News Article 01/11/2000

Lyras Guides System Award Win

01/11/2000 - Lloyd's List

Plenty of London Greek shipping experience, combined with sound cognitive principles, has been channelled into the Task Assistant software platform, which was first launched in 1998 but this year garnered both the Lloyd's Ship Manager CITIS and Seatrade awards for innovation.

Designed to facilitate communication and co-ordination on board ship and between a company's offices and its fleet, Task Assistant has been developed by Ulysses Systems in partnership with Lyras Shipping.

Already, users of the new system include Mobil Shipping, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime of Greece, International Tanker Management of Dubai, Great White Fleet of Belgium, the Kuwait Oil Tanker Co, Monaco-based V. Ships, Hong Kong-based Eurasia, and a number of others.

According to shipping company director Dimitris Lyras, the group hatched the basic concept as early as 1994 and after consulting with a number of cognitive scientists it invested in a training software project that underlined the belief that any system had to be based on sound cognitive principles. The group decided to team up with Takis Katsoulakos who formed the company that has developed the software.

An initial goal was to set up a system to co-ordinate information and company know-how while incorporating procedures for implementing the International Safety Management code without adding to the on-board workload.

Said Mr Lyras: "The philosophy behind Task Assistant is its most important aspect. We believed that information is not properly understood unless contextually related, and that computers could only add practical use to the information they collect if the context and goals of the user accompany the information.

"We wanted anybody to be able to step on board a ship and to be presented with the information as it may be needed to carry out intended work without searches and without retrieval of irrelevant material."

The result is a system in which information and software tools are keyed to the specific roles and individual tasks of everyone in a company.

Lyras Shipping's use of Task Assistant for its safety management audits is believed to have been the first occasion on which a company has achieved ISM certification through a fully computerised system.

The software gives all parts of a shipping business instant access to relevant data, applicable tools and the appropriate procedures, and is said to thus combat information overload as well as boosting efficiency by providing up-to-date data to each individual or team at the necessary time for the task.

"It is a radically different approach to deploying information within a company," said Mr Lyras.

This was borne out recently by expressions of interest from outside the shipping industry, for example from the Oakland County schools system in the United States and the car manufacturing giant DaimlerChrysler.

According to the group, ISM conventional information systems are bound to fail if they become large and require expert searches to retrieve information, as is common on the internet.

"Task Assistant is intuitive and can be used by large numbers of unfamiliar users. This is simply because it has covered the distance form being an information repository to understanding the user's needs," Mr Lyras commented.

"This stems from the fact that the design has never lost track of how people actually think and work."

The pace of developing the customer base, which covers a potential 500 or so vessels operated by a number of particularly large shipping companies, is seen as satisfactory considering the fact that Ulysses was only established as a software house some three years ago.

The software is said to be easy to learn, is fully compatible with a variety of popular software platforms and communications software, and can easily be customised by individual users.

It includes modules for purchasing, planned maintenance, fleet management, crew management, quality and safety. In addition, it has the ability to launch relevant third-party tools such as distance tables, bunker calculators, external planned maintenance systems and other outside software.

The group hatched the basic concept as early as 1994 and after consulting with a number of cognitive scientists the members invested in a training software project that underlined the belief that any system had to be built on sound cognitive principles.