5 Benefits of Digital Transformation in Shipbuilding

Posted : October 09, 2020

New challenges are pushing more and more shipyards into a digital transformation, and some are in a better position than others to take this on. Increasingly, shipyards are offering more in the way of maintenance, repair, and check-up services so there is a real need to move to a digital definition of the product they are producing. In the last 20 years lean manufacturing has proven its worth by improving the performance in manufacturing; by focusing on methodologies and procedures, the market has transformed the way it operates. But in the field, for the most part we looked at the physical asset and not so much of the digital aspect. When we changed procedures in the field it usually had a digital footprint that went with it and added a more complex digital or paper process in its wake. To help guide this journey, I’d like to discuss (some of) the benefits of digital transformation in shipbuilding. We could spend days, if not weeks on this topic so for now, I’m just going to look at 5.

We’ve been hearing keywords such as Industry 4.0, Shipbuilding 4.0, key enabling technologies, and a host of other hot topics and industry papers for some time. But, what I see is a lot of talk about the problems themselves and not enough about what the solutions could look like. So, I’d like to look at 5 key solutions for digital transformation in shipbuilding.

  1. An Integrated Engineering and Design Solution
    Lack of communication between products is the first challenge that crops up on any digital transformation journey. Operating an Integrated, Engineering and design product can help solve this issue right from the start. Having spreadsheets and databases communicating between the P&ID’s and the 3D model is a major information consistency transformation. Imagine having exactly what the engineers specified in their calculations, traveling through the entire engineering portfolio, never having to manually reintroduce the information again. This is why being digital is so important. By being digital we are able to reuse that information from its original inception keeping the flow of information correct and consistent throughout the engineering life cycle.

  2. Communication with Partners and Sub-Contractors
    Lack of communication with partners and sub-contractors is the second problem I want to address. We know all the work is not done in house. We know that shipyards around the world share the work to improve efficiencies to close the gap on tight schedules. We see the problem with not having a true digital asset as being large transfers of information, differences in time zones and lack of control of information. So, having an engineering solution that can communicate changes in a visual aspect and real time, can be a dream to most, if not all shipyards. Imagine working with 5 different vendors or sub-contractors and having real-time status and change control as fast as your internet bandwidth will allow. Not pushing drawings back and forth, but actually working in the live model with each other. I know some will say that this is a little scary at first but think of the time you will be saving by checking real time data instead of finding out a week later someone was not on the same page as you were.

  3. Unified Project Execution
    Going back to the topic of integration, but this time in the aspect of procurement and change, one of the biggest problems I have run across in shipyards are Engineering Change Notices (ECN). This can be a nightmare of paper work and follow ups on: what was done, when it was done, who did it, and did we order the right materials for the job on time to complete the change? Or, better yet, we did the design work and then found out the customer did not want it in the first place. Or, by the time you had everything in place, newer technology is available forcing a change to the systems on board. Having a digital asset with integration between engineering and procurement software is a game changer with data flowing between the products and being accepted or rejected in real time.

  4. A True Digital Twin
    As for number four, I really enjoy talking about this. I’m sure everyone has heard of the hot topic of digital twin. But what does digital twin really mean? I have looked at several different products out there that claim that they are a digital twin, but I have found gaps. They bring in some data, and usually it has to be in their own product for them to recognize them or visualize it. A true digital twin really reaches beyond the construction data it reaches into the actual operations of the asset. It brings live data into the mix with all the procurement and construction data as well. Having a software that’s agnostic in its approach to be able to introduce data from third party vendors and use it like it is their own. That is a true digital twin. Not only seeing it but interacting with the data, comparing it to all the attributes in the system for accuracy and consistency even if it’s not from the same software vendor. Now that’s power, and that is what I would define as a digital twin.

  5. Digital Handover for Simplicity and Additional Revenue Streams
    Having worked so hard to create all this digital information, shipyards can actually increase revenue by selling it to the customer. Handover can be a hassle with all the instruction and maintenance manuals, vendor information, cut sheets etc. Then, you have to consider training of crew to actually operate the vessel. But what if you were able to hand over the digital twin instead? What if you could select on a screen a part or piece in the vessel and extract every bit of that information available for that item. Or, better still be able to transfer the entire model into an XR environment and use virtual reality to train the crew, months before the vessel was even complete. These technologies are not new; everyone is showing what you can do in virtual space but having all of this integrated at the same time? Now that’s a game changer! Shipyards can benefit from the work that they are already doing and then use this information not only in the construction phase but also sell it to the customer for operations of the vessel.

    An extra one for good measure

  6. A Digital Partner
    I’ve squeezed in a ‘number six’ because I think it is an imperative. Having a trusted partner that understands what digital truly is, as well as how to manage digital information correctly. A partner is probably the biggest asset you can have in your tool box.

Want to learn more?

AVEVA is a trusted digital partner with proven success stories across all of the above functions. Whether you’re ready to take the next steps towards digital transformation, or simply would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact myself or an AVEVA representative, and we will be more than happy to walk with you on this journey. 


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