A man with virtual reality (VR) glasses on his head and control panel in his hand stands in a room in Bergen. This is VP Corporate IT in Odfjell SE, Torbjørn Lussand. With a few clicks and a glance at the big screen, he takes us aboard one of Odfjell’s tankers. He heads to the forward deck, does a bit more manoeuvring, and in the next picture we look down into the empty tanks.

The VR room is a visible sign of Odfjell’s digital commitment and is mainly used to show customers and partners the dimensions of ships, and the complexity of how they are built and operated. VR can also be used to practice various tasks. Recently, the digital twin – a 1: 1 digital model of the ship – was used to test a complicated loading operation.

Adjustments have yielded great gains in energy efficiency and reduced our carbon footprint.

Tom Hagesæther, Manager Digital Products. 

Effective routing, reduced emissions

Higher-level effects of the digitization team’s work are less visible, but equally important. Odfjell operates general vessel monitoring, and as with most modern shipping companies, large amounts of data are continuously sent from the ships to control rooms on land. The information is analysed and the knowledge used to provide more efficient operations through better and simpler route planning, logistics operations, service and repairs, as well as optimisation gains in fuel consumption.

– For several years, we have monitored the consumption of our ships from land. Adjustments have yielded great gains in energy efficiency and reduced our carbon footprint, says Tom Hagesæther, Manager Digital Products.

For the crew on board, digitization means new tasks. Instruments can be read automatically, reducing the need for manual reporting. It can also increase security. Odfjell’s so-called «weather routing» allows the captain to receive optimised route suggestions on the safest and most effective sailing routes in weather-exposed areas, for example during tropical storms. Data is also collected to track loading and unloading times at various ports, making it easier to calculate time spent on the operation. For these solutions, Odfjell has used its own development team.

– What are the crew’s attitudes towards the digital transformation?  

– In general, we have experienced goodwill. New solutions that relieve burdens and improve efficiency are welcomed, says Harald Fotland, emphasising the importance of good training and support along the way for all employees.

Testing new solutions

The digitization team meets weekly. They make decisions on improvements, new opportunities and, not least, inquiries about technological innovations. Some ideas lead to testing, others are rejected outright. According to Fotland, the team serves as a good buffer between top management and all the hype. “New digital solutions must work for us” is the mantra, for Odfjell’s employees and for their business model.

When decisions are made in an internal team, employees also gain ownership of the solutions.

Torbjørn Lussand, VP Corporate IT

– What is your advice to smaller companies that cannot establish their own digitization team?  

– If the alternative is one IT person deciding on the company’s digital development, then I doubt it will be more effective in the long run. You need to understand the operation to see what needs to be done. When decisions are made in an internal team, employees also gain ownership of the solutions, Torbjørn Lussand says.