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Future focus: How new technology is changing the role of shipbrokers

Exploring how shipbrokers are starting to scale thier intelligence

Evolution of the modern shipbroker

Shipbrokers have traditionally played an important part in connecting principals with supply or demand – in simpler times, the little black book provided significant value.

These days though, simply matching supply and demand isn’t enough. To win business in an overcrowded market with tight margins, brokers need to provide increasing value to their clients.

Pooling information, providing intelligence and offering new services is the key – whether that is done by expanding the business out, or narrowing the focus in.

A network of people and information

More than just a connector and facilitator, the modern shipbroker plays an active role in the dynamic network of people and information. Through their relationships, they are able to uncover hidden information and valuable market gossip. They can bring markets together and provide vital liquidity by disseminating this information diligently. This can’t be imitated by machines.

However, brokers that use machines to help control all this information and streamline their communications have the opportunity to rise to the top – to cut out the mundane administrative tasks and focus on building relationships and adding value to clients.

A technologically savvy profession

Despite their reputation, modern shipbrokers have a strong history of embracing new technology. As we discussed in our recent article Dry bulk shipping: Will we finally see widescale digitisation in 2018? there are four tools that have already gained widespread popularity. Today, a second wave of digital transformation is creeping up the agenda of many progressive firms.

Although the technology landscape today is clear, exactly where the industry goes next is another story.

Scaling your intelligence

Shipbrokers that have harnessed the power of the information they hold and share, continue to thrive. Today, this sharing of information typically involves a tight-knit group of brokers shouting information over the desk, keying information into shared databases and Skyping their colleagues in other offices.

Maintaining this at the enterprise level, day after day can be hard – especially when the amount of incoming information and the number of communication channels continues to increase. But it is precisely because it is so difficult that technology is able to play such a pivotal role in helping companies to scale.

A good example of this is machine learning. At Shipamax we use machine learning to help brokers obtain the most information possible from their business communications as quickly as possible – automatically reading their emails to extract open positions, orders and fixtures.

Advances in algorithm technology mean that today’s algorithms are much better at understanding the different types of information being communicated, so ditching older rule-based systems and switching to a machine learning solution can make a lot of sense. For example, at Shipamax we’re already using smart algorithms that are capable of auto-reading email attachments such as PDF documents and MS Excel files. This means we can process positions in less than a second without offshore teams being able to access or clean your data.

We’ll soon be publicly launching a tool that will help teams to automatically process their instant messenger chats too. This new solution will enable brokers to leverage their internally shared gossip – such as market fixtures – without the administrative burden associated with more manual processing.

How to keep up with all the new technology

Even the most tech-savvy broker can sometimes find it hard to keep up with all the latest industry developments and emerging technology trends. Here are three easy steps you can follow to take advantage of all that modern software tools and cloud technology has to offer.

1. Understand the technology market
At Shipamax, we keep track of all the latest technologies – so you don’t have to. Read our latest article A guide to dry bulk shipping software, to get fully up to speed with the current technology landscape.

2. Assess your current processes
All businesses are different, so mapping your own workflows and processes – identifying what is working well and what is not working so well – allows you to establish where a new technology solution might help.

3. Speak to an expert
We love sharing what we know and are always happy to help if we can. In fact, we offer a complimentary ‘digital strategy’ consultation where we will review your current processes and suggest new technologies and potential vendors.

Get in touch today

We believe that real-time team collaboration, automatic information processing and intelligent application interfaces are the future of dry bulk shipping software. If your company is looking to make this digital transformation, please get in touch.