If you look at the distribution of design and engineering technology in the shipbuilding industry you quickly notice that specific areas, usually contained within national borders, seem to standardize on the same technology. For example, a very high percentage of the US shipbuilding industry uses ShipConstructor. Similarly TRIBON M3, and lately AVEVA Marine, have a stranglehold on South Korea. This pattern can be seen over and over again around the world.
Often this is positioned as the result of how well a specific product suits the requirements of that market, and there is some truth to that. The initial selection of the software at a number of lighthouse clients is performed based on how well the software meets that clients requirements and once the software becomes entrenched it is developed to meet the changing needs of that market. However based on our past experiences in the USA and our recent experiences in Brazil we see another mechanism that operates between those two milestones. And it is both a subtle and unstoppable force.
The soft resources, by that I mean people, in shipbuilding are one of the most transitory or migrant groups I have witnessed in any industry. They move from position to position, project to project and company to company more quickly and more often. And it’s no surprise that they take their skills, preferences and experiences with them. Especially in a market with a developing shipbuilding industry, one that has not yet standardized on a particular set of software, the tools that they have been successful with move with them.
In Brazil Patient Zero was Estaleiro Atlantico Sul. Likening the adoption of software to the spread of a virus is perhaps not the most favorable comparison, but bear in mind I’m talking about the way it spreads not the impact it has. They chose ShipConstructor in late 2007 for a number of reasons, however the single largest contributor to the decision was the speed at which they could find and train an engineering workforce. As those who were exposed to ShipConstructor at EAS, who now have credibility and experience on successfully delivering large scale shipbuilding projects in Brazil, moved to other organizations so did ShipConstructor.
In the US, a few key clients and their success with ShipConstructor – Bender Shipbuilding and Repair, Bollinger, Halter Marine, and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Avondale Operations (now part of HII) to name but a few – played a significant role in establishing SSI’s position in the USA. Here again this was at least as much because of the migration of people from those shipyards as it was from anything else.
It so often seems that people are both the most often overlooked and single most critical influencer of adoption of technology. This trend in our industry should serve as a reminder that this is as true with enterprise level shipbuilding software employed on capital projects as it is when discussing the latest trend in smartphones or other consumer electronics.