Signet Maritime Uses Amazon WorkDocs to Increase Productivity, Decrease Costs Up to 60%


Founded in 1976, Signet Maritime (Signet) has more than 200 employees and provides a wide variety of tug, towing, and other shipping-related services based out of five offices on the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. To effectively manage its fleet of vessels and keep them in compliance with shipping regulations, the company has to file a lot of paperwork. For years Signet relied on pen and paper—plus printing, scanning, and emailing documents—to keep accurate records. It was an inefficient system that claimed a large share of employee time and wasn’t well suited to sporadic internet connections at sea.

In 2015, Signet realized a cloud communication system could simplify its operations, but out-of-the-box vessel-management software was expensive and didn’t fit Signet’s specific needs. The company turned instead to Amazon WorkDocs, a fully managed and secure content creation, storage, and collaboration service. Signet chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help it customize and implement a file-sharing system that would eventually provide a 60 percent employee-hour cost reduction for operations and project management; this proved to be just the beginning of its journey on AWS.

“Our entire company system is now maintained on Amazon WorkDocs, and a defining aspect of our interactions with AWS is a level of customer service we didn’t really expect.” 

Tim McCallum
Assistant Vice President of Engineering, Signet Maritime 

A Complex Communication and Documentation Problem

From safety and compliance reporting to AutoCAD designs for new vessels, significant documentation is required for all the services Signet provides. “We have 36 vessels that have a tremendous amount of communication back and forth with shore-based management for repair, procurement, compliance—the day-to-day needs making the vessels operate,” says Tim McCallum, Signet’s assistant vice president of engineering. “We were looking for a platform that enabled that communication to occur even when we had low connectivity.”

This workload was cumbersome enough to fill the plate of a full-time employee, whose main duty was to read emails from vessels and save and catalog the files each day. Connectivity was an issue too. Employees on vessels often spent too much time waiting for internet access; Signet needed a system that could work behind the scenes, connecting, uploading, and downloading documents independent of when its workers had time to create and modify them.

Ease of use was another one of Signet’s chief requirements for its new file-sharing system. “We don’t have an IT department,” says McCallum. “So when it comes to implementing, troubleshooting, and resolving problems, it was important for this to be pretty airtight right away so that, quite literally, Josh or I weren’t getting phone calls from vessels wondering why this thing doesn’t work.”

A Powerful, Easy-to-Use File-Sharing System via the Cloud

Signet migrated all its company and vessel documentation to Amazon WorkDocs: everything from emergency-response procedures to human resources files and medical records. “Our entire company system is now maintained on Amazon WorkDocs,” says Josh Johnson, senior manager of health, safety, security, environment, and quality (HSSEQ) and human resources at Signet. Amazon WorkDocs has the computing power that helps Signet easily store and share large multigigabyte files such as Rhino 3D models of new vessel designs with a customer, limit access to appropriate employees, and easily monitor when a report had last been modified and by whom. “I would always wonder,” says Johnson, “am I working on the newest version of this file? Is this the last one someone’s worked on? I don’t have to worry about that with Amazon WorkDocs.” Now, says McCallum, the company sees “a 40 percent employee-hour cost reduction for HSSEQ and compliance-documentation management.”

What’s more, the user-friendly system frees up employees to spend more time running their vessels rather than waiting for an internet connection or searching for lost paperwork. Crew members can now work on documents when their time allows, and changes are automatically updated when a ship sails into internet connectivity, resulting in a 30 percent employee-hour cost reduction for engineering-documentation management. Vessel audits, which are required annually by the US Coast Guard, became much easier too. “These audits would take 8, 9 hours,” says Johnson. “They now take about 3 hours because our auditor is able to go onto Amazon WorkDocs and look at everything that vessel did that year before.”

Being an ISO 9001–certified company means that Signet has to accurately document and store an array of health, safety, and quality control information. “It’s my responsibility to make sure the vessels are doing the proper paperwork every day,” says Johnson. “Before Amazon WorkDocs, the only way I knew if they had done their proper paperwork is if I made them email it to me and hope that I caught it.” Now, because Amazon WorkDocs is accessible across all sorts of devices, Signet is able to maintain critical visibility into its document management while also extending the scope of its communication. In fact, Johnson was able to quickly respond to a vessel audit while off the clock and away from his computer: “I went to the Amazon WorkDocs app on my phone, downloaded the file, sent it to them, and they moved on with the audit 5 minutes later.”

Saving Critical Employee Time with Amazon WorkDocs

Overall, Amazon WorkDocs delivered a number of tangible benefits to Signet—and this file-sharing process was not only easier but also less expensive and more secure. “The maritime industry is really being hit by cybersecurity concerns,” says Johnson. “The fact that AWS is ISO 27001 certified—knowing that we’re on a server certified to that standard—addresses a lot of our worries.”

Buoyed by the success of the migration to Amazon WorkDocs, Signet is excited to pursue other opportunities to increase productivity and reduce costs on AWS. For example, because of social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, Signet started using Amazon Chime, a communications service that lets the company meet, chat, and place business calls.

Through all stages of the process, what has impressed Signet the most is the high level of customer service from AWS. No call or concern is unimportant. “They’ve been quick to respond, courteous, and aware of the variable levels of technical savvy from the employee asking the question,” McCallum says. “A defining aspect of our interactions with AWS and Amazon WorkDocs is a level of customer service we didn’t really expect.” AWS helped Signet take the paper out of its paperwork—and enable its employees to focus on the work at which the company excels.

About Signet Maritime Corporation

Founded in 1976, Signet Maritime is a diverse international marine transportation and logistics services company specializing in cargo handling, towing and tugboat services, and ship management and vessel design.

Benefits of AWS

  • Reduced operations employee hours by up to 60%
  • Enabled seamless file transfer despite inconsistent maritime connectivity
  • Enabled ISO 27001 security compliance

AWS Services Used

Amazon WorkDocs

Amazon WorkDocs is a fully managed, secure content creation, storage, and collaboration service. With Amazon WorkDocs, you can easily create, edit, and share content, and because it’s stored centrally on AWS, access it from anywhere on any device.

Amazon Chime

Amazon Chime is a communications service that lets you meet, chat, and place business calls inside and outside your organization, all using a single application. Developers can use the same communications infrastructure and services that power Amazon Chime, and add audio calling, video calling, and screen sharing capabilities directly to their applications using the Amazon Chime SDK.

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