Consider a common scenario faced by vessel operators: An arrangement has been made for bunkering a specific vessel. The tank still contains bunker from the previous purchase. Can the new bunker be comingled with the old? If not, then which tank to use to store the new bunker?
A vessel operator with responsibility for multiple vessels on active voyages might make these types of rules-based decisions as part of everyday business. Typically, operators make such decisions from memory or based on vessel-specific operating manuals. Running multiple vessels combined with increased volume and complexity of data-based decisions make it prudent to replace human decision with software to eliminate the risk of making wrong decision without thinking through the consequences. This is where a business rules engine provides organizations with a much-needed support system for rules-based decision management.
How does the BunkerPlanner rule engine work?
BunkerPlanner rule engine is a cloud-based tool that automates decision-making in situations where there are specific rules to operate and bunker vessels. The engine manages the entire process of connected decisions in the sequence determined by operational procedure(s) set by the ship owner/operator. Whenever a bunkering decision needs to be made, the engine uses static data (e.g. tank configuration on a specific vessel) and dynamic data (noon report specifying vessel’s voyage progress), evaluates that data against pre-programmed rules, and then delivers the recommended decision which is visible to the vessel operator and the bunker buyer.
The software rule engine mimics the manual decision process based on the logic and rules that have been specified by the operations team, while considering current situation reported by the crew. To minimize chance of an error, BunkerPlanner engine relies on two data-transfer models to carry out these decision-making processes:
- Backward-chaining based on predefined goals (e.g. minimum/maximum or exact quantity of fuel upon arrival at the port of call; holding new fuel in quarantine for specific number of days)
- Forward-chaining considering event condition rules (e.g. if passing the same port twice and future price is better, recommend buying at the later date)
What does your business gain?
Business rules engine enables the team to make decisions faster, while ensuring that all applicable rules are not broken in the process of deciding where, when, and at what price to bunker. The operator does not have to worry whether their decisions are compliant with business rules. The Operations team is able to edit, change or create new rules applicable to the vessel, voyage, or type of cargo. Any changes to the rules are announced clearly and applied in every single circumstance. Every decision proposed by the system is annotated by explanatory message(s) visible to the operator, so there is no confusion because any particular decision has been reached.
Shifting from manual decision management provides a huge operational advantage and assures error-free decisions. According to the shipping operations experts, many organizations underestimate the efficiencies they can gain by taking the decisions out of the hands of people. Typical organizations frequently struggle to assure consistent application of rules at all the times and in all processes that involve complex, rules-based decisions. As a result, the organization loses efficiency and often loses money.
If you are interested taking better business and operations decisions affecting your fleet and your voyages, the BunkerMetric team is available to perform a hands-on trial with your team. We are here to help you evolve your decision-making process from good to great.