The decision to adopt a commercial voyage management system is one of the most important decisions a modern maritime shipping organization can make. Amid widespread digitalization, increasingly complex contracts, heightened market volatility, shrinking margins, nuanced environmental considerations, and a multifaceted deal chain, it’s not surprising the majority of maritime shipping organizations have abandoned homegrown or legacy solutions in favor of more agile digital solutions to support their voyage workflows.  

And yet, digital adoption is not universal. Whether you’re an upstart that is starting to feel the growing pains or a tenured organization with a long legacy of success, if you haven’t yet made the leap to a VMS, you’re not alone.  

But how do you know when your organization really needs a VMS? Read on for seven important signals that indicate it may be time for your organization to adopt a capable, digital VMS.   

1. You’re minding internal knowledge gaps more than you’d like.  

As the maritime industry becomes more regulated and your organization becomes more complex, the success of a voyage is dependent upon an increasing number of systems and stakeholders. Without a tightly integrated, accessible solution, organizations can face critical gaps in knowledge that slow things down and cost them money. If you’re finding your chartering team increasingly disconnected from ops, or your accounting team unaware of important voyage P&L data, it’s probably time.  

A proper VMS will integrate seamlessly with your core internal solutions, including accounting systems, to serve as a single source of truth for voyage information. In addition, a cloud-hosted solution provides the accessibility stakeholders require to ensure alignment and access the same, up-to-date information.  

2. Manual data entry is weighing your team down.  

The maritime shipping industry has long relied on manual processes for chartering and voyage operations, impeding efficiency, weighing down team satisfaction, and leaving ample room for oversights. Manual entry comes with its fair share of issues, one of which is the pervasive lack of standardization that makes meaningful analysis challenging if not impossible. Is your team spending a disproportionate amount of time entering the same data, again and again? Do you find that your data is inaccurate, incomplete, and unstandardized? That’s signal number two.  

By adopting a proper VMS, organizations can bring new automation to the voyage management workflow, freeing up busy stakeholders’ time for the most valuable tasks. Instead of juggling hundreds of emails and manual data entry, maritime shipping stakeholders can access the information they need, where and when they need it, in one, connected system. The result? Faster workflows, better information, happier stakeholders, less error… the list goes on.  

3. Your business is growing.  

While a VMS can deliver significant advantages to organizations with just one vessel, its importance only heightens as a business grows. Every voyage workflow has a variety of complex variables that must be carefully managed, from contract details, to claims, bunker costs, and more. This becomes even more challenging as more and more voyages are chartered. If you started with a single vessel and have added one or two more, you’re probably feeling the (growing) pains. For organizations with a few commercial vessels, the shortcomings of spreadsheet-based systems are all too real.  

Fortunately, a proper VMS delivers the automation and integration needed to optimize each voyage’s performance at scale. With full visibility into every voyage—past and present—a VMS enables the organization to learn from historical performance, enhances connectivity between chartering and operations, replicates best practices, and provides a complete view of the business as it grows.  

4. You’re finding inaccuracies in your P&L.  

The P&L is a key indicator of voyage performance, and it has become especially important as the costs of key voyage inputs continue to rise. When relying largely on manual processes or legacy systems, organizations tend to face frequent inaccuracies that prevent a full understanding of performance and inhibit their ability to optimize decisions. Have you found several errors that negatively affected your profitability, or gave you a false sense of performance? It doesn’t have to happen.  

With a proper VMS, organizations can maintain a timely and accurate view of P&L at all times to enhance decision making during and after the voyage. As noon reports are received, the organization can immediately assess P&L impact, enabling them to prioritize voyage profitability and enhance their overall commercial success. 

5. You’re disconnected from what’s happening in the market.  

The bulk commodities markets and, by extension, commercial freight markets, are highly volatile and unpredictable at times. Maritime shipping organizations must have a continual awareness of fluctuations in the market at large as these shifts have a significant impact on contract prices and profitability. Do you find yourself relying on guesswork and gut instinct when looking for market context? If so, you’re seeing signal number five. 

One of the primary advantages of the VMS is its ability to provide insight into market realities, including AIS data and information that can be used for competitive benchmarking. Ultimately, market context yields better decisions, and better decisions yield competitive advantage.  

6. You’re not sure where sustainability fits.  

What greater impetus to adopt a VMS than the ability to understand the environmental impact of each and every voyage? As the regulatory landscape continues to intensify and carbon accounting comes into focus, emissions-based decision making has emerged as a critical success factor for maritime shipping organizations of all shapes and sizes. Does your existing system consider emissions in your chartering and operational decisions? If the answer is no, the transition to a better VMS is inevitable.  

A proper VMS can couple commercial decision support with environmental decision support, which must be present at all parts of the voyage—from chartering to route optimization, ongoing voyage operations, and more. Emissions reporting sheds light on environmental impact over time, and enables maritime shipping organizations to prioritize emissions reduction in their long-term strategies.   

7. You find yourself looking for metrics you don’t have.  

Commercial maritime shipping generates a wealth of data—up to 120 million unique data points each day. This data is key to decision making, providing insights around emissions, costs, competitor positions, and much more. But without a way to access this information in a usable format, many organizations fail to realize the full potential of their data. Even if you can calculate your business’s KPIs, getting at them might feel like performing surgery using your existing macro-based systems. For today’s maritime shipping organizations, data-driven decision support is a key source of competitive advantage. If you don’t have the insight you need, chances are it’s time for a change.  

A proper VMS centralizes and standardizes critical voyage and market data, providing maritime organizations visibility into key metrics at all times. These data can be used by stakeholders throughout the organization to make more informed decisions, optimize operations, shape market-leading strategies, and maximize success.  

Complex workflows, made simple with Q88 VMS 

If you’re seeing any of these signals in your organization today, it might be time to start thinking about a voyage management system. It’s important to note that the switch to a VMS doesn’t have to be intimidating or hard. It doesn’t have to re-engineer your existing workflows. And it doesn’t have to disrupt your operations.  

 Q88 VMS provides comprehensive tools for complex voyage management workflows, with timely and accurate visibility into voyage performance, custom alerts, robust integration capabilities, and more. In addition, Q88 fast-tracks your path to an effective voyage management system with quick implementation, minimal training, and an intuitive, cloud-based interface so that your organization can begin to realize the value of your VMS investment as quickly as possible.  

Are all signs pointing to Q88 VMS? Request a demo to learn what makes us the best choice for your business.