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2/11/2005
02:17 PM
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Tugboat Company Sets Course With Automated Scheduling

The Seattle company is using advanced scheduling software so it can better utilize its dispatch staff and manage its assets.

Western Towboat Co., which runs a fleet of 19 tugboats and five barges to and from Alaska, used to rely on paper and cell phones to handle all the information on a particular job. But the Seattle tugboat company has automated its processes with advanced scheduling software so it can better utilize its dispatch staff and manage its assets.

Like many midsize companies, Western Towboat needed a way to use its fleet as efficiently as possible and cut down on administrative costs. But relying on disparate programs such as Microsoft Office calendar, printout schedules, and cell phones to run a tugboat business just wasn't efficient, company VP Ric Shrewsbury says. "We really needed a tool that we could put on a single [platform] and that was accessible by many people, so that even crew members on a boat could access the system and find out when and where their next job is," Shrewsbury says.

Western Towboat turned to Meeting Maker Inc. and implemented its Resource Scheduler resource-management software. The Web-based tool eliminates double-bookings and helps Western Towboat keep track all of its tugboats and barges through a user interface that indicates job completions via a color-coded system that changes each time a job is finished. The software sorts all information on a particular job into one place and makes it easy for multiple people to update and access this information, Shrewsbury says.

Now the tugboat company can use its staff more efficiently because it needs only one person to handle dispatching duties instead of the four or five that were necessary in the past. "We are all very much involved in the operation of the company, so when we're running tugboats, the whole office helps. To be able to keep track of everything has made a huge difference for us because we don't have to have a 24-hour dispatch group," Shrewsbury says.

"The ability to manage time is one of the last great opportunities for information technology to help business performance," says Nathaniel Palmer, VP and chief analyst of Delphi Group, a Perot Systems company. A tool like Meeting Maker's allows for a more collaborative environment because changes that are happening out in the field can be immediately updated and companies can use their employees and assets more efficiently, Palmer says.

Western Towboat is upgrading to a new version of Resource Scheduler, which will let it synchronize scheduling with its Outlook calendar and link it to the staff's Palm Pilots, giving the staff even more flexibility to schedule tasks and track physical assets from any location, whether it's home, office, or a tugboat heading to Alaska.

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