Data: the key to the future

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  • 21/10/2017
Ubald Nienhuis - Partner Marstrat - Operational Management

Marstrat is a strategic consultancy firm that provides expertise to help companies solve their maritime challenges. One of Marstrat’s clients is Royal IHC, a developer and supplier of vessels, equipment and services for the dredging, offshore and mining industries. For IHC, continuously optimising its business process is important. With a solid background in maritime technology and management, Ubald Nienhuis, partner and consultant at Marstrat, has been leading the One IHC Program since 2012.


Five years ago, IHC decided to make its entire business process and all related data and applications uniform. No matter the stage in the process of sales, engineering, procurement, manufacturing or services, it is all done in a uniform way, and all IHC employees use the same state-of-the-art software and equipment. As a result, employees are more agile to move between IHC’s operating companies, and data and experiences are collectively shared. And Royal IHC gains in competitive edge vis-à-vis its global competitors.

Benefits for all

Eight of the twenty operating companies of IHC have partly or fully gone live with this new solution. The implementation will be finalised late 2019. Even though IHC is still in the middle of this big ‘change’ project, the company anticipates that the One IHC Program will increase efficiency for IHC and its partners and, just as important, lead to better solutions for the client. Where in the past every business unit responsible for an individual vessel part worked with its own information model and tools, the IHC employees now have access to all information within the same tools – of course only to what they are entitled to see. Business units can better put their own work in the overall product and project context, which enables them to perform better. Another benefit of having one information system is that it becomes easier to re-use what was developed in the past, which leads to more efficiency, less risk (the same mistakes will not be made again) and a shorter time-to-market. For clients, this new solution leads to better performing products that are also more recognisable to crew and staff. This limits training efforts and supports customer’s crew rotation schemes, a huge advantage as vessels get more and more complex. Last but not least, having a fully integrated information model of a vessel is a boon for lifecycle support.

The future

The program can be an inspiration for other companies in the Drecht Cities. IHC built a highly advanced business process, supported by an innovative data model and software platform. According to Nienhuis, this platform could be interesting for partners and even clients for optimal collaboration and information exchange. Big players in the Drecht Cities using the same data platform could stimulate research and product development. It could also provide a starting point for a joint education platform to train young people in the new ways of working and to introduce them to potential future employers.

According to Nienhuis, innovation and automation are inevitable, also for the Drecht Cities. Automation will cost jobs but also create new ones. “In order to survive competition, we all take part in this social experiment where systems and robots are taking over the manual and lower-skilled labour. My advice to the Drecht Cities is to be the first mover. If we embrace automation and information technology, we will create many higher-skilled jobs while safeguarding as many lower-skilled jobs as possible. If we take the lead, for example by creating a joint, truly state-of-the-art learning environment, we can help young people find a well-paid job in the future and stimulate career changes for people who wish to develop themselves in other directions.”


This article was published in the Deal Investment Guide.