News Article 25/02/2009

Ulysses Systems appoints new clients on Task Assistant
(ELNAVI, February 2009, p.86-87)

With the addition of new clients, such as Granis du Brazil and others that will be announced shortly in Greece and elsewhere, Ulysses’ Task Assistant is rapidly gaining recognition as a vital tool for streamlining information and minimizing excessive user burdens. With its focus on “Usability,” Task Assistant helps achieve understanding and coordination through the use of a Human Interaction Management System. By providing correct information to users in a timely and instinctive manner, crews can efficiently and safely carry out tasks at each stage of a process.

In addition, a continued influx of orders from existing customers with expanding requirements such as Iino Marine Services, New Asia Shipping Hong Kong, ITML and others, proves that Task Assistant delivers tangible valuable results in line with customers’ expectations. Task Assistant provides an excellent information management system, and is the only way to handle the burden in an economically viable and efficient manner.

Ulysses Systems comments: “our long standing collaboration with one of the world's largest companies dealing in offshore supply vessels, is proving mutually beneficial, with the continued rapid deployment of Planned Maintenance databases and software on board its worldwide fleet.

With the release of our highly anticipated Task Assistant driven Crewing Module with elements designed in accordance with market driven focus groups, we have successfully consolidated our global Engineering development team to provide enhanced usability and productivity features to our expanding pool of customers.

The final proof is experience in the field. Experience has shown that the Task Assistant succeeds in saving costs, as attested to by major ship managers and operators who have no tolerance for money spent on productivity tools that do not work.

With a lower software lifecycle cost and a proven record of user convenience and efficiency, Task Assistant remains an industry leader in both criteria”.

Uysses notes that: “The discontinuous communication and the subsequent difficulty of maintaining and managing software on ships are of primary concern to the shipping industry. This is especially true when there are more than a hundred ship installations, as there are in large fleets. Observations about the time required to manage software installations and upgrades in remote business units is a problem no longer faced by other industries. We have mentioned several times in the past that Ulysses Systems’ concept in regard to software support on board vessels is one of our prior concerns.

We do believe, however, that software companies need to develop software systems that can work with all kinds of communications systems, even the more conventional systems.

At Ulysses, our focus is to produce software that caters to the needs of an onboard staff and multi-tasking shore-based staff. In order to facilitate this work, our methods manage communications and data in a way that avoids complications and setbacks that can cripple a business. We seek to accomplish this by providing employees with the information they need, at the time they need it, and in a context appropriate to the task at hand. Our software is designed with an eye toward the future where industries and their senior managers will rely less on an extensive support staff and more on smart software that will enhance their performance through easy and reliable access and control of critical information.

Moreover, Ulysses’ software updates easier and faster, Ulysses has made provisions in recent software versions to improve the process”.

On IT recruitment, training and generally on human resources management Ulysses believes that the “Shipping community needs to ensure that all statutory requirements are properly addressed, and to adequately demonstrate that crews and stakeholders ashore are properly familiarised with their Safety Management System (SMS). This is a big challenge.

Separating the training from the system via computer-based training is not efficient in our opinion. Computer-based training does not address the exact point in a program where a user may have a question. CBT training courses cover set scenarios. So, finding the training scenario that may be suitable while the user is in the middle of a transaction is not efficient.

Software should be designed in a way that would articulate the working environment of the end user so that familiarisation with the SMS could take place in parallel with the usage of the system.


For example:
Imagine having three different versions of a tank entry instruction, the selection of which is dependent upon circumstantial risk. There is no explicit or stated relationship between each choice and the context in which its selection is appropriate. In this circumstance, the lack of context provides a compelling impetus for improperly completed tasks and faulty record keeping, both of which can become powerful liabilities if exposed in court proceedings. What is more significant is that these situations are not isolated incidents, but rather characteristic of system-wide deficiencies. Faced with these situations, it is not surprising that liability issues arise, such as unresolved defects, silos of contradictory information, and record conflicts born out of crew aversions to software usage.

SMS manuals are extensive, containing both critical and non-critical information. Crewmen are required to familiarise themselves with all aspects of the ship’s operations, but with a very high crew turnover rate, there are often crewmembers onboard who are unfamiliar with the process of familiarising themselves with the procedures specific to that vessel. While all the information they need is theoretically at their disposal, the complexity and length of these manuals often makes the dissemination of that information very challenging, especially under strict time constraints.

Task Orientation, a type of software architecture unique to Ulysses, indexes business objects in accordance with how each user within the enterprise utilizes them. Every instruction, every item of software functionality, every alert item, every response to an alert, is indexed and appropriately modified for each user/system interaction point which also functions as a corporate process node.
Ulysses Systems has executed a Training and Familiarisation Benchmarking test which proves that when a company uses a well-designed system like the Task Assistant, it can minimise the training expense of a new crewmember by 29% -53%, while also achieving up to 42% greater familiarity with the SMS System.

Most importantly the release of our highly anticipated Task Assistant driven enhanced Crewing Module with elements designed in accordance with market driven focus groups, covers all the Human Resource and recruiting aspects”.

On planned maintenance & other technical management issues It has been proved with benchmarking tests that Ulysses difference and competitive advantage with Task Orientation is in its unique approach in the industry, in aiming to overcome technical obstacles like:

“To save valuable time, not to preoccupy users and to notify users about the right information at the time of need.

The benefits arising from the adoption of a well-written planned maintenance system can be divided in two categories: those of efficiency and those of prevention. Like any good solution, a planned maintenance system must either increase efficiency of the people involved or improve a process.

Man hours saved from the retrieval of timely and relevant information by people who need it most is an example of efficiency, while the avoidance of costly errors constitute examples of prevention.

An ergonomically planned maintenance system can be an extension of an officer’s own experience on board by applying vessel specific experience as well as prior corporate experiences to the contemporary issues the organization is facing.

The more instinctive the interaction with the system, the more man hours, and thus, the more money is saved. The more relevant the information is, the more likely it is that crew members will avoid incidents and inefficiencies.

Like an ergonomic mobile phone, the system will contain more useful information and end up being used more, thus helping people accomplish more in a day. In addition, an ergonomic PMS will coordinate past experience with current action and save money”.

Regarding TMSA Ulysses points out that “Statistics are useful in showing trends of all the different observations and occurrences, such as accidents, incidents, defects, etc., and how trends change over certain periods of time. They also serve as a good comparison of the internal and external observations which will need to be compared to allow for item 12 of TMSA.

As statistics are gathered, more useful comparisons can be made by comparing findings such as the willingness to report with crew training programs, or human error findings with experience in rank, etc.
However, in an incident or machinery damage, the important thing is to identify the risks and the procedures that are affected.

Moreover, blame cultures will seek to prove that we are incompetent. They will either seek to indicate wilful negligence or the absence of managerial control.

In cases like defects, if no measures are taken to show, that either these defects are unlikely to reoccur or that their reoccurrence will not pose a risk to related or other processes, then competence may not be easy to demonstrate. If a machinery defect is not mentioned but traces or repairs are seen by external inspectors, there is always a chance of management quality being questioned. If, however, this damage is mentioned and measures are taken to eliminate the related risks, while the risks they introduce are anticipated and mitigated, the ship’s operation remains under control and competence is likely to be clearly demonstrable.

This is not about statistics. It is more about linking the correct processes with the right objects. Some of the activities in a machinery damage or a leakage of a hydraulic pipe line are PMS system activity, while any ordering of spares or spare lines required to be replaced is in the purchasing system activity. Therefore, the links between instructions to the crew for operating defective machinery must be demonstratively connected to the closing of the system, testing and repair activities. Furthermore, the lessons learned, and the potential long-term improvement to this vessel and other vessels, must remain outstanding until suitable conclusions are reached by the teams involved. In between these steps are risk assessments, and sometimes root cause analyses, that are also related and must be closed at the appropriate time and linked to the events that instigated them.

Systems must be able to handle all the above requirements in a way that enhances safe operation rather than create further bureaucracy.

Oil companies want good management, not numbers. Anyone can provide numbers, especially from spreadsheets. Database applications are best at maintaining figures entered every day. But that will not happen unless the users appreciate the benefit of doing so.

The Task Assistant by its unique Task Orientation, that indexing all items circulated within the system, as a by-product of people’s work, the system makes it easy for companies to monitor internally how decisions regarding reporting and remedial action are made and therefore progressively monitor and improve their own decision making processes.

Furthermore, using maritime common sense, strings together the expected actions following any need to make a decision.  Above all, the Task Assistant makes it possible to see which written records, whether seen in isolation or out of context, may jeopardise the credibility of a company under the prevailing blame culture”.

Finally Ulysses comments on the issue of creating a friendly user environment, integration of processes and certification. “True integration means process integration. Many companies seek integrated systems to avoid repetitive data management tasks in order to pass information from one application to another. In other words, they seek the necessary integration to avoid tedious processes. However, companies often focus on the specific tedium of double entry. They overlook the vast assortment of unintuitive processes in navigating systems that were never designed to enable a user to smoothly - and without special training - start and complete a process that may involve one or more applications.

True integration is the ability to transition from one application to the next by virtue of following a real world business or thinking process. The transition is not conscious. True integration allows the transition without any conscious entering, exiting, drill down or any other action associated with switching applications. Database integration is only a small part of true process integration through software. Integration is a lot more than buying applications from the same supplier with a promise of the exchange of information between the systems.

Systems must be proven to be usable and able to collect the information you want. We cannot bully people and train them to report. This has never worked in the marine industry because ships have a high turnover, are remotely located, and are run by multi tasking managers. No senior manager can be expected to learn two or three complicated applications in order to carry out his job. So how do we expect a captain or a chief officer to do so?
The distribution of important corporate information must be as close to automatic as possible and must find the user with the right information at the right time with minimal required dissemination from the end user. We must be able to put the information in front of the user at the time that the user is likely to need it, even if the user is not consciously looking for it. We all know that people will not often rummage through records without knowing whether they will find anything of value to the current activity. So, critical corporate information is often overlooked because it is difficult to find.

The Task Assistant differs from any other software in a single important way. The structure in which all the information increments reside is very rich but follows common sense. So, each piece of information requires less work to place in this structure, and less work to find”.

PARTNERSHIP WITH ORCA CO., LTD IN JAPAN

Ulysses Systems announced that as of early January 2009, Ulysses Systems and Orca Company of Japan will be further enhancing their partnership by combining their current resources and relocating to the Orca office.

The continued influx of orders from existing customers with expanding requirements such as Iino Marine Services- Japan, New Asia Shipping Hong Kong, ITML and others, proves that Task Assistant delivers tangible valuable results in line with customers’ expectations.

Speaking about the new partnership between Ulysses and Orca Co,, Mr. Martin Nygate, VP of Sales and Marketing said:

“Task Assistant provides an excellent information management system, and is the only way to handle the burden in an economically viable and efficient manner. The key objective of the partnership with Orca Co., Ltd will be to continue to build on Ulysses’ current success in the region and improve the level of service that is provided to our esteemed Japanese and South East Asian customers through our Tokyo based staff.”,

Ulysses Systems’ innovative Task Assistant offers a suite of applications including Safety and Quality, Reporting, Document Management, Planned Maintenance, Purchasing, and the newly released Crewing. Task Assistant differentiates itself in the market because the structure in which it presents information increments is rich and follows common sense. In contrast to software packages that force customers to modify operations around the capabilities of the software, Task Assistant is designed to understand existing roles and tasks within the organization and use that understanding to provide end-users with exactly the information they want at exactly the time they need it.

"Our philosophy is to provide customer centric technology solutions to our target market. Ulysses' Task Assistant is within this philosophy and we believe that our partnership with Ulysses Systems will increase the quality of the service we provide to the local market, offering solutions that simplify ship operations" adds Mr. S.Y. Chang , Managing Director of Orca Co., Ltd Japan

With the release of the highly anticipated Task Assistant driven Crewing Module with elements designed in accordance with market-driven focus groups, Ulysses has successfully consolidated its Global Engineering development team to provide enhanced usability and productivity features to its expanding pool of customers