Western Bulk Chartering AS, known commonly as Western Bulk, is a leading dry bulk shipping company that combines solid shipping experience with an asset-light, decentralized, and trading-oriented model. The company uses risk management as a guiding principle for all decisions, and empowers its worldwide business units with a high degree of autonomy.
Western Bulk is dedicated to driving innovation while optimizing current business processes to secure long-term profitability despite volatile markets. “In the future, we will have to manage more vessels and voyages than we do today, but with the same resources,” stated the global dry bulk operator’s Head of Technology & Digital Strategy, Martin Hjelle. “For our team to achieve this, we need smarter communications and more efficient systems. That’s exactly why we turn to Veson.”
Western Bulk first implemented Veson’s on-premise IMOS system in 2014, and migrated to the cloud-based Veson IMOS Platform (VIP) in 2018 as part of a broader strategical move to prioritize digital transformation.
“We don’t want to build a traditional IT department,” continued Hjelle. “We want to add value to the organization by being more business and user focused. Working in an on-premise system, we were only able to maintain current processes rather than add real value. We wanted to change all of that.”
Digitalizing for the Future
The impetus for Western Bulk’s migration to VIP was to improve speed and performance across global offices, as well as provide better mobility and freedom for employees to access the system from anywhere by simply using their browser. Now VIP users for over a year, Western Bulk has achieved these goals and then some.
Since migrating to the cloud, Western Bulk has eliminated inefficiencies and lag time that was bogging down operations. “It’s all about stability and mobility and getting access to new features faster,” said Hjelle. “We have seen a huge difference in speed and performance. When you time it and measure the difference, there’s a significant improvement between today and when we first went live.”
In addition to enhanced speed and performance, Western Bulk is also benefitting from the accessibility of a cloud-based solution. “One of the problems we were trying to solve in our migration to VIP was eliminating the third-party middleware setup that we needed with the on-premise system. Every month, there were hundreds of reported incidents where people were getting kicked out of the system and having to login again,” recalled Hjelle. “These performance issues were particularly troublesome when accounting did weekly reporting on Thursdays and Fridays. We couldn’t scale our on-premise solution when we needed to. In the cloud, this is no longer a problem.”
With direct access to the system via the cloud, Western Bulk is empowered with the mobility and flexibility required to move business forward regardless of external factors. “With VIP, we are well positioned to take on challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Hjelle. “When people suddenly need to work from home, VIP enables fast and secure accessibility from anywhere in the world – all you need is an internet connection.”
With product features continuously being released on the cloud, Western Bulk can instantly take advantage of the newest capabilities. “It’s a lot more stable and much less work now that we have the continuous releases, compared to monthly releases when we were on-premise,” commented Hjelle. “We no longer have to spend time focusing on planning and testing a new release; Veson takes care of the rigorous testing and we receive the updates instantly.”
The agility of a smarter, simpler, and more efficient cloud solution also enables Western Bulk to better adapt to the ever-changing maritime landscape. “When IMO 2020 first came into effect, we were prepared to utilize the IMO 2020 changes in the system earlier than those without VIP because we got instant access without the need for testing,” noted Hjelle.
With improved speed and performance, seamless accessibility that enables remote work, and immediate access to new capabilities, Western Bulk is securing continued ROI on their strategic investment.
A Best of Breed Solution
In moving to the cloud, Western Bulk has disrupted old ways of working to make way for the technology ecosystem of the future. “With the cloud, you have an open platform that provides optionality,” Hjelle explained. “You have the best freight and fleet management system – the Veson IMOS Platform – at the core, which then integrates with different applications that you need for specific functions or data feeds.” With connectivity between these systems, data is shared across the ecosystem, allowing for less manual data entry and more automation.
“What you end up with is the best blend of systems for your use cases, which is more unique and robust than any one system you can find in the market,” Hjelle stated. “Having this optionality also enables you to easily make adjustments as your business evolves.”
Utilizing APIs to integrate systems with IMOS enables seamless data flow, customization, and flexibility for Western Bulk. “When we first migrated, we didn’t have any of these integrations – it wasn’t possible with on-premise, but with VIP it’s easy,” said Hjelle. “Having access to more data gives us better control, which means less risk and saves us time and money.”
Martin Hjelle added, “without these integrations, we would have to perform extensive redundant manual data entry, with an increased risk of missing something or entering data incorrectly.”
The connectivity and flexibility that VIP allows is enabling Western Bulk to operate more efficiently and make better informed decisions. “Just one example is the ability to send a URL to the chartering manager pointing to a predefined search in the e-mail system with all their vessels,” Hjelle explained. “With easy access to the data, you can also create notifications to alert users about changes taking place in the system.”
A Partnership to Propel Innovation
Western Bulk’s long-standing partnership with Veson, which first began in 2014, has evolved into a tactical and close-knit relationship. “We have open lines of communication with the Veson team, and our discussions have become more strategic and business focused rather than purely technical,” commented Hjelle.
Veson Nautical is also appreciative of the partnership and how it has evolved. “It has been very fulfilling for us to work so collaboratively with Western Bulk through the years,” commented John Veson, CEO. “Their commitment to purpose-driven innovation has allowed them to experience impressive growth over time, and we look forward to continuing on that journey with them.”
Going forward, Western Bulk plans to continue working closely with Veson to drive digitalization as a key strategy in future-proofing the business. “For the future, we see more automation and event-driven logic. This will enable us to spend less time searching for information and running processes, and more time analyzing the data to make strategic operational decisions,” commented Hjelle. “Our partnership with Veson has been vital to this continued growth and innovation.”
Read the VIP Conversion Guide to learn more about the benefits of the cloud and five key reasons why VIP is the market-leading, cloud-based platform for maritime organizations like Western Bulk.