Update Mar 2003

Keep Software Costs in Perspective

The cost of ship-shore software is relatively insignificant for a shipping company when one considers the numerous potential benefits that a quality marine software system can deliver. In fact, software is potentially one of the best investments a shipping line can make in terms of Return On Investment. So why does it face such a great deal of attention and scrutiny?

Heating coil steam valves (25 mm bore) cost approximately $100 each. About 30 are required per tank. If you have 15 tanks, this is a total investment of $45,000. Assuming they last 5 years if well maintained, this equals about $7,000 per year excluding freight, delivery and installation. Why is there little concern from senior management regarding how often these are blasted and painted? It is because this is not considered a significant expense.

The Task Assistant Quality & Safety application costs a fraction of this but attracts considerably more attention. The reason being that it is not yet seen as essential to the operation of a vessel and software in general has yet to prove its worth and impact on the bottom line of shipping companies.
Although a ship will sail perfectly well without a data dissemination and process management system such as Task Assistant, the growing plethora of rules and regulations governing the safe operation of vessels is making such systems an essential requirement to operate a fleet of vessels effectively. Manually processing and properly filing information in a consistent manner across the fleet consumes a surprising amount of time and effort.

If, as a conservative estimate, we assume the Task Assistant saves 15 minutes per working day of total concentration to file information properly, this is 3% of the working day. If we also assume it saves an equal amount in retrieval time for shared corporate information, we have a total of 6% of a working day or 30 minutes of high concentration that is better spent managing risk and efficiency. If 1½ office people and 1½ on-board staff spend 6% of their time on a vessel''s paperwork per day, about 66 man-days are being spent on paperwork filing per vessel per year at a cost of about $9000. Significantly more than the annual cost of Task Assistant, but by no means the limit to the savings that can be achieved.
Unplanned downtime can have dramatic, expensive consequences for a shipping company. Conservatively estimated, downtime can cost $13,000-$18,000 per day for a medium-sized vessel. Port state detentions, non-
conformities, protracted ISM audits and failed vetting inspections are but a few of the results of misfiled or missing documentation. Better coordination and consistent, automatic filing of information with Task Assistant can reduce unplanned downtime. Eliminating only ½ day of unplanned downtime per vessel over a 5 year period will pay for its copy of Task Assistant.

Task Assistant can also help reduce mishaps. A user-friendly design and intuitive information management ensures crew have all the necessary information presented to them when they are likely to need it. It is estimated that 30% of human-error accidents occur as a result of missing information. By ensuring information is both easily available and accessible, Task Assistant can reduce the considerable costs that a mishap can incur.

So to conclude, computer software costs money, but compared to other expenditures by a shipping company, the expense is reasonable and the expected benefits are significant. Effective software will ensure safer, more efficient operations and can reduce insurance costs, unplanned downtime and mishaps.

Why provide costly training?
Perhaps one of the reasons ship operating companies are wary of new software solutions is because of the associated training costs. Traditionally, the cost of training crew to use new systems has been many times that of the license - particularly given the rather high turnover of seafaring personnel from one organisation to another.
The problem with extensive training is not only one of cost. Seafarers already have a heavy workload without the burden of complicated software added to this daunting task. Not only will complicated software therefore require costly training, but the cost benefits for which it was employed will not be felt since seafarers will not embrace the system.
Task Assistant addresses the needs of seafarers and rather than forcing users to be computer-literate the system is designed to act as a personal assistant. Testament to the effectiveness of this strategy is the fact that the bulk of Ulysses Systems'' revenue comes from sales of software rather than training and consultancy.
With one of our newest clients estimating they were spending approximately $250,000 per year on training crew to use a competitor's system on their six vessels, perhaps we made Task Assistant too easy to use and cut-off a lucrative revenue stream!

To see how Task Assistant can streamline your business and improve your bottom line contact your nearest office now. Ask for a demonstration to see how Task Assistant can make a complicated world straightforward and save you money in the process.