Digital Transformation at Kongsberg Digital results in Simulation as a Service
Kongsberg Digital is a provider of next generation software and digital solutions to customers within maritime, oil & gas and renewables & utilities. In addition, Kongsberg Digital is the group-wide center of digital expertise for the International Kongsberg Group.
Among its products and services, Kongsberg Digital provides market-leading software-based simulators for the maritime, offshore, and naval industries. Digital Transformation is evolving it’s simulators to the cloud, resulting in Simulation as a Service on Microsoft Azure. The new service allows global reach to a wider customer base, with easy service provisioning, lower costs, and ‘anytime anywhere’ ease of use for trainees worldwide. The first pilot is nearing completion, and will yield re-usable and replicable results for the company’s service provision. The ecosystem surrounding the simulators is offering attractive new opportunities for customer interaction and new business. The Digital Transformation project, carried out in collaboration with Xpirit, pushed Microsoft technologies to the edge, but with full success: the team delivered the pilot from POC to product in a little over 3 months.
Kongsberg Digital – world-wide supplier of maritime simulation solutions
Kongsberg Digital is a market leader in the domain of software-based simulators, providing state-of-the art solutions to training institutes and private training departments in the maritime, offshore and naval industries. The solutions are used to simulate maritime navigation, engine room control or cargo operations, and are used globally by maritime academies, training institutes and operating companies in the maritime industry. The company employs more than 500 specialists with leading competence in internet of things, smart data, artificial intelligence, and automation and autonomous operations.
Digital transformation – spearhead in Kongsberg’s business
Some of Kongsberg Digital’s software-based simulators have core technology codes, which date back to the early nineties and are still in use. So far, the company’s engineers have been installing the simulators on-site at training institutes, which required local presence and travel time, not only for new installations, but also for maintenance and system upgrades. What’s more, end-users of the simulators, i.e. trainees from maritime, naval and off-shore companies, have to travel to the training institutes, incurring a substantial amount of time and travel costs, and with training times limited to an institute’s opening hours.
Tone-Merete Hansen, Senior Vice President, Maritime Simulation, Kongsberg Digital, describes the benefits of the transformation to a digital, cloud-based service portfolio: “The transformation is introducing radical change to Kongsberg Digital’s business model. This cloud-based platform is transforming our Maritime Simulation division from a product organization into a service provider. We’ve been selling excellent products for over 40 years, but what is changing is the delivery model. Cloud-based delivery will allow us to grow the market without the limitation of travel time for our engineer staff, and at the same time reducing costs. As a result, Kongsberg Digital can reduce its time-to-market, increase its market range and reach out to customers on a global scale, and deliver Simulation as a Service.
Digital transformation creates valuable opportunities
Tone-Merete continues: “The digital transformation is creating a wealth of opportunities. Not only for ourselves, but also for our direct customers, the training institutes. They benefit by having automatic access to the latest releases with new functionality, requiring less hardware and maintenance and, last but not least, by being able to offer an extended and more flexible training portfolio to their clients. And don’t forget the trainees. The cloud-based simulator allows them to train anytime, anywhere, and besides that, we are looking into offering subscription based models as well as “pay per use” to offer flexible solutions to our customers. And because the system is easily scalable, the number of users who can train simultaneously is virtually unlimited, which, in turn, creates attractive new opportunities.”
Cloud platform as ecosystem
Robin Gjessing, Kongsberg Digital’s VP Technology, adds his vision: “We provide our simulator services through Kongsberg’s open digital platform, Kognifai. Kognifai is creating an entire ecosystem for the maritime training industry that allows easy access to simulators and course packages and upload exercises. Kognifai is a dynamic platform that stimulates interaction between all partners involved – a marketplace and enabler for collaboration and innovation. In the past, once we had installed a simulator, there wasn’t much reason for contact. Now we have a channel for regular feedback and communications about new services, which in turn presents new opportunities for business. Interaction and close collaboration is extremely important for today’s maritime industry because the industry is changing, but it isn’t sure what the future will look like. The cloud-based ecosystem brings us much closer to our customers and empowers us to collaborate with the industry.”
Pilot that serves as model for other cloud-based simulators
Kongsberg Digital’s current simulator migration project to the cloud involves the engine room simulator (K-Sim Engine) and will serve as a POC for other simulators. The project is a pilot that was started in October 2017. Tone-Merete: “We presented our vision for the digital transition at our user conference in September last year. The response was overwhelming and several customers on boarded immediately for participating in the pilot. The K-Sim Engine pilot will be completed in April 2018, which is less than six months from the project kick-off date. Considering the positive feedback we’ve had so far, the pilot seems to be a success, and we will certainly use the results of the pilot in other cloud-based simulators.”
Xpirit’s support helped us meet challenging technological expectations
Gullik Jensen, Kongsberg Digitals Technology Director and product owner for the ecosystem: “The project was a challenge, and we knew upfront that we would be maneuvering along the edge of technological possibilities. Although we had our own team of simulation specialists, we knew we needed leading edge Microsoft Azure knowhow. In addition, we wanted to use brand-new Azure-based container technology in combination with Kubernetes. We already knew Xpirit from other projects, and had experienced their extensive knowhow at the forefront of Microsoft technology, so we asked them to advise and support our teams. “
Gullik continues: “Guys like Xpirit’s Roy Cornelissen and Alex de Groot have high ambitions, not only for themselves, but also for their customers. What’s more, the knowledge and skill base of Xpirit’s team offer a wealth of experience and in-depth knowhow that allowed us to push our limits, while remaining confident that we wouldn’t tumble over the edge. In addition, Microsoft itself took part in the project, created transparency in their technologies and showed issues in GitHub.”
“Xpirit’s experience in project approach also contributed to our success: the combination of Scrum and DevOps ensured close collaboration between all developers located in Norway, The Netherlands and India, but also between the developers and stakeholders from our own business operations. In addition, the Minimum Viable Product approach with short iterations and fast feedback helped us to achieve excellent results within a short timeframe. We learned a lot from their approach, and they actively transferred their knowhow to us. What’s more, their DevOps mindset of ‘you build it, you run it’ showed us how to monitor the running systems, collect feedback and improve continuously. In short, thanks to Xpirit’s support, we managed to realize our goal and to create valuable opportunities.”