The ships we build today are significantly more complex than they were just 10 years ago. The change in the amount of automation by electrical mechanical systems, different fuel systems, modified regulations, new manufacturing methods and even the amount of software on our ships is pretty amazing. All these changes coupled with the amount of innovation in material, manufacturing automation, IoT, 3D printing, laser scanning, etc. is (or should be) changing the business of shipbuilding.
In my previous post Business of Shipbuilding I talked about the business of shipbuilding and the many factors which are considered for any shipbuilder. With all the new technology innovations becoming more mature we will need to consider how these new technologies will change the way we do business.
I will be the first one to admit that I am a technology junky. I love reading about new or old technologies which are becoming mature enough to be used practically in our industry. One of my key roles is to find the intersection between a technology and apply it to meet business goals. Because technology is moving so fast it really keeps my job very interesting and at the same time very difficult. Even though I love all this new innovation I really do think that we are not in the business to be innovative per-se but rather use practical and mature enough technologies to improve the business of shipbuilding.
There are several technologies I find are reaching a state of maturity which can significantly improve what we do.
Laser scanning is used much more often than I thought. This is because of two main factors:
- The cost of laser scanners is very cost effective for the masses.
- The software that can leverage laser scanning data is available to you without any additional investment.
I have blogged about this before:
This has been around even in the shipbuilding industry for a while. The changes I have seen here is that this technology was only used at companies which had very deep pockets. As with 3D laser scanning the cost of this technology is a fraction of the cost that it was just years ago, albeit still expensive. We will see more companies adopt this technology as it is a fantastic way to communicate our designs to more stakeholders without much technical skills.
We often hear that we need to bring social communication into the enterprise, kind of like having Facebook in our company. I am not sure I think that is what we need to do but I do feel there is some merit to it; however, enterprise communication is quite different. The best way I have seen shipyards communicate is through using visual context. I have created several posts on this
- 3D Interactive Visualization of Part Revisions
- Visualization of information is a powerful thing
- Automate Generation of Multiple Navisworks Models
- Tips & Tricks: Generate Your Company Standard Reports
- Benefits of a Digitally Captured Build Sequence
- How well does your team use ShipConstructor?
- Do you know the status of your welds?
- Connecting engineering and production planning
Shipbuilding is very complex and using the 3D model to communicate allows us to share information a lot faster and way more efficiently. Enterprise “social” communication will eventually come; however, I do not see any great solutions out there or at least no one is using them to my knowledge.
Automation on the shop floor
The amount of manufacturing automation is going through the roof. I have seen more investment in new manufacturing machines that can automate many of the activities on the shop floor. This can be from cutting profiles to welding complex structure, not just panel line welding. This trend towards having more automation with robots will increase. These may not be fully autonomous but they will create a symbiotic relationship with a single operator.
IoT (Internet of Things)
This is one that I am just starting to see. I would not say it is that common in use but many shipyards are testing the viability of using this technology. There are many aspects where IoT can be used with the main two being for operations of the ship and the second being during construction. I know several yards use RF tags to track movement through the yard; however, there is a whole set of IoT’s that require no power, are cheap enough to be considered disposable and can sense various environmental forces. Some of the proof of concepts will be able to really save time, $ and effort.
As with any business, the business of shipbuilding is anything but static. There are a lot of technologies that are becoming mature enough for us to leverage them today or at least in the near future.
These new technologies will require us to relook at the way we do business. We cannot just “tack on” these technologies. Leveraging these technologies will require us to re-evaluate what we do from the beginning. This is not always easy, but hey we are already building the most complex structure mankind builds…we can do difficult:)
I just listed some of the innovations that I know are being used today and I know there is a lot more that are being used which I am not aware of. I would like to hear from you if you know other innovative technologies being used and how they are changing the way you do business.