Shipbuilding is in a really exciting time in terms of innovation. Technologies that have been on the horizon for a long time are now being integrated into our shipbuilding processes. As we gear up for 2021, I wanted to highlight the extensive shipbuilding R&D activity happening in the United States as part of the NSRP (National Shipbuilding Research Program) and how some of these innovations will make a real impact on our organizations.
We have seen more and more automation creep into our shipbuilding processes. On the shop floor, automated welding and cutting are becoming increasingly commonplace. The next area of automation focus is earlier in the process, at the design stage.
Working with Floorganise, Austal USA, Philly Shipyard, and Fincantieri Marinette Marine, SSI USA are aiming to automate planning through the NSRP Project “Automated Detail Planning and Instant Earned Value Control.” By integrating the project model with planning systems, part-level metadata can drive planning, shop floor control, EVMS, and ERP systems.
A more clear-cut example of automation R&D is the “Automated Label Plate Generation” panel project. SSI USA, along with Conrad Shipyard, Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Austal USA, LMI, Bancroft Enterprises, and Praeses, is looking at deriving label plates directly from the 3D design model and providing the information electronically to production planning and purchasing. Apart from reducing rework, relying on an integrated single source of truth means the entire organization has access to the right information at the right time.
We’ve looked at and discussed the potential applications of AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) in shipbuilding many times over the years. There have been some great examples lately of how this innovation can be used in a training environment. Right now, we’re working with Austal USA, Solavitek, and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on another application of AR for the shop floor as part of an NSRP panel project.
The project is an expansion of the use of (AMUET) Advanced Mobile Universal Electrical Tools in shipbuilding. By pulling information directly from the digital twin and visualizing it with AR, electricians will be able to route wires and cabling with less guesswork using digital work instructions and simplify testing.
Training and education play a massively important role in shipbuilding. Ensuring that students have access to the education that will allow them to succeed is crucial for the industry’s long-term health. We’ve always supported training through our SSI Learning platform, work with universities, and previous NSRP projects.
In the upcoming year, alongside Austal USA, Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Conrad Shipyard, Southern Maine Community College, and Genoa Design, we’re working on the third Modern Shipbuilding Design Course panel project. Through the project, the original Marine Design coursework will be updated. Alongside it, an implementation path and resources will allow the course to be offered at a local level. In the end, it will help train and prepare a capable marine design workforce for the modern shipbuilding industry.
There are an almost countless number of new innovations being marketed each year. However, the challenge is to understand how practical – and useful – those innovations are in a real shipbuilding setting.
Currently, SSI USA’s Patrick Roberts Vice Chair’s the Business Technologies Panel and Patrick David is the Digital Shipbuilding Committee Chair; however, SSI’s involvement with the NSRP began as early as 1992. Since then, the R&D work with our partners through the NSRP has allowed us to effectively understand how to identify the most value from these innovations. Ultimately, it is one of the most effective ways of developing the technologies and processes that, in the future, will allow shipbuilders to achieve a higher return on their investments. For 2021, we’re excited to focus on this handful of significant initiatives.