Receiving and Utilizing Information
Simple, repetitive work is increasingly being done by computers or supported by AR instructions. Computers have the computational power to act as knowledge banks and guide people in their work. Hardware is necessary, but the intelligence lies in the software, as Bram explains: "Instead of training employees, the software is configured. Specialists are still needed for complex matters that require creativity, but information for preventing downtime, quick decision-making, and efficient operations comes directly from the system. Onboard sensors continuously monitor everything throughout the day and provide constant information. It requires a different way of thinking and recognizing one's own needs. Often, the focus is on one pain point, such as fuel monitoring in shipping or automatic reporting. TechBinder has developed 25 applications that run on a single infrastructure, offering a comprehensive solution for maritime companies. TechBinder operates as an IoT system integrator, and our partners bring specific domain knowledge that we combine into one package for the customer. The longer they work with our solutions, the more information they share. This allows customers to make smarter purchases, updates, perform maintenance, and plan effectively. Importantly, the data remains the property of the customer, enabling them to build their competitive advantage."
Is innovation an answer to a problem?
Bram sees entrepreneurship as a continuous learning experience: "During my work for a corporate company, I didn't fully realize the complexities of marketing a product. Initially, with TechBinder, we focused on the technical proposition and how the product was structured. Now, in our marketing and communication efforts, we focus on solving business problems. What are the business issues for customers? Think about better planning, decision-making, increased efficiency, and cost savings. These are the themes we concentrate on in pitches and meetings. This has taught us that our target audience is not the technical experts but the decision-makers within companies." Bram pauses and carefully chooses his words: "Perhaps we launched our products a bit too early in the market. At that time, there was talk of autonomous navigation and digital twins, but in practice, there was still little substance to it. Our innovation was a step too far, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic had just broken out. Companies had no reason to invite us, and all contact was digital. Yet, the interaction and feedback from customers are of enormous value."
TechBinder has two products on the market: Smart Vessel Optimizer (SVO) and Smart Field Support (SFS). These solutions improve human-machine interaction and lead to greater efficiency, optimization, and sustainability. They serve not only end customers such as shipyards and shipping companies but also OEMs and their own value-adding partners. These solutions provide new insights from existing asset data and serve as a knowledge repository for specialists' expertise. They facilitate the growth of knowledge from both humans and machines to improve business operations. With the SVO, data is collected from ships, making it possible to optimize the entire fleet based on best practices. The SFS combines data analytics with AR and VR technology, providing teams with access to information, guidelines, and expert knowledge. This simplifies tasks, allowing people to work remotely with less dependence on specialists or specific training.
Setting an Example
In 2023, TechBinder has found its footing in the market, thanks in part to the partners it collaborates with. Bram explains: "We carefully considered the company's structure, and when it comes to technology, we partner with mature companies like Schneider Electric and Aveva. Schneider is a former employer, and in 2017, I led a pilot project at Damen, which laid the foundation for our current solutions. The ROI was achieved within a month. This caught the attention of the companies we now work with. As a result, we have access to reliable and scalable technology that is supported worldwide. We offer a flexible layer to these companies, and they benefit from innovation, an agile approach, and our quick response. A lot is happening in our market right now. While small companies often serve niche markets and large companies are less flexible, TechBinder takes a more holistic approach to the market, making it attractive for companies to partner with us. As an entrepreneur, I need to be able to collaborate with mature companies, and I actively seek them out in my network. Trying to figure out everything ourselves would take too much time and energy, and a strong network helps with decision-making."
Seeing Opportunities and Collaborating
Apart from his co-founder Aldwin Schroot, Bram currently has no other team members. However, this is a goal for the future and aligns with the company's ambitions: "Eventually, we will seek specialists in technology, project management, and marketing and communication. Taking this step feels natural and allows for continuous development and growth that we achieve together." In this regard, the company focuses on the new generation of the workforce, namely students. Bram explains, "At the moment, we collaborate with students from various universities and colleges. What's exciting is that they are creative and have no biases yet. We have them validate new technologies and develop an innovation accelerator, allowing companies to discover the value of a product during a pilot in a matter of weeks. There are numerous technological advancements happening in the market, and all technologies like AI, VR, and blockchain are converging. We closely monitor these developments, as well as regulations related to CO2 emissions and the resulting demand. Often, companies in the maritime sector have no idea about their CO2 emissions, and we can provide detailed insights with our solutions. Collaboration and staying on course are crucial."
Connecting with Like-Minded Individuals
As an entrepreneur, Bram is part of the Duurzaamheidsfabriek in Dordrecht, a digital playground where companies come to test and learn. Start-ups, international companies, and vocational school students collaborate within a consortium. TechBinder provides technical expertise and creates roadmaps that align with the business challenges: "We encourage (maritime) innovations in business, technology, robotics, ICT, and sustainable operations. In two months, we build an MVP together with companies, with whom we maintain close contact and collaboration. Here, we can demonstrate who we are and what we do, creating a win-win situation. The human-machine combination is becoming increasingly prominent, and we need to accept that technology is sometimes better than humans. Think about evaluating vast amounts of information and searching through extensive data. The challenge is to make technology speak our language so that we can do our jobs even better. Home automation is already fully accepted, and the industry is heading in that direction as well. With AI, computers learn and discover things we never thought of. This offers opportunities and solutions for companies."