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November 8, 2016


Last week I attended the SNAME Maritime Convention for my very first time. I must say, the event exceeded my expectations from the quality and amount of sessions, the great networking events and even the level of people who were drawn to this event. There were a lot of formal and informal discussions about autonomous ships, 3D Printing, replenishing our workforce, IoT, smart shipping/ports, virtual reality, augmented reality, sister ship strategies, and much more.

What drew me to the event this year was a request by Josh Horst for my participation on a panel named “Shipicon Valley: Fresh Blood.  New Tech.  So Many Questions.”  Now who would not want to be on a panel with that name:) ? The panel had a good spectrum of participants who could provide different points of views to all questions:

  • Design Agency: Michael Complita | Elliott Bay Design Group
  • Shipyard: Paul Thomas| Seaspan Shipyards
  • Classification Society: Sarah-Jane Bailey | Lloyd’s Register
  • Software Solution Provider: Denis Morais | SSI
  • Moderator: Josh Horst | Glosten Inc.

There were many great questions from Josh as well as the audience to fill our 2 hr slot. I have decided to only answer the last two questions that were asked of the panel in this blog post. If anyone who was there would like me to write a blog post on any other topic that was raised, just let me know.


1a. What is the biggest deterrent to adopting new technology in your workplace?
1b. How can we combat that as an industry?
2. If you had to make one prediction on the most important technological advancement for the shipbuilding industry in 2030, what would it be?

1a. What is the biggest deterrent to adopting new technology in your workplace?

Without a doubt, the biggest deterrent to adopting any technology (or anything, for that matter) is people or more accurately, culture. We have heard the phrases Culture eats Software, Culture eats Technology, Culture eats Strategy, etc. In essence, culture eats everything.

If you ask someone who was involved in a significant implementation that did not go well or did not attain the benefit it could have, they would tell you that the reason for the failure could be attributed mostly to the culture and not the technology.

Adopting new technology in a company usually is part of a large business transformation the company is going through. This means that the way they are planning on doing business in the future is different than the way they are doing business today. This requires that people not only change what they do day to day, but also to have a completely different mindset. This different mindset is at the foundation of the business transformation and if there is not enough attention to altering the current mindset, the changes that the organization is attempting to achieve will crumble.

We have all heard of the saying, “People, Process and Tools are all required for a good implementation.” Each of those items makes the foundation and without all of them there is little chance of being able to achieve what is possible. Almost all implementations of technology focus on tools and process while leaving people to be the last and mostly ignored piece. This is why it seems that technology usually fails.

1b. How can we combat that as an industry?

We need to focus on the people and culture just as much as or even more than the tools and processes. A good culture has been proven to overcome issues in process and limitations in tools which always exist. We need to start by bringing every representative to the table to discuss the challenges and determine as a team how we will solve them. This especially includes the people who will actually be doing the work day to day. Too often, only the upper management are part of the decision-making, and then they push down the decisions. This simply does not work. We need to engage the entire team and a top-down approach is not an engaging culture.

2. If you had to make one prediction on the most important technological advancement for the shipbuilding industry in 2030, what would it be?

Predictions are really fun because no matter what you say, you will be wrong…unless you are lucky 🙂 . I made a few predictions in my Future of Shipbuilding blog series. However, if we really think about what is required to make a 15-year prediction, you will need to come up with a technology or solution that no one has come up with yet. Technology moves so quickly that in 15 years we will be using something that we only saw in sci-fi movies or books and never thought possible in our industry.

However, I do think that some of the future technologies that will offer the biggest benefit will be extensions of technologies that are currently just starting to make an impact. The technologies that I am really excited about are Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.

There is no doubt that there is a big buzz about these items in the business and technology community. There are some really good reasons for this buzz as there are some really good opportunities in our industry.  At the SMC 2016 keynote it was mentioned that if Carnival Cruises were able to use big data and analytics to get customers to spend $1 a day more per trip, they would have an additional revenue of $80 million.

In shipbuilding, we generate and consume so much information. The difficulty currently is that this information is in disparate silos that have no connection to each other or the outside world. However, one driver for almost every shipyard is to consolidate their information in one or more platforms that are connected to each other. This would open the door to use Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to get really valuable business insights. This would allow us to identify potential risks earlier, provide some suggested improvements to processes and even to eliminate the time it takes to search for information as discussed in my previous blog Future of Shipbuilding: Detail Design and Production Planning (Part 1).

So my prediction is by 2030 we all will be using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence at the same level we are using 3D CAD today.

Closing remarks

The SNAME Maritime Conference definitely exceeded my expectations. I do plan on attending next year and recommend anyone else that wants an event with great sessions related to the shipbuilding industry to also attend. As well, I would get my hand slapped from the SNAME executive team if I did not suggest that if you are not a member of SNAME you should join the community.

The biggest obstacle for any company that is planning to adopt a technology in order to improve their business is people. People and the culture of your organization need to be a just as much of a focus as the tools and new processes you will be using. If you do not focus on the people aspect early in the process, then you will have a higher potential of failure in your project.

However, I would rather focus on the positives of people and think that with the right focus on people and the culture of your company, your team will propel the project forward even with gaps in any process and limitations in the tools that you selected.

Culture Empowers Technology

Predictions are very tough and are often wrong when you look too far into the future. However, if you look in the near future they can be much easier. I cannot see a future in shipbuilding that does not leverage big data and artificial intelligence. There is just too much to gain with all the information we will have available when we consolidate our information into several connected platforms. This will have a greater impact on the business of shipbuilding than any other technology.

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