Digital Collaboration

If you’ve been following along, this is part 3 of our 5-part series on borrowing proven methods from the AEC sector to unlock the full benefits of going digital. In today’s blog we are exploring digital processes that promote communication and collaboration.

In parts 1 and 2 of this series we explored identifying the pain points and the benefit of taking a process-centered approach to choosing technology that addresses a real business need, thus avoiding the impulse to chase technology trends.

According to one McKinsey survey, just 16 percent of respondents said their organizations’ digital transformations had delivered sustainable performance improvements.

So why do digital transformations fall short of expectations? 

  • No two ships are the same: Because building a ship is a one-of-a-kind endeavor. Ships with unique design requirements necessitate unique building approaches and that makes it harder to introduce changes across numerous projects, as full-scale digital transformation requires.
  • Many subcontractors: Because shipbuilders work with multiple subcontractors, implementing digital solutions across a project means facing the challenge of implementing changes among many companies.
  • Multiple building sites: Because sections of the ship are prefabricated at sites far from the shipyard and few sites are conducive to teaching workers how to work in new ways or use advanced technology.

Cherry-Picking Digital Solutions

Without the capacity to develop digital solutions that can be applied to multiple shipbuilding projects, and across individual teams and business units, we end up cherry-picking digital solutions that apply to just one activity or trade.

An example was when one yard purchased a powerful modeler software called CREO. Their intention was to use CREO to facilitate the prefabrication of cabinetry off-site. Unfortunately, the fully fabricated cabinets then sat on the shop floor for four weeks because the sequential workflow for completing the block assembly was not adjusted. That meant the block assembly wasn’t ready for the cabinets to be directly installed. As a result, the yard didn’t realize any reduction of manufacturing time, nor did it achieve any substantial savings of building off-site.

Working across multiple organizations in a fragmented value chain is complex. But cherry-picking software and developing narrowly targeted use cases usually means that companies miss out on a valuable opportunity: large efficiencies that can be gained when information is transmitted effectively during handoffs between trades and functions.

Therefore, shipbuilders should focus on designing digital solutions that involve multiple departments and subcontractors and building collaborations among them. For example, AEC companies have adopted real-time progress reporting from the construction site that helps ensure subcontractors raise invoices promptly and accurately.

Of course, this becomes more difficult to implement when numerous ship designers and subcontractors are involved. But if compelling incentives of saving time and money are put in place, then multi-department use cases can unlock significant value.

Choose Tools that Promote Collaboration

Implementing digital solutions, like SmartShape, that promote communication and collaboration is vitally important. I’m reminded of a situation where a shipbuilder purchased pre-cut and flanged pipe sections from a supplier.

Unfortunately, when errors or defects in the pipe occurred, the shop floor wasn’t sending feedback to the supplier. There wasn’t a direct line of communication so even when they did send feedback it was after-the-fact, anecdotal, and difficult to act on. Errors persisted and the shipyard workers found themselves fixing the defective pipes or waiting for replacements. This unplanned rework increased labour costs and caused delays.

We’ve worked with companies to provide a digital solution to reduce rework hours and improve the mechanism for passing feedback between the site team and the supplier. One solution involves providing an accessible mobile app to tag defects in specific elements in the 3D model and store them in a common database. By having a single repository for information about a project, the supplier could monitor defect reports in nearly real-time, then ask the pipe manufacturing team to analyse production, diagnose the problem, and reduce defects.

I’m interested in hearing from you. How have you benefited from smoothing out communications between these previously disconnected business units?

The path to digital shipbuilding will look different for every company, but the ultimate goal will be the same – to achieve greater agility, productivity and collaboration across the company to increase the bottom line. Build better ships, faster!

Next Week

In next week’s post, I’ll focus on #4, rolling out an execution plan to realize increased productivity.

If you’re interested in learning more about enhancing communication and collaboration at your company, just email us.

Warmest regards,

David Males