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Avoiding common pitfalls of the dry bulk fixing process

Highlighting common areas of waste when fixing

What’s wrong with the current process?

The process of fixing a vessel for dry bulk freight has always been time consuming and complicated. On top of all the gathering and processing of open positions and orders comes the formidable task of finding a suitable ship, negotiating the right rates and confirming the agreement with all parties.

Of course, on a good day, a couple of phone calls is all it takes for a well-connected shipbroker. But more often than not, there will be a lot of back-and-forth with shipowners, time wasted waiting for replies and countless emails, phone calls and messages. With each point of contact there is a growing trail of information to keep track of and disseminate across the team. With recent advances in communications technology, shipping software and cloud computing though, this outdated process is no longer fit for purpose.

Pitfall #1: Disparate systems

The sheer volume of communications is one thing, but the fact that data is stored in a range of disparate systems that don’t talk to each other is another problem altogether. Combining and sharing all the different pieces of information to form a view on the market is hard, but it’s only by doing this effectively that shipbrokers can add real value to their clients. Keeping track of all the market gossip can be difficult for ship operators too and bringing everything together in one place – from open positions to competitor activity – can be almost impossible.

Pitfall #2: Tools that can’t scale

Faced with these siloed and inflexible systems, smart shipbrokers and operators have always found ways to plug the gaps. But the solutions historically available – such as Excel and Google Docs – were not really built for the job and start to fall down when the volumes increase. Even on a smaller scale, there are still some tasks where these tools just won’t help.

Below are some of the common complaints we hear - examples of day-to-day tasks that take longer than neccessary due to having tools that don’t scale. On their own, some of these may sound trivial, but in aggregate they can cause organisations to waste hours of time on non-added value tasks.

Common complaints: Operators

  • Communicating between stakeholders – e.g. cargo teams and internal fleet schedulers
  • Making sure the cargos considered take into account the entire global fleet positioning
  • Keeping track of pre-fixture information on a large fleet across several locations
  • Handovers mid-trade due to meetings, holidays or sickness
  • Retrieving decision-making flow for auditors
  • Checking calculation inputs across locations without having to re-key information
  • Ensuring the team doesn’t rate the same vessel twice

Common complaints: Brokers

  • Tracking candidates proposed and syncing this with the latest updates
  • Providing clients or other offices with real-time market sentiment – particularly at the start or close of business
  • Sharing candidates or orders being proposed with teams spread across regions
  • Co-broking cargos and vessels across the organisation
  • Handovers mid-fixture due to meetings, holidays or sickness
  • Ensuring managers can keep track of pre-fixture information across their teams

Pitfall #3: Sub-optimal use of knowledge workers

Without the right processes and tools, simple tasks can end up being incredibly labour intensive – and this risks having highly-skilled people being highly unproductive. Team members can easily get bogged down piecing together information from various sources and re-entering into yet another system so it can be shared with colleagues. Senior team members with the best relationships and the most prized information can waste a lot of time just keeping the team up-to-date.

The effects are not just limited to those doing the updating. For senior members, any time spent on admin could have been spent guiding, supporting and developing less-senior members to add more value themselves. Providing these more junior team members with extra support and the tools to access data from around the organisation directly, results in a multiplier effect - lifting the overall level performance of the team.

Introducing a new, intelligent approach

With all these unproductive processes, ineffective tools and disparate systems, what is needed today is a new approach – an intelligent layer that connects the underlying data across the business. At Shipamax, we have created such an ‘intelligent layer’ that will enable your employees to focus on increasing revenue rather than wasting time on unnecessary administration tasks.

After automatically processing and collating data from multiple systems, shipamax provides a pre-fixture workflow to help your team collaborate at scale, removing hours of daily admin.

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