One of my last stops of my two-week Gulf shipyard tour was Horizon Shipbuilding Inc. in Bayou La Batre, Ala. Horizon’s owner, Travis Short, has always taken time for me to visit whenever I’m in town, and this time was no different.

We sat down with the yard’s sales and marketing manager Lance Lemcool to talk about shipyard management software designed by Short and used to track construction projects at Horizon. Called Gordhead, the software aims to improve yard communication through sharing problems and quickly arriving at collaborative solutions. The software makes each job more transparent to everyone involved.

“You can pull up whatever job you need and see what progress has been made since the last time you looked,” said Short. “Since everyone can see a problem, when one turns up, now you’ve got everyone involved in the project looking for the solution so the whole project stays on schedule.”

With Gordhead, the owner’s representative remains integrally connected to the project 24/7 by viewing a color-coded spreadsheet, Lemcool said. The title line of each section of the project begins in white. The entire shipbuilding team, including the owner, sees a real-time schedule, complete with task percentage completions and the overall scheduled finish date of the project. The date is fluid, depending on the progress of the individual tasks and how that progress affects the project’s delivery schedule. If a task falls behind, the task will turn red. If the task is on schedule, the finish date of the project will move out. Conversely, if a task is ahead of schedule, it will turn green and, if the task affects the schedule, the project’s projected finished date will move back in automatically when the software syncs with Microsoft Project (Microsoft's project management software program) so the construction team is always looking at an accurate estimated completion date.

“Teams working on different sections of the project can see the progress,” said Lemcool. “It becomes kind of competitive in nature because no one wants his team to be the one holding up progress. It’s competitive, but friendly competitive.”

The user can also click on any task to review the discussions that have taken place. Has material been ordered? Are there design issues? Is the team waiting on a decision from the owner? Any discussion points are located in a central area for the entire team to see and comment on, including the customer, said Lemcool. Questions posed to the owner and the owner’s response are instantaneously seen by every team member. Resolution of any issue is a collaborative process by the entire team.

Among the current projects in the yard are another 120'x35'x11'6" towboat for Florida Marine Transporters, Covington, La.; two 100'x40'x16'6" escort tugs for McAllister Towing & Transportation, New York; and 85'4"x26'3" catamaran ferries for New York’s HNY Ferry Fleet LLC, a subsidiary of Hornblower Cruises & Events.

“The Hornblower project has a very aggressive schedule, and Gordhead is helping us meet that schedule,” said Short. “Hornblower, I think, has been impressed with it.”

My thanks to Travis and Lance and everyone at Horizon for their hospitality.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.