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June 19, 2017

Last year, while in Japan, I was struck by how little had changed in the shipbuilding industry from the last time I was there. The market was still stuck on 2D design and engineering software. Some shipyards would admit to the potential value when asked, but there was very little forward progress being made.

It’s a year later and I have just returned from Bari-Ship 2017 in Imabari and visits to a few Japanese shipbuilders. At Bari-Ship I presented to shipbuilders, alongside Aras Japan, on the value of 3D design and engineering that is integrated into a scalable and adaptable PLM platform. We used the implementation at Ingalls Shipbuilding, a team effort between SSI, Aras, SSI USA, and ARCOS (a sister company of SSI focused on transforming the business of shipbuilding), as an example of what can be achieved in a very short period.

Additionally, Professor Chanik Shin from the Laboratory of Practical Technology (LPT) gave a presentation on how LPT implemented a 3D first approach to design and engineering of a vessel for Inamasu Shipyard. He walked the audience through the creation of a 3D ship model in ShipConstructor, and carried the same model from basic design through detailed and production design. Drawings were extracted to Japanese standards using ShipConstructor MarineDrafting. The presentation was very well received and was standing room only.

Has Anything Changed?

With all that interest, you might think that the Japanese market is on the verge of a transition to 3D. And you might be right.

The general feedback from those directly involved in design and engineering hasn’t changed much. However, far more interest was shown by those who will benefit from the application of modern, 3D technology in design and engineering. Foremost amongst those were individuals responsible for assembly fabrication, production planning and the application of a modular manufacturing process in the shipyards. This type of process is very difficult to adopt efficiently without 3D product modeling software. The ability to visualize, simulate, manage, and adapt the assembly structure in 3D is critical to success.

One of the shipbuilders that has invested in this process, using SSI technology to drive their shipbuilding processes, is Miho Shipyard. Miho specializes in fishing vessels over 100m in length, and builds a complete hull in under 2.5 months. Miho Shipyard has implemented a decent degree of pre-outfitted modular construction and will continue to make great strides as their investment in 3D continues.


Japanese shipbuilding is on the path to embracing 3D design and engineering software. Drivers outside design and engineering are motivating the implementation of new technologies. Japanese shipbuilders urgently need to keep costs at competitive levels while still retaining the high level of quality and efficiency that Japanese shipbuilding is known for. Those that see the writing on the wall have already begun the process of transforming their shipbuilding business in preparation for the future.

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