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April 29, 2014


I just got back from my first ever COFES (The Congress on the Future of Engineering Software). I had been looking forward to it for a few months and I’m really glad I went. This is an invitation only event which brings the brightest thinkers together to discuss the tough challenges in engineering software. I am still wondering how I got invited ? . There are not too many conferences where I get to hear from the experts who I follow and respect.

There were many important topics raised throughout the conference: Sustainability, IoT, STEM, 3D Printing, disruptive product development, PLM, BIM , simulation, laser scanning, prediction of the future, CAD, and many other very important and interesting topics.

There were several takeaways I had but the one that really resonated with me was surprisingly not a specific technology but rather, the topic of people.

I know this might sound a little odd from someone who is knee deep in all sorts of technology, but when you look at some of the challenges in virtually all markets, it is not really about the technology, the problems revolve around people. This includes cultures, governments, emotion, regulation, social acceptance, presence, human blockers for change, security and the sense of security, short term profit/cost, etc.

Some of the comments I recall from the conference (recalling from memory/twitter) are:

  • “Technology is moving faster than our ability to adopt it.”
  • “The technology of the future is already here.”
  • “The future is already here it’s just unevenly distributed.”
  • “There is an incredulity cycle in technology. New technology is 1st seen as incredulous & irrelevant. Then it is adopted with all related technical benefits with faster adoption”

There were a lot more great quotes (what you get when very smart people come together) as well as a lot of discussion and disagreement about the future of technology which I will discuss in future posts since I want to focus on the human aspect.

There were several keynotes and discussions which talked about the people and the effect people have on technology. This might seem obvious since the final consumers are people which includes companies because it is people who are making the decisions. Maybe in the future this will change ? .

One of my favorite keynotes distilled that people are usually in one of the three presence phases: pastpresent, or future. Most of the attendees are in the future phase which makes sense. However, most customers are in the present. This realization that the technology vendor and the customer may be seeing the world very differently is very powerful.

When you look at what is the slowing the adoption of technology of tomorrow, it is people. This comes from various methods such as: perceived risk, short term cost, political resistance to protect traditional business models and regulation not keeping up, etc. This requires technology innovators to invest time to navigate the people factor possibly at the same time the technology is being developed.

When I look at the marine industry, I see the same issues. How many times have we heard, “I have been building ships for 30 years this way…why should I change?” This type of attitude is something SSI and our clients tackle all the time. It is hard enough to implement technology which is the modern best practice at some yards. If it is such a challenge to implement tried and tested workflows and technology, how do we not continue to lag behind the evolution of technology?

One answer is programs such as NSRP which is definitely a disrupter to tradition by looking at new ways to implement the technology today. SSI as well as our clients have seen significant improvement from this program. However, I do not feel that we are staying a constant distance from the leading edge of technology. Programs like the NSRP would allow ship builders to stay close to the wave of technology but it seems the implementation of the deliverables from these programs appear to be slower than the rate that technology is changing. This is disconcerting to myself and should be for most of you as how far can we be behind.

If the technology is already here and we have proven the benefits of it, why is the technology not more pervasive in our  industry?

My answer: People or more accurately the comfort of tradition and certainty of what they know.

If we use technology such as laser scanning, IoT, mobile, enterprise social, simulation, big data analytics, we would be able to build ships in record time at a significant lower effort and cost.

Closing remarks

The rate of new innovative technology is increasing at a very high pace; however, the implementation of this technology is not keeping up. There are many factors to why technology is not being used but it seems that the human factor is one area we need to improve.

If we do not continue to improve at the rate technology is innovating we are at risk of being futhur behind than we already are.

The marine industry is becoming more and more competitive every day and with the compressed schedules we need to at least use the technology of today to be successful.

I would like to pose a question to all my readers:

How can we collectively improve the adoption of technology within our industry?

Special thanks: to my COFES host Monica Schnitger which was absolutely great.

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