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November 24, 2020
Industry Trends

The phrase “data is the new oil” has become a familiar phrase across most industries, including shipbuilding. At this point, many shipbuilders understand that engineering data is their most important asset and the driving force for the rest of the organization. But leaders are still struggling to get the most out of their data, especially when it’s legacy data. By identifying the difference between data and information, areas for future investment, and steps towards increased data governance, the gap between expectation and reality can start to close. 

a gif of a visual representation of the design, build, and maintain phases in shipbuilding.

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Data vs. Information 

Data and information are often used interchangeably, and most of the time, that doesn’t result in any problems; everyone knows what you’re talking about. However, as part of a broader digital transformation, the distinction is crucial for better understanding each system’s role, process, and platform within your shipyard. 

To build on the oil analogy, your data is like raw crude. It’s what is directly produced by your software. Without manipulation, it’s difficult or impossible to get any value from it (think: the mass and position of every individual part within your model). 

Your information is the refined product. It can be used directly for decision making and is the true source of value for your organization. The manipulation of raw data into information can happen behind the scenes within a platform, through connection with another platform, or manually. Extending the earlier example: a CAD platform returning the CG of a model by manipulating the part data behind the scenes. 

Information Architecture Investment 

Over the past few years, shipyards have been investing massive amounts into new innovations. Technologies like VR/AR, additive manufacturing, connectivity, and the increased use of robotics (to name a few), but while useful to solve specific challenges, these innovations generally end up creating a massive number of new data points that are not used to their full advantage. Turning that data into information that every department can access and use is the missing link for many shipyards. Connecting this disparate information in a single source of truth, that every team can pull from and reference, is the missing link in many shipyards. 

While a combination of connected MRP, ERP, and CAD platforms can get close, maintaining a single source of truth through a tightly integrated, shipbuilding-specific PLM solution has emerged as the best way to get the most value out of innovation. Most shipbuilders have recognized the need to invest in some or all of these platforms. Out of those that completed our shipbuilding innovation assessment, 55% indicated their organizations have budgeted for improvements to PDM, PLM, ERM, or MRP platforms within the next 12-18 months.  

Who Owns the Information? 

Even with the ideal infrastructure, if nobody understands who is responsible for what piece of the data puzzle, eventually siloes will emerge, and the idea of a single source of truth will fade away. Tackling the issue of data and information governance is the other side of the coin. The first step to moving forward is formalizing a governance framework (how are data and information managed, controlled, and shared) that has buy-in at every level. Most in our industry don’t have something well-established, but almost 40% have moved in the right direction and attempted to address the problem. 

At its broadest, this means transitioning from a culture where data is entirely owned by individuals and teams towards one where it is (in part) stewarded. This shift in thinking promotes information creation by keeping the bigger picture and collaboration top of mind. Even without a formal framework, shifting the thinking in this way can play a part in maintaining a single source of truth. 

Information Strategy Takeaways

With a clear understanding of the difference between information and data, an idea of what information infrastructure will be needed to manage information, and a commitment to improve data and information governance within your organization, the foundation for better decision making will be in place for the long-term. The implementation of individual innovations can then do more than just solve particular problems for specific use-cases. They can be used to feed a single source of truth and easily be leveraged by the rest of the organization. Taken together, these strategies form the basis of how the digital twin and digital thread look like on the ground floor. 

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