Maritime e-procurement to change ‘beyond all recognition’ in next five years – new ShipServ research

ShipServ, the maritime e-procurement platform, has announced the output from its latest research whitepaper; “e-procurement in Maritime; 2021 and Beyond”, which analyses the current and future state of e-procurement within the maritime industry based on insights from leading Chief Purchasing Officers and Managers (CPOs/CPMs). The research showed that while maritime e-procurement is currently at an embryonic level in terms of its evolution – scoring ‘two out of 10’ – over one third of those surveyed believe the market will change beyond all recognition in the next five years, driven by developments in advanced technology and applications.

50% of CPOs and CPMs surveyed stated that they still use their e-procurement systems for purely transactional – and not strategic – purposes. This is based on a number of key issues within the current market. There is significant fragmentation with suppliers and buyers using different systems, many of which are archaic and not integrated nor have the functionality to interact or ‘talk’ with each other. They are also labour intensive to operate. Despite this, 70% of those surveyed stated that they realised more than 20% in time savings, as well as other OPEX benefits from their e-procurement system. They also reported the benefits of transparency, as well as the ability to track historical data. This demonstrates an understanding of, and appetite for, what a more sophisticated, digitalised e-procurement strategy can deliver.

The whitepaper highlights a number of critical areas where maritime e-procurement will rapidly evolve, creating a more strategic approach to purchasing, which plays an important role in meeting one of the industry’s biggest challenges; vessel optimisation and maximising the value of the asset for ship owners, operators and managers. This includes a significant increase in functionality where there will be full transparency in relation to spend, improvements in automation and real-time, fleet-wide inventories. This will align purchasing power with tangible data, and importantly gives procurement teams sight of what is being bought and its value on a vessel-by-vessel basis across an entire fleet.

The ability to harness and unlock the true value of meaningful data will also create another step change; providing procurement professionals with actionable intelligence to consolidate and optimise their supplier base and moving more spend under contract, as well as embracing category management in order to take a more strategic approach to how procurement resources and processes are organised, concentrating on specific areas of spend.

The ShipServ whitepaper also highlights a number of core areas of technology development that have evolved in other more advanced markets outside of maritime, which will drive the necessary change in e-procurement in maritime over the next few years. This includes a move from ERP-based systems to cloud computing systems that enable safe and secure application-based interfaces and central analytics that make automation easier and more cost effective. They also allow purchasing departments to share data directly with their supply chain, eradicating the problem of sharing data with suppliers who use different systems.

Blockchain will also be embedded into future systems, which will solve the challenge of siloed data, distributing data to known and identified members within an agreed network, and increasing efficiencies, because it uses a central, shared, secure record for storing data. In conjunction with this, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – tools, which ShipServ is already utilising – will also solve the problem of the current lack of standardisation where product descriptors are different from one buyer to another, by analysing and intuitively recognising specific products.

Commenting on the launch of the whitepaper, Kim Skaarup, CEO, ShipServ said: “While maritime e-procurement is at its early stage of evolution, our whitepaper clearly shows that the ideals for enhanced digitalisation, which will drive a more advanced and strategic model for e-procurement, are in easy reach. Speaking to procurement professionals, they know the opportunities that are out there and can see that they are close to unlocking the door to a universe of untapped savings, efficiency and value, which will redefine the nature of their jobs from largely administration to strategy, as well as transforming the whole supply chain. Critically, this will further drive e-procurement’s fundamental role in the ecosystem for vessel optimisation.”