Predictive Analytics Drives Better Crew Travel Management
Managing crew travel is just one area that can cause sleepless nights for shipping industry professionals. As someone who works in this specialist and incredibly dynamic sector, I know first-hand how quickly things can change. Overcoming challenges is just part of the day-to-day.
Maritime organizations have a very particular set of needs when it comes to having the right personnel available at the right time. Seafarers’ travel is mission-critical and their working patterns are governed by tight regulations. Ensuring people - and the right people with the correct visas, training and qualifications - are where they have to be at the right time is an essential part of the industry.
That said, there is continued pressure to keep a keen eye on costs and get the very best value for money. With crew travel requirements making up one of the biggest controllable costs for any shipping organization, the pressure is certainly felt by crew coordinators.
Reducing spend means acting in the smartest possible way, and technology continues to open up opportunities. Data analysis is now entering a new era for forward-thinking businesses.
Of course, analytics and data have always been key to successful travel programs, but managers often do not have the time to delve deeply into the figures. It’s like the iceberg illusion – success does not rest on what you can see clearly on top of the water; instead you have to examine everything that lies beneath to get the full picture.
Thankfully, a specialist Travel Management Company (TMC) has the tools and skills to work collaboratively with their shipping clients to help develop a clear spend-saving strategy.
Inspecting data is useful in a number of ways. It can, for example, reveal booking patterns that have previously gone unnoticed, allowing you to get better deals from suppliers or change you booking procedures. Alternatively, the numbers may show how bookings correlate to particular market trends or outside influences. Applying this insight allows you to create an effective travel program.
However, it is no longer enough to simply ask what is happening with regards to a maritime organization’s travel. Instead, savvy businesses are thinking ahead by asking ‘what if’ we change our policy, our crew change ports or even our advance booking behavior?
Previously, data has been handled retrospectively and always revealed what had happened and why it happened. The industry is now striving for a much more proactive approach, which is great news for travel management. Rather than just reviewing what’s happened and then setting it aside, predictive analysis brings this data to life.
Inspecting data in order to spot trends and use them to change behaviors makes the collection of management information (MI) more valuable, as it can be used to inform data-driven decisions and influence savings strategies. Going forward, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will help root out patterns more quickly, and could eventually introduce more automation into what can be a time-consuming and complicated booking process.
There are some essential steps to get your data analysis working right:
- Data consistency: Firstly, examine how you capture your MI. Most organizations have several crew coordinators based in locations around the world, which invariably means data will come in a variety of forms. Collecting information from multiple locations and teams only works if it comes in a standardized form, so that the same processes and tools can be used to examine it.
- The devil is in the detail: For data to be meaningful, it must be captured correctly. For example, if information such as nationality or rank is incorrect or missing, then distorted conclusions will be drawn. An integrated travel booking, HR and analytics tool can be of benefit here since it reduces the risk of human error.
- Analyze and engage: It is important that stakeholders engage with the process and approach data analysis with an open mind. Once systems are set up and working – mandated by ship management and TMCs – they quickly throw up results. Having the opportunity to look at the numbers that lie behind how their travel is booked means breaking down barriers and persuading people to change which can reap rewards.
- TMC integration: Closely involve your TMC account manager from the outset so everyone is working towards a clearly defined goal. Having access to advice and industry information can help considerably when shaping future policy and getting the best from your data.
Applying the findings from accurate data can reduce costs, plan for what you may think is unforeseen, and drive better business decisions. So if I have a sleepless night, I think about lovely spreadsheets rather than sheep in order to drift off into a calm snooze.
Eleftheria Letsiou is Head of Global Account Management for Shipping at ATPI Griffinstone, the specialist marine and energy division of the travel management and events business, the ATPI Group.