Think of our timeline like your family photo album, full of memories and milestones. Across the past 30 years we have gone through a lot of firsts. Walk yourself through some of the highlights on our interactive timeline and explore the artifacts we have gathered along the way.
From SSI founder Rolf Oetter’s first prototypes to milestone shipbuilding projects to super-user conferences, we tried to capture the key things that have made our vision, software, culture, and company what it is today. Look out for many friendly faces, retro brochures, great photos, and even a glimpse of royalty.
Rolf at UVic
SSI’s origins begin from the founder Rolf Oetter’s, mechanical engineering master’s work at the University of Victoria (UVic) in the late 1980s. From the beginning, Rolf believed that the introduction of new technologies in shipbuilding needed to recognize the practical realities of the industry as it modernized and adopted innovations in technology. Core to Rolf’s vision was that technology itself would be the greatest area of change and innovation and as such, any solution needed to be resilient to change and enable shipbuilders to adopt new innovations with the least disruption possible. He knew integration with other platforms would be essential to this and from the start ensured his “shipbuilding specific” engineering software was compatible with other leading tools in the industry (AutoCAD and SQL servers).
ShipCAM + NC-Pyros
Out of Rolf’s work came the PC capable ship production software ShipCAM, a program designed to carry out fairing, lofting, and plate expansion tasks directly from a personal computer, based off commercially available technology, but designed specifically for shipbuilding.
The software instantly resonated with shipbuilders, as it addressed the problems they were facing with technology adoption, cost, and required functionality. The low barriers to implementation allowed shipbuilders and naval architects who previously lacked technological sophistication to confidently embrace the brave new world of 3D computer aided shipbuilding.
This wooden hull is the original proof of concept for ShipCAM. From a lines plan, the hull was faired and then sent to be CNC machined out of wood. It represents the immense amount of work, effort, and forward thinking that was required to create a viable product from the ground up; A product that was unique and core to shipbuilding and set the stage for a new company focusing on technical solutions specifically for shipbuilders.
Partnering with Principals of Shipbuilding
On January 7, 1991, SSI (ARL) sent out its first ever invoice to early adopter Robert Allan Ltd. SSI’s early partners were integral to the success of the then fledgling start-up. Joe Comer, Bruce Rosenblatt, Bender Shipbuilding, and Robert Allan saw the benefits of ShipCAM from the beginning, leveraging existing capabilities within the software and working with Rolf to develop features and functionality that were critical to these shipbuilders and naval architects.
Together, an open, easily implementable solution that allowed shipbuilders and naval architects across the industry to focus on the business of shipbuilding emerged.
NSRP Involvement Begins
SSI first became involved with the NSRP (National Shipbuilding Research Project) in the early 1990s. Noticing that collaborating with other innovative players in shipbuilding was going to be the way forward, Rolf built on ShipCAM’s earlier success in the commercial sector through further development with the NSRP.
First Luxury Vessel
With long-time client Vripack Yachts, the first luxury Super Yacht was designed using ShipCAM in 1995. Throughout the next two and a half decades, Vripack has designed dozens of vessels using SSI products, exploiting the flexible capabilities of the software to build vessels for a wide variety of use-cases.
Recognizing early the importance of integrating with COTS (commercial off the shelf) technology, through continuous collaboration with global industry leaders, Rolf sought to further integrate AutoCAD and SSI (ARL) products by partnering with Autodesk. This partnership became the foundation of many future developments and marks a conscious decision by the founder to further the business realities of his vision.
The combination of being PC-capable, having a clear path to proficiency for new users, and available off-the-shelf with little customization made AutoCAD the natural fit for SSI (ARL). These core values remain aligned to this day and are a key reason behind the decades-long partnership.
Seeing the challenges shipbuilders were tackling and building on the company’s recent partnership with Autodesk, SSI (ARL) released CAD-Link, an AutoCAD based ship production software system. Combining the inherent power and ease of use of AutoCAD with shipbuilding specific technologies provided the best of both worlds to shipbuilders worldwide.
First ShipConstructor Release
The ShipConstructor solution is well known today as a complete shipbuilding engineering solution; however, the origins of ShipConstructor began more modestly, in 1997. The first time the ShipConstructor name was used was to amalgamate the 1997 release of ShipCAM, NC-Pyros, Structure (CAD-Link), ManualNest, and ShipReport. At this point, it could be truly said that ShipConstructor provided significant functionality to shipbuilders, both large and small, and was the first step to the complete engineering solution available today.
Darren Larkins Joins SSI
SSI (ARL) was growing quickly as it approached its tenth birthday. In 1999, Darren Larkins joined the company as a Software Developer. Darren was the 5th employee to join SSI and holds the second longest tenure of anyone still employed. This seemingly small decision went on to fundamentally shape the future of the company, its products, and its leadership.
Marine Log Maritime Achievement Award
While quiet confidence in SSI’s commitment to building a solution capable of supporting an integrated, best of breed solution is built into SSI’s DNA, recognition is not unwelcome. In 2001, SSI (ARL) received the Marine Log Maritime Achievement Award in the ‘Enhancing Shipyard Productivity’ category. We like to think this subtle acknowledgment, that shipbuilders see explicit value in the vision behind our product, demonstrated that our democratic” approach to technical innovation works.
Denis Morais Joins SSI
As SSI (ARL) continued to expand throughout the early 2000s, Denis Morais first joined the company in 2002 as a software developer. This hire marked the beginning of a new phase of sophistication and forward thinking for SSI software. Within 4 years, Denis would help fundamentally improve the architecture of the SSI solution.
First Defense Project
Having been involved with the NSRP for a decade, SSI had a fundamental understanding of the requirements behind US Defense shipbuilding. Designed and built by Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) using ShipConstructor, the US Coast Guard Legend class cutters are the largest in the history of the Coast Guard.
The Legend class marked the beginning of an almost two decades long association with both Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding and the US Coast Guard. Throughout, HII has consistently been an early adopter of the latest SSI advancements and a leader in defense shipbuilding.
First Offshore Project
The needs of every specific shipbuilder are unique. When McDermott Batam used SSI’s software to develop the Devil’s Tower SPAR Oil Platform, they leveraged the extensive flexibility of the solution to work with existing tools and platforms.
ShipConstructor Named Design Software-of-Choice for NSRP
In late 2003, ShipConstructor was named the design software-of-choice- under the NSRP’s Second-Tier Shipyard Design Enhancement Program. This decision was made possible by the integration inherently baked in to SSI products from the company’s outset, allowing the disparate and diverse shipbuilders participating in the NSRP to adopt industry-leading software in a way that works with their existing solutions.
At the time, Pat Cahill of Bender Shipbuilding & Repair said “this project represents the largest single collaborative effort by the U.S. shipbuilding industry to standardize the use of a common design package through active participation in the development of software specifications to meet the needs of both the first- and second-tier shipyards.”
ShipConstructor Hull Module Released
SSI has always been committed to incrementally improving our existing solutions to better serve the needs of shipbuilders, and that feeling has persisted throughout the company’s history. The introduction of the Hull module brought much of the functionality behind the stand-alone ShipCAM, the original SSI product that brought the founder Rolf Oetter’s vision to life, into ShipConstructor.
First Fast Ferry
SSI’s connection with Austal began with the Benchijigua Express. The trimaran hull design is just one of the innovations Austal has leveraged SSI products to enhance. Being a global shipbuilder, with yards and offices across continents, Austal also continues to utilize SSI’s WorkShare technology. Austal has said that, “this has been a huge thing for us having to work with another organization across the ocean.”
Expanded Presence in Asia
With the official opening of ARL Asia in 2004, headed by Dr. Oskar Lee, SSI’s presence expanded to Asia. At the time, SSI Founder Rolf Oetter noted that “Under Dr. Lee’s guidance and knowledge of local markets, ARL is on target to expand its client base of shipyards and designers throughout Asia, where the marine and offshore industry is expected to grow tremendously, and thus also the need for easy-to-use ship design software solutions such as ShipConstructor.”
First Combat Vessel
Building off the experience gained through the US Coast Guard Cutter and NSRP Second-Tier Design Enhancement Program resulted in the Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS), designed by Lockheed Martin and Gibbs & Cox and built by Bollinger Shipyards and Marinette Marine, to be the first combat vessel designed and built using ShipConstructor.
DDROM and API Software Rewrite
SSI’s dedication to allowing shipbuilders to focus on shipbuilding, rather than making their technical solutions work has been pervasive throughout the company’s history. In response to shipbuilders’ call for true concurrent engineering capabilities, now SSI co-CEO Darren Larkins co-invented the company’s Database Driven Relational Object Modeling (DDROM) software technology, now at the heart of SSI’s products. That DDROM technology, first introduced with ShipConstructor 2006, represented a quantum leap in CAD/CAM and the execution of the company’s vision towards an open and complete shipbuilding solution.
By removing the headaches of parametric modeling through automatic relationship building, ShipConstructor users could now focus on the design and engineering tasks at hand and easily make changes that used to require advanced training.
Even in 2005, SSI was gaining market share as shipbuilders recognized the need for integration provided by “open” software. The introduction of a ShipConstructor API further enhanced other third-party developers’ ability to connect as easily to ShipConstructor as ShipConstructor integrated with other systems.
Launch of Entirely Overhauled Software
From his hiring in 2002, Denis recognized the importance of Rolf’s vision of an open solution capable of being agile and able to leverage innovation as well as easy integration with other platforms in an ever-changing technical environment. Denis had rapidly advanced in the company and by 2008 was in a position as the Development Manager to make some big changes to ensure SSI’s technical infrastructure was capable of fulfilling that vision. To do that the software needed a significant overhaul. At its core, the software needed a new structure if SSI was to provide a platform from which the ‘engineering’ software could provide a foundation for an entire, enterprise level shipbuilding ecosystem could be supported.
The launch of ShipConstructor 2006 rolled the DDROM pioneered by Darren Larkins, open API, and continuous functionality improvements into a product that actively and tangibly benefited shipbuilders’ bottom lines.
Deborah Peet Joins SSI
Coming from a diverse background and bringing over 25 years of business operations experience, Deborah Peet first joined SSI as Chief Operating Officer (COO) in 2006. Deborah is responsible for all behind-the-scenes internal operational requirements at SSI.
Recognizing the company’s challenges as a pioneer in taking an integrated open approach to the technical aspects of a shipbuilding solution, Deb set out to recruit marketing leadership to ensure this messaging was shared and understood in the shipbuilding industry.
First Suezmax Tanker
At a newly established Brazilian Shipyard Estaleiro Altântico Sul (EAS), the workforce needed to be trained up quickly on software that could be implemented quickly. SSI’s long-standing commitment to open integration and Autodesk partnership made ShipConstructor the clear choice to meet the requirements of the new shipyard. The resulting partnership saw the design, development, and launch of the João Cândido Suezmax tanker by EAS, the first tanker of this size completed with SSI software.
Michael Viala joins SSI
Michael Viala was recruited by Deb Peet in 2008 to provide leadership in his role as Director of Sales and Marketing. “His vision to better align the SSI brand with the forward-thinking vision of the Founder was just what we were looking for.” says Ms Peet. “Mike has showcased SSI practical implementation of the company’s vision to build a solution uniquely committed to and capable of supporting an integrated, platform of platforms technical ecosystem”.
First Jack-up Rig
Building on the experience and knowledge gained from working on past offshore products, we were able to bake in the requirements of those structures into our software. 2008 marked the completion of the First Jack-up rig using our software as part of Labroy Offshore’s order of 4 MSC-Gusto CJ-46s.
This project set the foundation for industry leading Jack-up Rig launch times, with projects being completed within 13 months of training being initiated.
Educational Resources Launched
With an expanding global User Base, despite the ease to proficiency inherent with ShipConstructor, SSI noticed an increasing need to expand the training and learning resources available to those starting with modern shipbuilding, design, and modelling.
In conjunction with two universities, eight shipyards, and five design firms, SSI created comprehensive university-level materials that guided students with a basic understanding of AutoCAD through the shipbuilding specific practical skills and knowledge required to be an asset within a shipyard or design agency.
SSI’s educational resources have expanded and greatly evolved since. Explore SSI Learning.
The way welds are handled in shipbuilding differs from other industries. Understanding this, SSI launched WeldManagement in 2009 to ensure that shipbuilders, when change occurred, could easily understand what impact that would have on welds and how it could be managed. This was another step towards building a complete shipbuilding engineering solution that understood the needs of shipbuilders.
Partner Conference 2009
With SSI now established around the world, it was crucial to consistently meet with our partners to refine the SSI vision going forward and understand the unique perspectives of their region.
Nick Danese, SSI Senior Partner, (front row, fifth from left and next to SSI founder Rolf Oetter) has been involved with SSI from the very beginning. He has spearheaded the spread of SSI’s open architecture and platform vision throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Canadian Conference on Modern Shipbuilding
SSI’s global presence within shipbuilding has frequently placed the company in a unique position of acting as a guiding force for shipbuilders and governments. Working with leading industry experts from Canada, the United States, Australia, and Brazil, SSI organized and participated in the Canadian Conference on Modern Shipbuilding. Analyzing best practices from around the world, and how they could be applied to develop a sustainable, profitable, and competitive Canadian shipbuilding industry, helped progress the industry forward towards the future. Information and guidance provided by these experts related to essential building blocks for a sustainable industry has formed the basis for some of what would eventually become Canada’s Federal Fleet Renewal program.
Darren Larkins Appointed CEO
A decade after joining SSI, much of which was travelling the world with the founder Rolf Oetter, visiting shipyards and drilling into the technical challenges they are dealing with, Darren Larkins was appointed CEO. With a firm grasp of shipbuilding, SSI’s software, and the company itself, Darren was set to continue Rolf’s vision for SSI into the future.
“As CEO, I am determined to guide the company consistent with the vision that has proven to be foundational to our success to date.” Darren said at the time of the appointment. “We are committed to the belief that the pace of change in technology demands an agile solution that can readily integrate with the best available technology.”
Super-User Conference and Partner Conference 2010
Having approached a significant user base within the Americas, SSI began hosting user conferences in order to connect those using our solutions. The first User Conference was held in 2010 and featured a handful of venerable ‘Super-Users’.
At the same time, SSI brought together their partners from around the world once again. The two groups, together with SSI,were able to combine their unique perspectives into a unified vision of what has been done well, and what needed to be improved for the future. This iterative and collaborative process is core to the way SSI operates as an organization.
Denis Morais appointed CTO
Since his hire in 2002, Denis Morais’ unsurpassed work ethic and commitment to the founder’s vision to build a scalable solution through integration with other best of breed technologies made him an easy pick for leadership. Most notably his leadership in modernizing the core product – ShipConstructor – in 2006 made the technical reality behind SSI’s vision possible. Through consultation and collaboration with Shipbuilders around the world, Denis has become one of the world’s leaders in digital transformation. The knowledge he has gained allowed him to effectively lead the development of SSI software in a direction that continued Rolf Oetter’s technical vision and aligns with the business of shipbuilding.
Denis’ forward-thinking vision for the future of shipbuilding and first-hand practical knowledge has resulted in international recognition for his published papers, articles, blogs, and eBooks.
First Major Combatant
DDG-51 Flight II, built by Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), was the first major combatant engineered and built with SSI software. At this point, past experiences with the NSRP, HII, and other defense shipbuilders positioned SSI to fully understand and equip shipbuilders with the tools needed to tackle a project of this scale.
Today in America
With an expanded American presence, SSI seized an opportunity to appear on the Today in America morning show hosted by Terry Bradshaw. The segment connected thousands of American viewers to the technology behind the shipbuilding industry.
AUC and EUC 2012
As more and more clients around the world trust SSI to be their mission critical engineering solution, an increasing number of digital transformation progress has been made. Global forums to share these experiences, shipbuilding best practices, and software techniques emerged in the form of the Americas User Conference (AUC) and the EMEA User Conference (EUC).
Starting in 2012, these annual events brought together shipbuilding leaders from around the world and remain one of the best event series in our industry to this day.
EnterprisePlatform PublisherLT Launched
Engineering data and information is a shipbuilder’s most important asset and at the core of an integrated platform of multiple technical tools. Engineering needs to feed the rest of the organization and can drive every tool and process within the shipyard, but when that information is in an unusable format, that cycle can’t happen. With the overhaul of the ShipConstructor software in 2006, SSI demonstrated its commitment to make those assets “available” to those who knew how to go and get it. EnterprisePlatform allows for engineering data to be in the format that processes, tools, and people need and was another significant step forward toward a fully integrated and synchronized technical ecosystem
The inherent architecture changes made for ShipConstructor 2006 allowed for the vision of a synchronized shipyard to come to life. PublisherLT was the first EnterprisePlatform product released to facilitate this synchronization and was made available in 2013, quickly becoming popular with clients. PublisherLT streamlines and automates the generation of engineering information from the Marine Information Model in a wide variety of formats. It allows engineers and designers to automate the generation of information for other stakeholders and focus on their core design/modelling tasks.
SSI’s Pat Roberts now NSRP Panel Vice Chair
In 2016 SSI’s Director of US Operations, Patrick Roberts, was named NSRP Panel Vice Chair. This election was a recognition by his peers of the practical results that Pat has delivered during years of involvement in NSRP programs.
Since 1998, Pat has worked on many projects to help reduce US Navy lifecycle and acquisition costs. These projects have led to advancements in US shipbuilding in business practices, IT infrastructure, ship design, ship production, welding and workforce development. For instance, Pat was heavily involved in a project to develop a shipyard-neutral data schema and format that automatically translates material data attributes from a CAD/Product Information Model system into an Enterprise Resource System. Pat continues to be an active member of the NSRP and serve as Vice Chair.
SSI’s 2016 Americas User Conference was held from September 27-September 30, 2016 in Mobile, Alabama. For 2016, the conference focused on highlighting the leaders within the SSI community. The key theme in 2016 was “Experts Learning from Experts.” Presentations focused on integration using EnterprisePlatform, now a mature, value adding product, digital transformation, and the unique aspects of shipbuilding product lifecycle management.
SSI Moves to Current Location
2017 is defined mostly as a year of growth, or perhaps more accurately as a year where our continued rapid growth had to be addressed. For years SSI Operations was challenged to keep up with this continuous growth; adding office space to our existing location securing a 2nd floor when it came available and ‘creative cramming’ wherever another desk could fit. But ultimately a new, much larger location was needed.
In 2017 SSI headquarters moved to the scenic building where it remains to this day. This space was secured with 5+ years of future growth in mind. After only 2 years, it is apparent additional space is needed. Plans are underway to expand the current location.
SSI Expands to India
By 2017, growing opportunities in the country facilitated the need for an expanded presence in India. The new Indian subsidiary, SSI India Solutions, officially opened its doors in that same year.
“We are excited about the Indian Government’s upcoming shipbuilding policy and see great potential in the Indian market,” said SSI CEO Darren Larkins at the time. “SSI’s Autodesk based ShipConstructor software along with our EnterprisePlatform program for leveraging engineering data are ideal for the Indian market.”
Executives Purchase Company
On March 1, 2018, CEO Darren Larkins and then CTO Denis Morais acquired ownership of SSI from the company’s founder Rolf Oetter. Over the past 17 years, Darren and Denis had both embraced Rolf’s initial vision for the future of shipbuilding software, our industry, and our company.
As a result, this was a natural evolution, with Darren and Denis managing SSI since 2011 while Rolf focused on other initiatives such as the promotion of alternative energy.
This exciting development helped ensure the long-term stability of SSI. The individuals actively involved in the decision-making were now in an ownership position. Ultimately, this transition aligned the day to day management, ownership and the future of SSI.
The SSI community has always been forward-thinking, focusing on concepts that work to solve the shipbuilding challenges that will come up in the future as well as the present. AUC 2018 was the biggest success yet, with shipbuilding leaders from around the world in attendance. The conference continued to focus on those forward-thinking topics and concepts within the industry and how shipbuilders can use technology to focus on the business of shipbuilding.
Bruno Benevolo joins SSI
People, Process and Tools are widely recognized as the 3 primary components needed to get anything done. With SSI’s early commitment to an open technical environment, the foundational process for integration was possible. With the development of EnterprisePlatform, perhaps the most essential integration tool was made available. Bruno Benevolo, who has almost 20 years’ experience integrating enterprise systems for shipbuilding, provided the final “people” component. Bruno was hired in response to the critical and growing role that enterprise wide business systems and processes play in shipbuilding, and to meet demand for adoption of SSI’s tools and processes in the industry.
SSI has broadened its focus to include many of the activities outside of engineering, and with the SSI EnterprisePlatform is helping shipbuilders connect engineering to those activities. The inclusion of Bruno was the next natural next step to support seamless integration of enterprise systems to help SSI clients extend the rich repository of engineering CAD/CAM data to shipyard stakeholders.
Darren Larkins and Denis Morais become co-CEOs
Having led the company together since 2011, CEO Darren Larkins and then President and CTO Denis Morais both play critical roles in navigating SSI on a path towards the company’s vision. To better represent their equal role, Darren and Denis agreed to go forward as co-CEOs.
As SSI moves towards better connecting processes and activities within shipbuilding organizations, another critical tool is a product lifecycle management platform specifically intended for shipbuilding. SSI’s belief in open architecture and a platform of platforms ecosystem was a natural fit with Aras – an organization that felt the same way.
Working with shipbuilders from around the world across three decades has revealed common problems that remain pervasive throughout the industry. One in particular stood out. Data and information were constantly housed in disparate and opaque systems. To provide an agile approach that would allow for incremental implementation with immediate ROI, SSI developed DigitalHub as a bridging tool that would lead to eventual full on product lifecycle management benefits. SSI launched DigitalHub in 2019, the foundational platform that gives shipbuilder’s control over their data.
Experience and a technical vision for the future brought this project to life, and just as in the early days, it is another occasion where SSI has addressed one of shipbuilding’s most pressing problems. This was also the first product developed jointly with Aras, and its success demonstrates the alignment between SSI and Aras going forward.
Vision for the Future
As SSI reflects on the past 30 years, an intentional, thoughtful, forward thinking vision emerges. Rooted in the identity founder Rolf Oetter imprinted on SSI from the beginning, we will continue to make it easy for shipbuilders to focus on the business of shipbuilding. As digital transformations take hold more firmly, our vision established 30 years ago is what sets SSI and our co-CEOs Darren Larkins and Denis Morais apart from the rest. A foundation based on the pillars of people, process, and complex technical tools requires experience and nurturing. It started with a vision, but it took 30 years of commitment to position our company as the only technology provider in the shipbuilding industry today truly focused on the overall business of shipbuilding. We are extremely proud of our journey and remain committed to looking ahead and charting a safe, practical course forward for our clients.