Marine Solutions’ Inspection App = Innovation
Over the last 50 years Silicon Valley has become synonymous with innovation. While Silicon Valley receives most of the attention, the truth is that innovation is happening all across the United States. For example, most people have never heard of Nicholasville, Kentucky, and fewer still have ever heard of Marine Solutions, which is headquartered there. But Marine Solutions’ inspection app has put it on the map.
Marine Solutions is a construction and engineering firm focused on building and maintaining waterfront, hydraulic, navigation, and bridge structures. Of course its industry may not be considered sexy compared to others today. But innovation isn’t only about social media networks, electric vehicles, streaming video applications and the other hot sectors that we see in the news.
Those are the tips of the icebergs, the common innovations we see and sometimes use or buy each day. Below the surface, a huge number of companies are quietly, constantly innovating to increase productivity and profitability. Also, they want to provide better products and services to their customers. Marine Solutions is an example of a company innovating below the surface that few of us ever hear about.
Marine Solutions Overcomes Challenges
Like many companies, Marine Solutions has many challenges in its daily business. One of the major ones that they encountered was performing inspections of waterfront, hydraulic, navigation and bridge structures. These inspections are for clients such as the U.S. Navy, New York Economic Development Corporation, and the Maryland Port Authority. Due to the environments where their structures are located, they present unique challenges.
Marine Solutions, or MSI, has been collecting inspection data digitally for a long time. Like most companies, the data was collected in spreadsheets. Using laptops in the environments where the structures they inspected caused a number of issues. For instance, laptops and water don’t mix well, and hardware failures at the inspection site could be a major setback. Another concern with using the laptops to collect data is that it could be difficult and potentially even dangerous. For example, trying to collect data on a small dinghy under a pier is problematic at best.
Fortunately the digital age is mobile and includes touch interfaces that are much more convenient to use almost anywhere. It quickly became apparent to MSI leadership—Amy Wilkins, President and CEO, and Sean Chapman, Vice President of Engineering Services—that a tablet with a touch interface and mobile devices with the ability to sync from anywhere with a cell signal or WIFI would provide many advantages.
Additionally, the company needed to move beyond spreadsheets to actual interfaces. Naturally this made it easier to collect the data and added contextual improvements and data validation. The results are improve productivity and accuracy of data collection onsite. Based upon these observations, Amy and Sean decided it was the right time to use mobile technology to innovate the way their business worked on a daily basis.
Decision to Innovate
The decision to innovate is often the easy part. However, true innovation is a process that is equal parts hard work and perseverance. Media companies which cover innovative technologies make the process seem almost magical. For example, a founder has a great idea, hires developers or engineers, and puts in a lot of late nights. Then poof, the next great technology is born.
The reality is that innovation is one of the toughest paths upon which any company can embark. Because it requires change, and oftentimes the fear of change can kill a project before it begins. Generally speaking, it is easier to innovate when building a startup. That’s because the founder is starting from scratch with no preconceived notions. Nothing is in place that requires employees, management, or customers to accept and embrace change.
Innovation at a company with a history does not only require new technology. It demands accepting change to the way business has been every day in the past. It also requires accepting how business will be done going forward.
Often it is not the new technology that is the reason for innovation failure. Many times it’s the adoption of the technology by the business, employees and customers which is problematic. This presents a major obstacle to innovation because it requires people to change the way they do things.
Marine Solutions Understands Innovation
Amy and Sean understood this early on. Their solution involved their team in the development of the new technology. They wanted to build prototypes that the team could work with early and often to flesh out changes to the mobile app and to the way the team worked. Then they evaluated each prototype, and the team helped determine pain points where the application would need to change. Also, it helped them understand how the team’s way of working would have to change.
The process of working together made a much better end product. Also, it resulted in buy-in from the entire team. The result is a mobile app that is more intuitive and productive, and it enhances team efforts rather than impedes them.
The Mobile App Project and Its Results
The project took many months of development. It included rapid prototyping of tablet apps, testing by the MSI team, providing feedback on changes and updates, and real-world usage. The result is a mobile app, web services, database, and admin interfaces. These not only replaced the previous way data was collected, but they have also transformed MSI’s daily work methods.
The app has led to increased productivity, accuracy, and better services for MSI’s customers. Furthermore, its team cannot imagine going back to the old ways of doing things. Innovation has given Marine Solutions a competitive advantage which has directly led to improvement to the bottom line. The company is a perfect example of the incredible innovation going on all around us. It’s the type of new technology we might never hear about, but it transforms the lives of many people around us.
If you have a need for a mobile app or complex platform, you’ve come to the right place. Feel free to contact us at your convenience.
Also, you can learn more about Marine Solutions’ inspection app and other services at www.msimarinesolutions.com.