News Article 05/04/2007 A

FleetBroadband vs. VSAT -the future of satcom (Digital Ship, March 2007, p.4-11) ABSTRACT
Is Shipmanagement a human productivity business?

Dimitris Lyras, Lyras Shipping

Dimitris Lyras, chairman of Lyras hipping, spoke about the effects of technology on productivity in the ship management sector, and how to prioritise the technology needs within an organisation.
Communications are one prime example of this impact of evolving systems, he said.
"Technology has enhanced communications in the last 20 years," he told us.
"Communications is part of a process, but the part that communications deal with doesn''t involve lots of decision making."
"Today''s communications have replaced things like telex, fax and so on, and are dealing with the part of the process that people don''t have to deal directly with."
Mr Lyras sees a difference between improving the equipment and improving the process.
"Technology will keep improving processes that people are not involved with, and make them shorter and faster," he said. "And then enterprise software is involved with the processes that mesh with the people."
"Is there a conflict between the people and the processes?" he continued.
"If the Lord Mayor of London wants to change the roads, does it affect the people?
Yes, it affects their travel, their businesses, the success of the shops on the new road and the old road. The processes are like the roads, people need to be involved and considered when they are created."
Theses considerations are significant in efficiently managing a shipping company. "For a ship manager, ship management is about being better than the owner at ship management," said Mr Lyras. "All else being equal, that means better productivity per person employed. Certainly this is the basis of competitive advantage."
"But there are many issues to consider in this, not just productivity. So using information technology to improve the process must fit with your priorities."
"Is customer relationship management more important than process improvement?" he continued.
"Customer relationships are probably the most important aspect, if you don''t answer the phones, you won''t get much business."
"Is hiring people who make better decisions more important than process improvement? Whoever you hire, you still need an infrastructure in place for them to work."
"It is important to focus on the processes and how they can be improved," Mr Lyras continued. "Evaluating these alternatives requires thought and analysis, most information management practiced in the maritime industry follows the structure of a standard decision making or problem solving process."
"Purchase requisitions, for example, are not necessary in the 21st century. Is there a reason for it, when we''re in daily communication? I know it doesn''t take a lot of time, but a lot of these things across the process can take time."

Problem solving
Mr. Lyras believed that basic problem solving is the key to an efficient system.
"Most of the activities in shipmanagement are to do with problem solving," he said. "Most of them are not difficult, things like booking tickets for a trip, for example.
But the process is the same; where is he going, collect information about the trip, what does he need and when - if you don''t have all of this information on the problem then you can''t make the decision."
"Suppose you leave Singapore in an Aframax and hear a strange noise in the engine. This is an event annunciation, and this is what starts the decision process. But engine manufacturers don''t usually have recordings of their engines breaking down, so you need your own process."
"You have to think about many different things to make a decision on the problem: Event annunciation, information collection, information comparison and relevance to circumstances, coordinating a solution, and monitoring that solution."
"Brainstorming sessions can be useful, but again it depends on the problem � would you do brainstorming sessions to book tickets? No.Would you do it about changing a cylinder? Yes you would, because there''s an element of diagnosis there."
Mr. Lyras also said that the complaints that people might have about their IT systems shouldn''t detract from the new possibilities that improved systems create.
However, he feels that expectations for dramatic decreases in software prices in the future may be unrealistic.
"Technology has worked, people don''t complain too much that it doesn''t," he said. "But errors do happen. When they do, you can''t stop, you have to see why, and then try again."
"Will the software get cheaper? That''s a major issue. For software to get cheaper it has to cover large markets. Enterprise software is going in the other direction, creating one solution for one industry."
"But if you''re going to help someone you need to know what they''re doing," he continued.
"Software will get more industry specialised. Performance support needs industry specialisation, as software addresses the performance and productivity of the user and not just process automation, the need for tailoring to each industry and use becomes a greater percentage of development."
"Software that is generic across a whole industry and not tailor made for each client, is already cheap. The license and maintenance cost is about $3000 per ship per year. The process time saved in usage can be ten times this."
"As it develops it will save more time and do more," Mr Lyras said. "But it will not get cheaper because in competing to acquire the leading shipping companies in the industry, the software suppliers will make it better and then require a return."
"There is no comparison between the value of potential improvements to human performance and license cost and this will go on for a very long time. Eventually managers will have found out how to evaluate their processes and will be able to value the improvements."