Huisman is known as a global market leader of customized heavy-duty cranes mounted on vessels used in constructing offshore windfarms. To help customers maintain its equipment, Huisman has deployed a pioneering maritime industry digital commerce platform designed with a parts store, a technology library, and a technical service-ticketing management system.

When Maaike de Rover arrived a few years ago as the first digital commerce expert at Huisman, her new employer made her the point person for a major transformation at the nearly century-old manufacturer of multi-ton cranes used aboard oceangoing vessels.

Huisman was already well-established as a provider of heavy construction equipment for the energy industry. But to better help its customers maintain their equipment in top shape and avoid any costly downtime, the family-owned company, founded in 1929, realized it needed to go digital — and in a way that was helpful to customers who were often out of internet access range.

Maaike de Rover -Huisman

Maaike de Rover, program manager, digitalization, Huisman

Going digital — enabling customers to order parts and service and view technical manuals from computer devices in remote locations at sea — makes Huisman’s products and services far more accessible and the company far more efficient and proactive in serving customers.

“The ultimate goal is to grow our business and stay relevant for our clients,” says de Rover, program manager, digitalization.


Moving toward predictive maintenance

Moreover, Huisman’s digital applications are putting its Services division into the position to “move from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance,” she says, with online dashboards designed to alert customers when their equipment may be due for maintenance and new parts.

Headquartered in Schiedam, Netherlands, with worldwide production and service facilities, Huisman worked with digital agency Fenego to deploy the Intershop Commerce technology platform. Intershop, which launched its first ecommerce platform in 1992, “combines the functionality of a B2B shop with the user-friendly aesthetics of a B2C platform,” according to Martijn Reissenweber, director of Huisman Services.

But the new digital technology layout is “more DXP than just an ecommerce platform, it goes far beyond ecommerce,” says de Rover, using the letters for digital experience platform.

In addition, Huisman manages customer and financial data and product information with an Isah ERP system, a Windchill data management application, and Google Analytics. And it uses an image designing tool for displaying 3D product drawings.


To make the digital platform more useful for customers when outside of internet access, de Rover says Huisman worked with Intershop and Fenego to deploy the commerce technology as a progressive web application. That configuration lets customers continue to engage through various mobile devices with downloaded web content, including product and order details, account activity, and service records, even when they have poor or no internet access in remote sea locations, such as windfarm construction sites.


Vessel-mounted Huisman cranes at a windfarm construction site.

Engaging customers via myHuisman

Huisman’s digital strategy is to make it easier for its customers aboard vessels to order parts and technical services through the manufacturer’s new digital portal, myHuisman. The portal also lets them access a broad scope of technical manuals, 3D product images, and other resources with detailed specifications, place orders for replacement parts, and receive technical help online.

Personalized content and service was crucial for Huisman to maintain a helpful digital interaction with customers at different types of companies, regardless of where they were operating and their level of internet access, de Rover says. She notes that a typical cost of equipment out of service for maintenance or repairs can run $200,000 or more per day.


“Our industry is based on relations and personal contact with people who may work 30-40 years for the same company,” she says. “So, before we started building this platform, I formed a customer advisory board … and the clients helped us build the platform.”

Among myHuisman’s features are:

  • Dedicated parts shops for customers with highly customized equipment. “It’s quite important for them to know what specific items are available for their equipment,” de Rover says. For example, she notes that a 2,600-metric-ton leg-encircling crane can have over 10,000 serviceable items and parts available for purchase, and a customer can click to see all the parts that are available, the price and the order lead times.
  • Access to a technical digital library of what are typically huge volumes of product manuals and documents related to the purchase and operation of Huisman equipment.

In the past, ships outfitted with Huisman cranes or other products would carry a full ship container stocked with paper manuals and documents. Next came CD-ROMs, which offered helpful 3D imaging used for maintaining and repairing equipment, but intermittent internet access limited their usefulness.


The new library available through myHuisman lets customers download materials online and use them with full interactive features even without internet access.

  • An online services ticketing system, which customers can use aboard vessels to arrange to receive technical assistance from Huisman technicians and engineers. Customers can also check other users’ questions and their status and review Huisman’s recorded replies.

In some cases, a Huisman engineer will travel by air and water to arrive at a client’s vessel to conduct onboard service, but to limit the expense of such travel, Huisman has developed alternate remote support services using such tools as photo-taking drones and the enterprise version of smart glasses to share images of onboard equipment with land-based engineers and technicians.

Keeping track online of made-to-order cranes

Later this year, Huisman also expects to launch a digital file management system for keeping customers up to date on the status of customized cranes and other equipment as they’re in production. De Rover notes that the production process can take two to three years, making it difficult to regularly maintain, share and organize project documents with customers on typically highly complex, made-to-order products.

For Huisman’s largest and most ecommerce-mature customers, the manufacturer is also working on providing direct connections from companies’ enterprise resource planning or plant maintenance systems to the myHuisman web shop for fast and efficient ordering of products.


De Rover says there is a significant growth opportunity as Huisman onboards more customers to myHuisman for routine activities like scheduling service calls, freeing up its salespeople and account managers to spend more time on helping these companies match their needs to Huisman’s product offerings.


Sophie du Mortier, marketeer, Huisman

Going forward, Huisman is developing a technology application designed to let customers remotely monitor on myHuisman the construction progress of cranes they’ve ordered.

“Once they buy a crane, they can monitor their equipment’s complete production process,” says Sophie du Mortier, marketeer for Huisman. “Customers can collaborate with Huisman on design and test documentation. They will have full insights in planning. Transparency is key.”


Huisman is also developing a myHuisman online performance dashboard that enables condition-based monitoring, a method using information from equipment-embedded sensors to give customers information on required maintenance.

“They have a complete overview of the status of the equipment,” du Mortier says. “And we are working towards a servicing model in which we can use this data to provide operational advice.”

Paul Demery is a Digital Commerce 360 contributing editor covering B2B digital commerce technology and strategy. [email protected].

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