News Article 15/02/2007 B

Simplicity the key to management software (Cyprus Shipmanagement Alert- Special ICT Report- IT & Communications- Feb 2007- p.7-9)

Can you give us a picture of what you are doing now in ICT for the ship management sector?

[Ms Logistik Systeme] The "GL ShipManager" is a comprehensive management system covering the primary areas of technical management, crew management and ship management. With ships' inventories, services and staff regulations becoming more complex, an intelligent ship management solution can not only simplify the administration but the entire data transfer between the owner’s office and the vessels.
GL ShipManager has five main functions:
Maintenance including modules for planned maintenance, certificates, training/ drills/ exercises, and surveys; Administrator including crew management, stock/ inventory control, order management, ship cash box, budget, and shipyard tender; Advisor including port clearance, eNOA/D, port information (and GL contact finder); Documents with documentation and forms; and, System with user management, general data, addresses, messages and data transfer. GL ShipManager is available in a network-compatible shipboard
and office version. The data between office and ship is transferred using e-mail attachments.
The system guarantees the smallest volume of necessary data transfer because only the changes are transmitted. All data transferred is automatically archived on a server and synchronized between the offices and vessels, therefore, multiple records in the offices or on board ships are not needed.
Today, 16 ship owners and ship management companies use GL ShipManager to manage the operations of more than 250 vessels. Aida Cruises is, since March 2006, employing GL ShipManager for all ships of the AIDA fleet, including the newbuildings AIDAdiva and her sisterships. In September 2006, Hamburg-based shipping company NSC acquired GL ShipManager for their fleet and newbuildings totalling 60 ships.
Since November 2005, Germanischer Lloyd (GL) is a 75% stakeholder of Ms Logistik Systeme, a Rostock software company. Ms Logistik Systeme plans, develops and markets programme modules for highly efficient vessel management. With the takeover of the software company, GL has extended its range of electronic products and services, such as, "fleet online" and "globe".

[PrimeTel] PrimeTel is offering internet connectivity, through copper, wireless and fibre, international data links, telephony, applications and data hosting, back-up services, disaster recovery and business continuity services.

[SOFTimpact] Our company, SOFTimpact Ltd was incepted in 1998 starting with a strong consulting background in enterprise IT systems extending its offerings to support services, outsourcing and software development. Since 2004 the company is putting more and more time and resources on maritime and shipping-related topics.
The company joined the Cyprus Shipping Council in late 2005, as an associate member, and is an active member of the Council's ICT sub-committee.

[Ulysses] Task Assistant platform and applications is a suite of modules that covers operations safety and quality, planned maintenance, purchasing and crewing. It is a task-oriented system where the end-user must be familiar with the tasks he is expected to perform rather than the functional navigation of the system. The turnover of staff on board vessels makes the demand for user-friendly and intuitive software much higher in the marine industry than in most others.
At Ulysses, we have taken a major step in a direction where no other business software company has ventured. Our philosophy is that software should be so simple to use those multi-tasking users, like masters, chief engineers, superintendents, fleet managers, and other senior staff can practically 'walk up and use' the software the first time they see it."
Task orientation requires no training or memorisation and only requires you to choose what task a document is useful for or which task the document produced. This is information that any professional in shipping can identify intuitively from a selection of familiar tasks. As a result, minimum training is required for the end users.

[World-Link] Security on communications has become one of the hottest issues for ICT managers in the shipping companies.
With spam escalating from 2 million attacks per day in June 2006 to 8 million attacks per day in December 2006, the cost of spam to the vessels has quadrupled.
Proper protection for the fleet is a must and the lack of it has become a negligent act. Spam is today's preffered method for the delivery of computer viruses that attack a computer to deliver a malicious load of a virus that will steal personal data, computing resources, and paralyses the network. Since mid-2006, World-Link has been developing the first antivirus capability for the shipping industry that can be used economically on board with satellite equipment. We delivered ShipAV that secures a vessel's data through daily anti-virus updates. Those daily updates are between 5 and 10 Kilobytes, making it a very cost effective solution to combating a very expensive problem.

Of the ICT products and services you provide to ship managers, which seems to be the most in demand now?

[Ms Logistik Systeme] The "Planned Maintenance System"(PMS) module is very popular. It supervises the maintenance points for the tasks planned. PMS indicates the required staffing levels and documentation based on the running hours of the equipment in question. Records in the maintenance database are automatically updated after completion of maintenance work has been confirmed. Any alteration of maintenance cycles initiates a recalculation of the future maintenance interval and scope. The equipment summary covers the ship's entire equipment.

[PrimeTel] International data links, internet connectivity, telephony and hosting of business applications. Working with PrimeTel offers numerous business advantages including a quick, constant, cost-effective and secure data transfer between your geographically disbursed business locations, remote workers, business partners, and suppliers.
PrimeConnect solutions deliver the attributes of a private data network within a shared network infrastructure along with many of the performance and security characteristics traditionally found only in dedicated private environments.
PrimeInternet solutions provide high-speed internet to businesses. Nowadays broadband has become a necessity since it provides fast high bandwidth internet connection, which is 'always-on', and allows businesses to communicate and get hold of information instantly and at any time. Having our own network, enables us to provide broadband services to businesses of all sizes. PrimeTel's customers consistently experience excellent service, strong support, and long-term reliability.
With PrimeTelephony service you get maximum performance from your voice network while reducing your telecommunications costs substantially. Telephony is a communication tool, which plays a very important part in communication among the businesses. When businesses are looking to expand their productivity, world-class dedicated communication tools are essential to get the very best out of their employees, reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and create new revenue opportunities.

[SOFTimpact] SOFTimpact's vision is to offer the maritime sector a complete maritime solution that will enhance productivity in all departments within a shipping company.
SOFTimpact's packaged solution, Seanique, builds on the standard Microsoft DynamicsAX product.
At the moment, our completed modules are: Seanique Fleet Manager, Seanique Crew Manager, Seanique Financial Manager and Seanique Forms.
The company has invested a considerable amount of time, effort and money in developing these modules to offer a state of the art solution for shipping companies firstly here, in Cyprus, and additionally for the rest of the world.

[Ulysses] Due to TMSA and the other regulatory requirements the industry was faced with in recent years, modules such as document management, planning maintenance and purchasing are the most in demand.
However, we need to highlight here that the most important goal of management software is to increase the efficiency of people within the company. Task efficiency continues to top the list of priorities for people within the industry.
Specifically people are looking for performance support software in management that serves to increase awareness and provide better information to each employee so that they can perform well and make optimal decisions. Increasing awareness involves bringing information to the user in the correct arrangement at the appropriate time. Equally important to this process is removing irrelevant processes from a user's eyes, which serve only to divert attention from the business task at hand. This huge undertaking requires some basic rules that eliminate unnecessary diversion of attention, which can be found in a well-conceived software architectural concept.
The key is to make software user-literate rather than train users to be computer-literate. Successful software simplifies tasks and removes the need for users to understand the computer's "language".
Tasks, such as, booking a holiday, involve a complicated set of procedures, but many travel web sites utilise innovative software programmes which enable people to consolidate and finalise all of the details.
Task Assistant' minimises the time spent in front of a computer by presenting information to users in a timely and easily understandable configuration, which promotes greater task efficiency by removing a user's preoccupation with the software. In ship management, where productivity is one of the key factors, ergonomic design affects a substantial percentage of gross revenue.

[World-Link] ShipAV, ShipForms, and ShipMail remains the most popular suit of services that we are offering. ShipForms has won the Seatrade Award in 2006 and was nominated for the Dubai International Shipping Award, both for technical innovation. We are very pleased with the response our software is getting in the market place. ShipAV remains the fastest growing among our product lines only due to its low running cost, and due to the critical role it plays in today’s insecure environment.

Moving forward, what is on your agenda for the next year?

[Ms Logistik Systeme] The ongoing further improvement and efficiency of GL ShipManager is the goal for Ms Logistik Systeme GmbH and Germanischer Lloyd.

[PrimeTel] The new PrimeTel Nicosia Data Center will be ready to host back-up services and application hosting for business continuity for the Limassol-based shipping companies.

[SOFTimpact] The next 12 months will be a very busy period for SOFTimpact indeed. The company is in the process of developing the Seanique modules for technical and commercial operations.

[Ulysses] The area of general ergonomics in software design offers vast potential for improvement. Because of the nature and demands of the marine industry, these circumstances have made it a leader in ergonomic innovation. Our mission is to listen carefully to clients in order to understand the needs and problems of the industry - an industry that we come from. We want to stay in close contact with the people in the field that face day-to-day problems and whose goal is always the minimisation of on-the-job risks. Exchanging views and ideas with industry participants gives us the feedback necessary to design IT solutions to their problems. It also allows us to take all of these parameters into consideration as we are constantly trying to improve the quality of our systems.

[World-Link] We believe the ICT manager in any ship owning or managing enterprise has come to realize that in order to maintain the efficient functioning of fleet communications, a technically competent service partner is required. In 2007, we will see the continued consolidation of the LESOs, where the market will have only two very large companies, namely Stratos and the resulting company from the merger of FTMSC and Telenor. This we believe will give us great opportunities to distinguish our services among the larger (slower) LESOs.
We are planning geographical expansion into Latin America, the Middle East, and northern Europe. In terms of products and services, we plan to continue enhancing our leading software systems and our signature end to end communication management services.

Down the road, which emerging technologies do you believe ship managers should identify and incorporate?

[Ms Logistik Systeme] Ship management software are now so mature and all encompassing that it becomes difficult to imagine what further improvements and additions might be contemplated.
The main challenge is to increase market penetration. The big growth area for IT in shipping in the next few years is likely to be in security and asset tracking systems where developments will be spurred by both commercial and regulatory needs.

[PrimeTel] Unified communications will enable shipping companies to consolidate all their communications (data/voice/ video) on PrimeTel’s single, efficient and low cost platform.

[SOFTimpact] Down the road we believe enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the way forward for ship managers, owners and operators. It is cost effective, internationally tested and a complete solution that will enable companies within the maritime sector to gain considerable benefits especially on the day-to-day operations’ level.

[Ulysses] Managerial efficiency is vital for preserving a competitive advantage. This becomes more vital in light of the latest commercial realities, i.e., OCIMF's TMSA initiative. Proper infrastructure and for shipping firms, in particular, proper information handling is seen as a key contributing factor toward management efficiency, accomplishing a company's goals, and distinguishing a company among competitors.
So what are the decisive factors that companies should look for when evaluating a system’s competitive advantages? What should a system offer?
We believe it should: help people on board to better prepare themselves for the performance of critical operations where sub-optimal procedural variations are most costly; significantly reduce incidents related to organisational and informational deficiencies within the company; provide a more cost-efficient and comprehensive risk-management system; promote and accelerate the integration of new policies and procedures, ensuring greater internal compliance as well as an easier and more cost-effective transition; and, save costs by releasing employees from superfluous administrative duties and paperwork, in order to devote more time and energy to optimizing spending and operational efficiency.

[World-Link] We see the introduction of Inmarsat's Fleet Broadband services as a major step forward to increasing the bandwidth available to the vessel at sea. This will challenge the ICT managers' ability to secure so many remote offices and deliver the expectation that now the vessel is truly connected and always on the network to the office. But also always on to the internet.

Would you like to add anything else?

[Ms Logistik Systeme] The GL ShipManager "Planned Maintenance System" (PMS) module supervises the maintenance points for all planned tasks on board.

[Ulysses] The implementation of sophisticated software systems to handle the massive influx of information is not sufficient to guarantee success. There are two critical components for sustained success that marine software systems must meet; it must be cost effective in the long term and it must maximize user convenience to encourage usage.
At Ulysses, we have taken a major step in a direction where no other business software company has ventured: Our philosophy is that software should be so simple to use that multi-tasking users, like, masters, chief engineers, superintendents, fleet managers, and other senior staff can practically "walk up and use the software the first time they see it".
Ship management is about being better than the owner at ship management. All else being equal, that means better productivity per person employed. Certainly this is the basis of competitive advantage.

[World-Link] I see that the ICT managers in the shipping companies are proving they can deliver secure communication in a very turbulent time of connectivity.
With the wide spread viruses, and spam, today's ICT manager is able to deliver agile and flexible solutions by assessing the risks, monitoring the network, and improving the final outcome. Today’s ships remain a secure asset on the internet. I am confident that we can keep it that way.