chains.

Transformation Officers

At the close of 2019 it was decided to establish a diverse team with a passion for collaboration, digitalisation and discovering new and improved solutions for how Gearbulk conducts our business.

This initiatve was officially kicked off in February 2020 with a two-day workshop in Bergen, Norway for the 11 people who were hand picked for this initaitive. Members flew in from Rio, Singapore and Pfaffikon to join the workshop. During the two busy days, the Transformation Officers completed 1 day of in depth Microsoft 365 training and had 1 day with group work and elements of leadership training. This diverse, cross-functional team included members from the Accounting, Purchasing, HR, Tecnical, Corporate Services and Communications departments.

The main priorities of the team are to drive business initiatives in agile manners, increase cross-functional collaboration, find joint solutions to current business challenges, speed up decision making and enhance innovative thinking in the organisation.

The first project for the group was to support local Microsoft training sessions across all office locations, as well as support employees in their daily use of Microsoft 365 throughout the Gearbulk organisation after the implementation.

As such, this group was paramount in the company-wide roll-out, especially given the unique global circumstance. Each member was key in driving user adoption and training as well as providing support as "super users" of Microsoft 365 platform once the platform was fully implemented. Implementation took most of 2020 due to Covid-19 and the group met regualrly throughout the year.

Enhanced communication efforts

2020 proved the importance of strong internal communication. The unprecedented crisis presented new challenges for all and it became extrememly important to proactively frame the situation and communicate clearly to all stakeholders. The sudden change in work routines for all employees and the abrupt transition to a purely home office set up raised the need to establish regular virtual meetings in order to keep everyone connected.

As a response, a new company-wide virtual meeting series was launched, called G-Breaks. These monthly online meetings had a special focus on Covid-19 throughout 2020 but also included leadership updates on business activities and ongoing company initiatives. Led by the Chairman, G-Breaks continue to serve as an open forum where everyone has a voice and has the opportunity to engage and ask questions. One of the intentions for these sessions was to also provide a positive space for all employees to connect and share experiences and thoughts related to the topics at hand.

Many employees reported that these monthly online meetings helped them tremendously in maintaining a sense of connectivity to their colleagues, staying informed of business activities regardless of location and understanding Gearbulk's reponse and actions to assure the healthy and safety of all employees during the crisis.

The Company's new intranet, GB Connect, continued to develop in 2020 and quickly became an even more valuable tool as it was used to quicky and efficiently provide immediate updates and information to all employees about Covid via a special Covid Hub.