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March 20, 2019

Last week I attend the 2019 All Panel Meeting in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. This was my second time at this event, and you can read my blog post recapping the 2017 event here: NSRP All Panel Meeting Review.

Here is the description of what this event is:

The All Panel Meeting is a biennial event that brings together all ten panels of the National Shipbuilding Research Program to share results of recently concluded and ongoing R&D projects; discuss technology gaps in the areas of ship design, construction, and modernization; and to share best practices in the ship building and support enterprise. This event serves a critical role for the shipbuilding industry and Navy by providing a public forum for industry-wide networking, technology transfer, and broad interest discussions.

Many of the key US shipyards, design agencies, vendors and the partners which support the maritime industry attended the event. This makes it a great place to connect and re-connect with the entire supply chain. I got a lot out of the great keynotes and presentations at this year’s NSRP All Panel Meeting. Particularly the ones which focused on technologies that are in various stages of their R&D life cycle and various stages of being implemented in a production environment. Some of the innovative and mature technologies being discussed and exploited are:  AR, VR, MR, Knowledge Capture, AI, additive manufacturing, robotics, drones, autonomous, data analytics, cyber security, and many many more.

It was great to hear from Tim Glinatsis, ECB Chair, about how the NSRP has created a collaborative environment where even competitors can have open conversations. It was also great to hear of the positive impact that the NSRP has had on the industry in its 40+ years since conception.

From the keynotes there was definitely a clear call to action:

We need to move faster and create a more flexible fleet to allow us to be agile and responsive to the inevitable changing requirements of the future.

Over the next two blog posts I will share my thoughts on the Call to Action. I will start this blog with the things we are doing well and need to continue improving:

  1. Clear Vision
  2. Community Collaboration
  3. Understanding Available Technology & Looking into Future Technologies

Next week I will continue with a blog post on the things that we will need to improve from my perspective.

Clear Vision

A clear vision is essential, especially when a company, industry, or community wants to successfully go through any type of transformation. The great news is that there seems to be a really good vision on what is required to maintain the US maritime superiority. If you have not read A Design For Maritime Superiority, you really should. It lays out a pretty clear vision that can help guide how the industry can move forward. The goals to achieve the vision are taking shape; however, the general sense I get is that defining or deciding on the realistic strategies/objectives that will start moving us to achieving this vision are a bit more allusive.

Even with a clear vision, deciding on actionable and tangible next steps are important. It does seem that there are some key changes we need to be making which are not really being discussed extensively during the keynotes and presentations; however, at least it is being discussed during the breaks. More on this in next week’s blog post.

Community Collaboration

As mentioned previously, the amount of collaboration in the industry is very high. The fact that competitors have a way to share ideas and experiences – without giving out trade secrets – is amazing. The NSRP is really a major reason for this perfect balance, and I have not seen this type of knowledge sharing in any other country. There have been several attempts to create an NSRP-type of community in other countries and they have not been remotely as successful as the NSRP. This is just to confirm that the NSRP has really made something special, and more importantly, very productive (from the numbers that were shown).

This strong collaborative community is creating an environment where the entire industry will improve together or as the saying goes:

Understanding Available Technology & Looking into Future Technologies

The industry has matured to a state where it appreciates and understands how technology can improve what we are doing today. There are so many technologies out there, and by looking at what each of the panels is considering to research, I cannot think of a technology which has not been given thought. Some, such as Digital Twin and additive manufacturing (which surprised me), are getting more air time than others, while some are getting less than they deserve (ex. Cyber Security), but there is probably not a single technology which is not being discussed in one of the panels.

There were two comments that I think were a bit conflicting. The first comment mentioned that there is a high rate of technology adoption in panel and RA projects which on the surface sounds good. However, the conflicting comment was a statement that suggested we are not failing enough. If too many of the projects are being implemented, then it could be a sign that we are not reaching high enough. There is definitely some merit to that comment; however, I do not think the panel and RA’s are currently structured in a way that promotes reaching for projects that have a high potential of failure, even if the benefits can be significant. Anyone writing a proposal knows what I am talking about.

This might just be my mis-interpretation of the two comments and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Closing Remarks

I am a huge fan of the NSRP. It has created a healthy environment for the industry to come together and solve some really tough problems that most in the US shipbuilding industry will benefit from.

The Call to Action from this year’s NSRP All Panel meeting is requesting us to move faster and create better and more flexible ships. I really think this is what almost all industries and even companies are trying to achieve, or at least saying they are.

There are already many things that we are doing today that are allowing us to move faster than before. We have a collaborative community created by the NSRP which allows for the sharing of ideas and knowledge with people of different skills and expertise. Also, our industry has embraced the idea that new (or at least new to us) technology can be used throughout our industry. Therefore, we are currently looking at almost every type of technology which may be levered in our industry in the short and medium term.

Most importantly, with a clear vision on what is needed for the future of maritime, achieving it becomes possible as it ensures everyone is pointing at the same target.

Next week I will discuss several items which I think need more improvement.

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