Kongsberg Digital – transforming Norway’s maritime heritage

Interview with Gullik Jensen, Product Director for Digital Services in Maritime Simulation, Kongsberg Digital

Norwegian maritime giant KONGSBERG is on an impressive as well as exciting innovation journey. Leading the digital transformation journey in the Maritime Simulation unit in Kongsberg Digital is innovation leader Gullik Jensen. After receiving the DOGA design award for the new K-Sim Connect platform for delivering cloud-based simulation services, we met with him to learn more about his vision for the future.

Can you tell us about what you do for those who are not entirely familiar with KONGSBERG?

“KONGSBERG is one of Norway's biggest and most traditional companies. It has over 200 years of history, and we work with many different business areas, including the maritime industry. You can find our equipment on as many as 30 000 ships worldwide, which puts us in an excellent position to understand what the market needs when it comes to maritime education and training. New equipment onboard, new regulations, and standards create changes continuously, and seafarers need to constantly update their knowledge and training. In our maritime simulation unit, we have provided simulation technology for training for over 50 years, and now we also offer it via the cloud.”

What is your role in Kongsberg?

“Well, formally, my title is Product Director for Digital Services in Kongsberg Digital’s Maritime Simulation unit, which includes enabling simulator technology in the cloud environment. About five years ago, KONGSBERG decided to establish Kongsberg Digital and focus on digital transformation to strengthen our position. For our unit, Maritime Simulation, that meant that we wanted to be the ones defining the future for maritime training and education. Since then, I have led our digitalization and innovation efforts when developing new cloud-based platform supporting simulation solutions for the maritime training industry.

You recently won the prestigious DOGA award for the K-Sim Connect project, where also EGGS have been involved. Can you tell us about that?

“Yes, I'm thrilled and proud about that! It's a sign of recognition for our work on this. For the past four years, we've been working on K-Sim Connect. It's a platform where we deliver our cloud-based maritime simulator services, enabling maritime students to train using only a laptop. This means they don't need access to expensive, physical simulators. When we started developing this, the covid-pandemic hit, and we saw an opportunity to offer maritime schools and institutions to use the solution. It was the perfect chance for the schools to continue their education and training during the lock-down. For us, it meant that we got a unique opportunity to test our solutions, and even now, after the pandemic, I'm sure there's room for cloud-based simulation training.

The cloud-based simulator K-Sim ECDIS includes ready-made simulation exercises, seamless school integrations and full flexible control of the simulation environment. In this video you can learn more about the project and process behind.

Why is simulation training so important?

“Simulation is the most efficient training for seafarers for preparing for crucial situations that they will, hopefully, never experience - emergencies, storms, coalitions, and so on. It’s impossible to prepare for these things only through theoretical study. But apart from emergencies, simulation training is also essential for learning how to operate the vessel efficiently and safely, saving energy and resources, much like when you learn to drive a car economically. Making the maritime industry greener is an urgent matter, and this is one way of contributing to that. Traditional, physical simulators are excellent, but combining them with digital, cloud-based solutions democratizes access, and we can train so many more people."

What has the role of design played in this?

“We’re using design actively in developing K-Sim Connect, and we do that for two purposes. Firstly, we’re at the innovative forefront. We're entering a domain no one has been in before, and we want to develop future solutions. And to do this, we need to start where the buzz words end. We have to take those unclear words and make them tangible. To do this, we use design to get the prototypes in place. That’s when we can have a constructive discussion on how they can work in reality.

Secondly, we want the solution to contribute to democratizing maritime simulation training. If we want it to be accessible to millions instead of thousands, we need to ensure that the solution is scalable and easy for people to use without us assisting. It needs to be user-friendly, intuitive, and efficient simultaneously. Students should be able to use the simulator without being trained first, and we need design to achieve this. The fact that K-Sim Connect received the DOGA Award, I think, is proof that we've succeeded."

Kongsberg is a company with a long tradition. What are the biggest challenges for working with innovation?

“It’s always challenging working with innovation, being a traditional company or not. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that we have a legacy and we already have paying customers. That's a very different starting point from a startup starting from scratch. In a way, we have a lot to lose if we fail. We need to leverage our existing advantage and ensure we continue delivering quality to our existing customers. But it also means that we have the privilege of being able to fund our innovation ourselves. We’re doing a balancing act between innovating and maintaining our legacy. Perhaps the biggest challenge is remembering not to move too fast and ensuring that you maintain existing business running smoothly in parallel. To do this, you must have a close dialogue with the market, existing and potential new customers, and users. You also need to build awareness in management in balancing the old and the new.”

"We’re doing a balancing act between innovating and maintaining our legacy. Perhaps the biggest challenge is remembering not to move too fast and ensuring that you maintain existing business running smoothly in parallel."
Gullik Jensen, Product Director for Digital Services in Maritime Simulation, Kongsberg Digital

Do you have any tips on what other companies that wish to work with innovation should think about?

“Yes, I think one important thing is to acknowledge your strengths – the people, tech, and customers in the organization. But at the same time, you must be wary of what and where to rethink. You have to dare to break out and rethink the future. You need to be courageous but keep that balance that we talked about earlier. It's not easy, but it’s necessary. Essentially, it’s a matter of appreciating what you have created while being realistic about what you have and viewing it from the outside. Take help from designers and design methodology to envision the future and what you want it to be. If you’re only focusing on maintaining the existing business, you’ll soon be outpaced by other players.”

"Take help from designers and design methodology to envision the future and what you want it to be. If you’re only focusing on maintaining the existing business, you’ll soon be outpaced by other players.”
Gullik Jensen, Product Director for Digital Services in Maritime Simulation, Kongsberg Digital

Any pitfalls that should be avoided?

“Don’t get caught up in details. They will sort themselves out. It’s easy to point out all the details that need to be fixed. People love doing that. But it’s important to keep the big perspective and keep pushing forward. Don’t allow your innovation to be blocked by external limitations because this change all the time. The maritime sector has traditionally been slow to change, but lately, things are speeding up. And let’s not forget that it’s not unheard of for regulations to change due to innovation itself. So, never let that hold a great idea back.

What challenges do you see for the future in the maritime industry? And for Kongsberg specifically?

“It’s going through a lot of change and intense pressure for a green shift. For too long, the maritime industries were exempt from these requirements. That is finally changing. Shipowners and others are now very concerned with creating sustainable solutions. New legislation and regulation, for instance, within requirements regarding fuel types and emission reduction, are coming into force. Many ships will need to be modified to comply with these standards, so the industry is facing different challenges related to this. And for KONGSBERG, this is a great opportunity to develop and deliver new technology supporting a more sustainable maritime industry."

What opportunities do you see?

“With the green shift in the maritime industry, there is a great potential for extended use of simulation technology to build competence and awareness, resulting in improved efficiency, safety, and sustainability, including reduced fuel consumption and less pollution. The front runners in the green shift are the ones who will be successful in this industry in the future.”

"The front runners in the green shift are the ones who will be successful in this industry in the future."
Gullik Jensen, Product Director for Digital Services in Maritime Simulation, Kongsberg Digital

Norway has a strong legacy within the maritime industry. How do you see the industry development in Norway?

“Environmental Social Governance has become fundamental principles in the entire industry, not only in Norway. Investors and customers are very much looking to these principles. I believe that the Norwegian maritime industry is at the forefront of this. We’re developing autonomous ships, remotely operated, and there’s a lot of tech innovation and drive, both from suppliers, ship owners, and the educational sector where we operate. It’s a sector that is very committed to educating the seafarers to be able to operate these new vessels. Everyone is coming together to work towards a common goal and a more sustainable maritime industry.”

Sounds interesting?

Espen Aleksander Jørgensen

Let's talk to Head of Ocean Space
Espen Aleksander Jørgensen
+47 930 02 430
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