Any successful purchasing strategy must be flexible and adaptable – but when your fleet is involved in worldwide tramping, with vessels calling into any of 200 ports around the world, the challenges are immense. Felicity Landon finds out more from Vinayakk Sambamurthy, Head of Supply Chain Management at MTM Ship Management
When Vinayakk Sambamurthy recently joined MTM Ship Management as Head of Supply Chain Management, he brought with him extensive technical expertise from being at sea and managing ships ashore, as well as a good understanding of MTM’s operations and time-tested policies.
“We are a ship owning and ship management company – we have 50 owned vessels and about 20 third-party vessels,” he explains. “We manage chemical tankers and bulk carriers and we are working on some new third party contracts at the moment. We expect to grow our fleet this year substantially.
“I was aware of MTM’s strategy – bulk purchasing, centralised procurement, focusing on combining volumes for the full fleet to reduce the price of the product or service. Of course, that is an overview because for many of the vendors, and in each category, there is a different approach to be taken. One cannot apply the same approach to lifesaving products and services as compared to e.g. radio repairs. Each category will have a ‘sub-strategy’,
but overall we talk about volumes and guaranteed work orders for the entire year, so that the supplier can plan for this and give the best discounts possible.”
MTM’s operations are based on worldwide tramping, taking in a good number of difficult and less accessible ports, he points out. “We call into about 200 ports. The challenges of procurement are many, given the geography, services, skill levels, and so on, as well as the fact that after Covid, a lot of vendors struggled due to loss of business. These are the real-time issues we are facing.”
Vinayakk heads up a team of 16 people. Resilience and reliability are key when it comes to selecting vendors, he says. “Given my 24 years’ experience in shipping, we decide which companies are reputable with a reasonable certainty. At MTM, from the purchasers to the superintendent to those onboard the vessel, everyone gives feedback on the products and services delivered, based on established KPIs. If there is good feedback we continue. If there are minor issues, we will work with the supplier. If the issues are major – we will not.”
As he points out, the basic purchases remain the same. However, technology and regulation are adding new items to a ship’s ‘shopping list’ and massively improved internet provision on board has a major impact on purchasing operations.
Resilience and reliability are key when it comes to selecting vendors, he says. “Given my 24 years’ experience in shipping, we decide which companies are reputable with a reasonable certainty. At MTM, from the purchasers to the superintendent to those onboard the vessel, everyone gives feedback on the products and services delivered, based on established KPIs
“Of course we are going to more high-tech products due to rules and regulations. Take ballast water treatment systems, scrubbers and other advanced equipment. More failures can happen and more materials and spare parts are needed to fix or maintain such systems. At the same time, the need for compliance means the equipment cannot be out of order for long periods, so the pressure is on.”
Digitalisation is one of the greatest advantages of the era, he notes: “High-speed internet is eliminating the communication gap between shore and ship. Our newer ships are coming in with data being captured by sensors at every stage of the process; increased connectivity means this data can be brought ashore; high-level analytics can be used to understand what is happening with the machinery and vessel performance.
We can fairly estimate what equipment maintenance might be required, not only based on running hours but also condition-based. We call it ‘suggested maintenance’, based on historically trended data. From my point of view, ‘predictive maintenance’ is a work in progress and many manufacturers are active in this space.
The drive for decarbonisation in shipping and beyond, and the increasing emphasis on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) strategies is also dramatically shaping procurement.
MTM has a dedicated in-house ESG team, working with the technical team to formulate the strategy for reducing the company’s carbon footprint. This includes measuring the performance of each vessel based on the IMO’s CII (Carbon Intensity Indicator) regulations, and working to reduce carbon emissions on each voyage.
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