The Path Forward to Digital Transformation

Tobias Constein
July 11, 2024

I’ve spent my career in maritime as a product manager in companies ranging from ship management, to insurance, and to logistics.  Prior to joining OrbitMI, I was the senior product manager for a technology company in Berlin that was dedicated to helping maritime reach carbon zero in shipping.  These experiences have given me a perspective on the industry, particularly as it relates to digital transformation.     

I believe the industry needs to move towards digital transformation. It’s among the many reasons I now work at OrbitMI.  We play two roles: 

  • As a solutions provider, we offer software products directly to customers that cover multiple maritime use cases and satisfy critical business requirements. 
  • As an aggregator, we unify our customers’ existing systems and data feeds from other companies in a single visual interface via our integration engine, business logic layer, and workflow framework. 
But just recommending that you "adopt a software platform",  even ours, as an instant fix for digital transformation, oversimplifies both the solution and the problem the industry faces.  As with everything we do at OrbitMI, I will approach this blog post with empathy.  Instead of being glib about the solution, let’s understand the challenges in more detail.   

The Need for Digital Transformation in Shipping 

The shipping industry faces significant challenges in implementing intelligent process automation and digital technologies. These challenges arise from:

  1. Evolving regulations like the EU ETS and CII
  2. Increasing demands for green operations from customers and stakeholders
  3. A growing focus on environmental performance in the market
To remain compliant and competitive in this new green market reality, shipping companies must simplify operational processes through digital automation. This is crucial for efficient monitoring and supervision to enhance environmental performance. 

Obstacles to True Digital Transformation 

Data Overload vs. Meaningful Change 

While many companies are adopting new software and collecting vast amounts of data, this doesn't necessarily equate to digital transformation. True transformation enhances business performance by integrating people and technology to make operational processes more efficient and profitable.
Research firm Thetius, in its study 'Avoiding the Digital Divide,' states that one of the main hindrances to successful digitalization is "a lack of strategy, which leads to overambitious, often unstructured automation," with the desired results failing to match expectations. 
Industry Fragmentation

Due to the multiplicity of companies and stakeholders spread across the globe, the shipping industry is fragmented, seemingly by design. This has left shipping companies with closed legacy systems and a protective mindset that leads to digital inertia and a lack of innovation. 

The maritime industry's inherently fragmented nature poses a significant obstacle to transformation. This fragmentation results in:

  • Siloed systems hindering data-sharing and integration  
  • Difficulties in holistic data analysis
  • Challenges in collaboration
  • Data-blindness
  • Slowed decision-making processes 
In their report 'Automation with intelligence,' Deloitte identifies a lack of clear vision, high implementation costs, process fragmentation, resistance to change, and lack of IT readiness as the main barriers to the adoption of automation across industries. They state, "Breaking down functional and process silos is a must." 

According to the Thetius study, "Many organizations are still implementing digital and automation projects in silos, largely due to a lack of alignment between departments and industry-wide fragmentation. Collaboration between solution providers, shipping and logistics companies, and, most importantly, the very people expected to work with new technologies, is key to their successful integration." 

Developing a Strategic Roadmap 

To address these challenges, companies need a clear transformation strategy. Key components of this strategy should include: 

  1. Internal assessment to identify specific inefficiencies
  2. Determining tasks or processes that can deliver the most value from automation
  3. Finding the right solutions to meet requirements 
  4. Assessing whether the organization has the right people with the right skills
  5. Determining budget parameters to set realistic expectation

The Human-Centric Approach 

Successful digital transformation requires a human-centric approach. The Thetius study supports this view, recommending solutions designed "with the human touch at their core" to empower end-users to work more efficiently. 
"Matching people, processes, and technology in automation projects is critical to their success. A strategy that pinpoints your pain points and uses automation to target the most pressing user frustrations is one that is likely to achieve the desired results," the study states.

Intelligent Connected Workflows: The Key to Success

To counter the industry's fragmented systems and processes, companies should focus on creating what we call intelligent connected workflows. Intelligent connected workflows are integrated, streamlined sequences of tasks or processes that harness advanced technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, to elevate efficiency, decision-making, and outcomes. 


  • Empowerment:  Amplify the power of human expertise instead of replacing it  
  • Efficiency:  Eliminate repetitive tasks and reduce the need for manual input
  • Productivity:  Reduce the time it takes to access, verify and convert data
  • Integration:  Multiple systems connected for seamless operations 
  • Collaboration:  Everyone works from the same information, a unified source of truth 
  • Culture:  Employees can focus on higher value activities like problem-solving and client interactions 
  • Reduced Risk:  Minimize human error and information loss 
  • Insights:  Get more value from data with real-time insights that improve processes and problem resolution 

To deliver that value actors in the industry must work in collaboration, creating a unified digital ecosystem accessible across an organization. This integration provides connectivity between different systems, countering the industry's fragmented systems and processes. 

Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore's Vice President for Digital Solutions, Laurent Hentges, believes a transformational shift in cooperation both within organizations and across the wider industry is necessary to meet the challenge of decarbonization. Digital technologies that facilitate integrated workflows can enable this shift. 


The Path Forward  

As the shipping industry adapts to new automated ways of working, a reliable route to digital transformation is crucial. This transformation should:

  • Deliver sustainable, flexible, and future-proof solutions 
  • Evolve to meet user needs in line with changing regulations
  • Prioritize collaboration, transparency, and data-sharing 
  • Integrate existing systems to minimize innovation risk and maximize ROI 
  • Be user-friendly and easy to implement  

It's important to ensure that innovation delivers solutions that can evolve with changing regulations and the operating environment. This requires technologies with collaboration, transparency, and data-sharing at their core, designed to be user-friendly and easy to implement. 

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