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Digitalisation driving the bounce-back

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Dry Bulk,

The digitalisation of the breakbulk industry has been underway for some years, but in the past 18 months it has accelerated beyond measure. The sector is now entering a new digital age, but what does that mean? Rikki Bhachu from AntwerpXL, explores the question.

AntwerpXL’s recent Industry Trends Report found the majority of the global industry considered themselves to be 70% of the way there in terms of digitalising their processes.

No doubt much of this progress was made during the height of the pandemic, when ports were closed and tools were downed. It makes sense that, in a time when demand was low and employees were off sick, and the people who did come to work could not get too close to one another, that organisations would look to implement some of the big changes they had been considering for several years.

While two of the biggest threats to the industry, market volatility and declining profitability, were exacerbated by COVID-19, the threat of challenging competition in the form of smaller, more agile companies making use of disruptive technologies somewhat reduced for those that were able to use the global downtime to progress their digitalisation strategies.

Long-term, this will have a positive impact on the other big threats to the sector, as digital technologies have clear applications in eliminating human error, finding efficiencies in processes and logistics, improving margins, improving health and safety, and allowing access to online marketplaces.

There still remains two big-ticket opportunities for the breakbulk sector to level up further, big data and blockchain technologies which, according to AntwerpXL’s Industry Trends Report, remain underutilised.

The stats show the industry recognises the benefits of big data in identifying trends, predicting demand, managing transactions and inventory more efficiently and improving cashflow and supply chains, but the benefit of blockchain tech remains little understood, and neither are being prioritised, so they represent a huge opportunity to further accelerate the breakbulk bounce-back.

And smaller-scale digitalisation never ends. Digital technologies and services are evolving all the time as R&D and innovation progress.

AntwerpXL will be exploring the opportunities big data and blockchain technologies represent, how to plan for them and how to implement those plans at the AntwerpXL conference in December. Meanwhile all of the best and most innovative service suppliers will be exhibiting their technologies on the show floor.

AntwerpXL looks forward to seeing the industry come together once again to network, share ideas, and take on the future together. AntwerpXL will be hosted at the Antwerp Expo from 7 - 9 December. Register now to attend, exhibit or speak at the conference.

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