Kongsberg Digital – Digitalising the Supply Chain

Kongsberg Digital is providing vital digitalisation services to the maritime sector, but argues businesses should not rely only on technology.

Kongsberg Digital was spun-off from the well-known Kongsberg Group in 2016. Originally part of Kongsberg Maritime, the initiative was made its own company with the goal of providing focussed investment into the digital sector and the technology and software development processes that relate to it.

“History has shown that doing this as a department of a larger company is difficult because you have a different set of priorities,” says Andreas Jagtøyen, Executive Vice President – Digital Ocean for the company. “You need a different sort of partners, and you rely more on those partners than if you were in a volume game producing standardised products. We were lucky to have the correct starting point. We got financing from the group level as a strategic initiative but have the components of our own existing business, which is crucial for a digital solution going into an industry vertical like maritime and energy.”

Kongsberg Digital’s objectives are to develop a leading service across the sectors it works in, including maritime, energy (including renewables), chemical, and downstream assets for the oil and gas industry. But it is a very different beast from your typical start-up.

“What we’re aiming for is not the same as a start-up company would aim for,” Jagtøyen says. “A start-up would typically develop an expert system utilising data to address a small part of a broader workflow. But there are more than 500 different applications targeting the maritime market, and the asset owners are not able to use a larger number of these to manage the daily operation of their assets.

Jagtøyen sees Kongsberg Digital’s role as “masking complexity”, making it easier for an operator to make decisions that cross silos internally.

“A shipping company can’t have 100 experts on different topics,” Jagtøyen insists. “They need someone to mask the complexity and integrate many decisions into the workflow. What we are doing is automating and simplifying workflows across operators.”

Operators at a control centre onshore monitoring heavy assets like LNG carriers or large refineries cannot bother about all the small details. They need to see the big picture on their screens to make impactful decisions.

“The systems we create need to mask the underlying complexity and aggregate decisions on a need-to-know basis, creating situational awareness of the whole picture for a generic operator, within O&G sometimes referred to as petronauts,” Jagtøyen tells us.

A Digital Twin

The work surfaces Jagtøyen describes are referred to as “digital twins”, although Jagtøyen prefers the term “integrated work surfaces”. Either way, the goal is to build a connection between real-world automation and sensors, and the synthetic data, simulators or physical models used to train them.

“Both these worlds, synthetic and real-time, need to come together in the work surface. We can use very accurate physical models and simulators to give estimations of physical values and look for discrepancies that trigger alarms and events,” Jagtøyen says. “We’re using simulators to train algorithms and detect difficulties happening in the system before they happen. You can’t use a real-time system of a ship or production facility to train your algorithms when operating far outside the normal envelope, it’s potentially dangerous for the assets. But you can train algorithms on synthetic data to recognize dangerous patterns and potential hazards appearing in the real-time data.”

Kongsberg Digital is developing smart work surfaces and gathering data from assets, using analytics based on synthetic and real-time data.

“One company cannot do this alone, so we are depending on working together with our customers and partner businesses such as Shell and Höegh Autoliners,” Jagtøyen tells us.

Perhaps the most interesting example of Kongsberg Digital’s work in action is its recent work on digitalising the supramax bulk carrier, RT Leo. The project is being carried out with forward-leaning Singaporean transhipment company, Rocktree. What makes Rocktree interesting is that it doesn’t use traditional bulkers for cargo transportation, instead serving as a terminal operator, converting its bulker into a logistic storage terminal.

“It negates the need to build silos or storage facilities onshore because there’s limited space onshore in Singapore, so they moved the facility to the carrier,” Jagtøyen says. “They have a different perspective than many ship owners. It is really interesting because as a logistics company they are depending on efficient protocols, with ships coming in and deploying cargo. They need to have high thoroughfare because nobody wants to spend more time in port- you don’t get paid for that.”

It is a unique environment to work in. Rocktree does not need the same crew on board their vessel because it is not sailing, meaning more work can be done remotely with campaign-based maintenance. Kongsberg Digital’s technology and platform gives ships using the terminal access to grid data, creating more transparency between stakeholders.

However, for Jagtøyen this is about far more than simply selling some software and components.

“This is not a question of installing a product and then calling it a day. This is a partnership to help the client develop and create use-cases,” Jagtøyen insists.” There are so many opportunities when we actually start with infrastructure as we have here. We’re going from dashboards that just compile data to event-based decision making.”

The Knowledge Bridge

These solutions aren’t possible without deep domain knowledge, drawn simultaneously from technology and industry.

“We need to talk with all of our stakeholders, from OEM producers onward. That knowledge is very important in the verticals we’re working in, but equally, we need resources within digital software development and IT, such as how to build cloud platforms for instance,” explains Jagtøyen. “We don’t just have IT knowledge, we have subject matter experts that speak our customers’ language, bridging the two worlds.”

Speaking of two worlds, it is perhaps surprising to see someone like Jagtøyen, who offers digital and automation solutions is so keen to advocate for the human element in these processes.

“We’re really happy to see people are coming back into the loop again- there was a focus on technology, but technology doesn’t make sustainable decisions,” Jagtøyen tells us. “Technology has to enable people and make them aware of the impact of their decisions. We have a lot of understanding of that bridge between technology and people. Understanding those complexities, that’s our strong point. We need to show people how their decisions impact total sustainability.”

As Jagtøyen warms to the subject, it is clearly one he is passionate about.

“People we meet in the industry think of digitalisation as technology, but it’s also important we enlighten people a bit about the importance of building competency in operators to make sustainable decisions,” Jagtøyen tells us. “It’s not about the technology alone. Digital will not be buying a platform and infrastructure and then you’re home free. You need to develop it and develop a culture within your company to change ways of working.”

This feeds into another subject Jagtøyen cares about, sustainability.

“Shipping is already quite sustainable when you talk about CO2 emissions per ton-mile of cargo, but a large ship still consumes tens of tons of fuel a day,” Jagtøyen points out. “That produces tens of tons of CO2, so shipping has a large issue here and we need to work with stakeholders to incentivise everyone to contribute to reduced fuel consumption.”

It is not an issue that can be fixed with a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Shipping is many industries, it’s not one industry. There’s a big difference in the maturity of digital solutions and a lot of difference in how stakeholders incentivise each other to reduce costs and fuel consumption,” Jagtøyen says. “We need to elevate sustainability across all the stakeholders. Shipowners need to be incentivised by charters who need to be incentivised by cargo owners.”

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