digital shipyard

Digital transformation puts technology first. Here’s why we don’t recommend it.

Many companies have realized that they need to digitally transform their systems and processes. Because sticking to their legacy processes and procedures means constant delays and quality issues. However, many shipbuilding companies looking to create a roadmap to modernize their processes via digital transformation are missing the point.

The challenges of resource-constrained shipbuilders

As customer requirements become tighter, shipbuilders are shifting their improvement efforts from product-focused to more process-focused. In other words, though quality of the products coming out of production is of utmost importance, the focus is shifting to the quality of the processes. The reason for this is the same as other industries, because better process quality means better product quality. And companies use this as their competitive advantage.

Resource constrained companies are put in a tough spot when it comes to improvement projects because they don’t have dedicated resources to manage these projects. Small improvements and adjustments to your processes and systems are easy to make, but as customer requirements become more stringent, bigger changes are needed.

There’s talk of digital transformation in the shipbuilding industry, but it feels risky to move too far from the way things have always been done. The risk becomes even more magnified when there’s a possibility that investing in new technology doesn’t guarantee that it will get used or show a noticeable improvement in the bottom line.

However, you can lessen your risk when you consider technology as a secondary factor when it comes to transforming your business to become a best-in-class shipbuilding company.

The consequences of putting technology first

The concept of digital transformation puts technology at the center of your business transformation efforts. When we put the focus on technology first, we end up with fragments of a solution.

One of our InnovMarine consultants, Winston Pynn, had an experience working at a North American shipbuilder. The design team had implemented a tool that drastically reduced the design and fabrication time of the accommodation joinery. However,  joinery carcasses ended up sitting in inventory for months because the adjacent processes were not sped up at the same time. The overall process flow was not considered.

Another consequence of putting technology first is you may end up creating a new and improved process or system and  your employees hate it. Especially in a historically conservative industry like shipbuilding, forcing change on your employees will likely result in backlash.

So, if not technology, what do we need to put first?

Build a business transformation strategy, enabled by digital

Many shipbuilding companies are ready to build better ships more profitably and with higher quality but are not sure where to start.

The key to success is to take the main focus away from technology and start from building an overall business strategy. You can prioritize improvement efforts in alignment with your business goals. From there you can identify improvement opportunities and build a roadmap. Only then should you start thinking about the technology needed to support business goals.

This whole process can feel overwhelming because there are so many different teams and processes in your organization. If you know there is work to be done to improve your processes but aren’t sure where to start, consider hiring shipbuilding transformation consultants. We would recommend working with consultants familiar with the marine industry and understand the nuances of your processes.

But again, focusing too much on technology leads companies to regret their investment. Avoid falling into this trap by creating a business transformation strategy, enabled by digital.

The right combination of people, processes and technology will help you build better ships, faster

The end goal is to build higher quality ships, faster. Having a great culture, happy teams and employees are a critical part of making this happen. Also having the right technology to support your people and standardizing processes is important. We recommend thinking of your business transformation in this order of priority:

  • Overall business strategy
  • People
  • Processes
  • Technology

We all know the consequences of putting work before life. Similarly, putting technology before business strategy has its consequences. In the long run, it’s not sustainable and typically ends in regret.

Learning from the mistakes of other industries which have undergone digital transformation, the shipbuilding industry as a whole can work smarter by putting business transformation first and technology second.

To learn more, download the article, “What does digital transformation mean for shipbuilders? Hint: It’s not what you think”

If you’d like to speak to one of our experts about shipbuilding business transformation, fill out a short form and we’ll get in touch.