Shipping organizations face intense pressure to operate more efficiently. But many overlook the biggest opportunity to become more productive: replacing their email system.

When looking to increase productivity, shipping companies have historically focused on improving the vessel itself. They’d use onboard data to optimize routes, figure out how to reduce turnaround time in port, and cut supply chain costs through rationalization.

With much attention given to unlocking latent efficiencies to trade on the sea, land-based optimization runs the risk of being overlooked—specifically in the offices of cargo owners or shippers, shipowners, brokers, and other key stakeholders controlling the supply chain.

Consider the following opportunities for increased efficiency that could be gained by turning our attention within the organization:

"Supply chain barriers are more significant impediments to trade than import tariffs." -Bernard Hoekman, former Director of the World Bank’s International Trade Department

“Today, a vast amount of resources are wasted due to inefficient and error-prone manual processes… The world trading ecosystem is valued at $4 trillion of goods shipped each year and the cost required to administer is estimated at 20% of goods shipped, any savings would be tremendous.” -Forbes, 16 January 2018

The digitization of shipping

Bill Dobie, the founder and CEO of SEDNA, spoke about the tech company's team-based communication and collaboration platform during the CMA Shipping 2017 and Shipping 2018 conferences in Stamford, Connecticut. Photo: Aaron Kelley

As organizations turn to digital platforms as a means to be more effective, many who lead shipping operations have trouble pinpointing truly transformative solutions. They dread the thought of managing a large-scale integration that disrupts business operations and fear the payoff won’t be worth the headache—or the ire of the CEO.

Finding a place to digitally transform can be somewhat overwhelming considering the constant change in how people work (e.g., moving from desktop to mobile), the latest innovations (e.g., blockchain), our personal experience (e.g., everything is for sale on Amazon) and all the technological jargon and buzzwords (e.g., the cloud, SaaS, and IoT).

Email: out with the old, in with the new

Many organizations are using email as the first step in transforming their business. Email, after all, makes it easier to collaborate with people around the world. It also makes it easier to find information and filter the most relevant messages.

Email systems like Outlook or Gmail were never designed for complex business transactions that include negotiations, content management, and collaboration with multiple parties

Consider that when it comes to making global trade a reality, the flow of goods and services is underpinned by a corresponding flow of information through email.

The sheer volume and complexity of this information means that, in many cases, the cost of moving cargo around the world equals the cost of the paperwork that accompanies it.

Personal email systems like Outlook or Gmail were never designed for complex business transactions that include negotiations, content management, and collaboration with multiple parties. Many organizations use workarounds to deal with these shortcomings. Some, for example, might archive email while others end up hiring people to simply direct messages.

Norden tires with the inefficiency of email; opts for cloud-based solution

Recently, Norden has been examining their email system and the latent efficiencies hidden in workflows. With an owned and chartered fleet of over 300 vessels, the Danish operator's business is to create value in the dry cargo and tanker markets—both of which are challenging sectors with relatively small margins.

Sture Freudenreich, Norden's head of IT. Photo: Twitter

For Norden, a strong focus on costs and efficiency is crucial. After searching for the right partner the operator decided to replace its email systems with a team-based communications and collaboration platform developed by SEDNA, a software company with offices in London, Singapore, and Vancouver.

“Switching to SEDNA gives us the chance to re-examine our workflows and potentially save hours every day in team collaboration,” explains Sture Freudenreich, head of IT at Norden. “The system is in line with our ‘Focus & Simplicity’ strategy, that will help us unlock valuable resources to develop and grow our business.”

Whitepaper: Time is Shipping's Biggest Commodity

SEDNA delivers a shared team inbox that provides greater visibility into organizational communication. The cloud-based system was designed to search millions of messages in less than a second, removing the need to archive mail to free up space in your inbox. SEDNA’s auto-tagging functionality removes the need to manually file emails into folders, potentially saving hours each day. Finally, the team monitoring and collaboration tools provide a better way to engage with colleagues—all without having to send more email.

In a whitepaper entitled "Time is Shipping's Biggest Commodity" SEDNA outlines research and potential solutions to address the enormous internal costs and productivity decreases facing knowledge workers within the maritime industry.

Norden’s situation is, after all, not dissimilar from other shipping organizations such as Glencore, Seaspan, and Western Bulk- each of which has also adopted new technologies to improve their internal workflow.

Bill Dobie's Bona Fides

Bill Dobie is the founder and CEO of SEDNA. He has over 20 years of experience bringing technology and people together while creating opportunities for innovation and growth.

Dobie is a serial entrepreneur with a long history in the shipping industry. In 2000, he cofounded Navarik, a pioneer in the delivery of SaaS solutions to large industrial organizations. Then in 2010, he started Stage 3 Systems, which runs major software services for shipowners, charterers, and agents around the world.

Dobie has been programming since the age of 12. While he doesn't code much these days, his primary passion remains understanding problems and then using design, engineering, and thoughtfulness to build great solutions.