"It means a lot to a small IT organization like ours that we can call on solid and skilled external resources."
Global Infrastructure & Service Manager
Svitzer A/S is a company within the AP Møller-Maersk Group and is the world's oldest tugboat company. The company operates more than 300 tugboats around the world and has more than 4000 employers.
With a new app, Svitzer is simplifying work for more than 200 tugboat crews around the world and ensuring the correct basis for billing. Module-based development in Microsoft Azure Mobile Apps minimizes development time and makes it significantly quicker and cheaper to build the app, roll it out on a global level and develop it further. The experience with Azure has been so good that Svitzer has now chosen to base several other key elements of its infrastructure on Microsoft's PaaS platform.
"With the new app – TugApp – our crews can register all the key elements of a tugboat job precisely when they happen, giving the time and position. The app gives us an accurate and unique database, so our invoices are always exactly what they should be. We can also "rewind" a process and see what happened when," says Peter Nielsen, Global Infrastructure & Service Manager - Group IT, Svitzer A/S.
Svitzer is a shipping company that is part of the Maersk Group, with more than 200 tugboats in operation around the world. The tugs often work under demanding circumstances that require full attention from the crew. And the price of each job depends on the use of time, the type of assignment, and the way the process plays out. Before, the details were usually just entered after the job was done and the crew had a quiet minute. It was time-consuming and there was always a chance of error or that details would be lost.
Svitzer had long wanted a solution that simplified the operation for the tugboat crews and had been investigating a wide range of options for solving the problem. Svitzer chose to use an app for the purpose – and to build it in Azure Mobile Apps instead of coding it in the traditional manner.
"With Azure Mobile Apps, we cut the development time to a third of what it usually is and made the work much less expensive, because the vast majority of the development took place directly in the cloud by connecting elements together," says Nielsen.
Svitzer also made good use of the development tool Xamarin, so the vast majority of the source code can be re-used for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. That means that the company can make TugApp accessible for crews no matter which mobile platform is being used onboard.
"The app guides the captain through the process via a tablet in the cockpit. The captain clicks once when he leaves the berth, again when he reaches the customer's ship, again when the hawser is thrown on board, and at each significant point until the job is done. This improves the quality of the information. All of the services, additional charges, and waiting time shows up on the final bill, so the tugs don't end up charging too little. So it's a very solid business case all the way around," explains Nielsen.
Another significant advantage of building in the Azure Mobile Apps is that it makes the solution easier to roll out, adapt, and keep updated on a global level and with all types of crew, whether the boat is in Denmark, Peru or Sydney. At the same time the TugApp automatically connects to Azure and synchronizes data whenever there is an internet connection – usually when the tugboat is in the harbor. That means that operations are not dependent on expensive satellite connections.
Svitzer worked closely with the Microsoft partner Innofactor, who helped the company draw full advantage from the opportunities with Microsoft Azure. "Our TugApp is a success, and that's at least partly due to the fact that Innofactor was quickly on board with our idea to focus on the cloud and on Platform as a Service. They have also been a valuable sounding board throughout the process. It means a lot to a small IT organization like ours that we can call on solid and skilled external resources," says Peter Nielsen.
Svitzer has also chosen to build on their Azure experience by using the cloud platform as the basis for the company's BI-dashboard. But the plans are even more ambitious.
"TugApp was our first real experience with Azure and we're very enthusiastic about it. The next big project will be to put our data warehouse up on the platform, so our relationship with Azure is just beginning," says Peter Nielsen.
"This is a customer case from Lumagate, which was acquired by Innofactor in 2016."