Here’s how one customer knocked down their wall and improved productivity

“We had made a significant investment in building a 3D digital prototype but the folks on the shop floor would never use it. We had provided them with what we thought were the tools and training they needed, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and they still relied heavily on the 2D MI (manufacturing information – drawings). When we questioned as to why, the common answer was ‘it’s just quicker to use the drawings’.”

“We had other issues as well. For example, our ERP system required the production manager to enter what had been completed for the shift, then exit one screen and do it all again for the PLM system, a total pain. Of course, the double entries meant we were making mistakes, yet it was the only way we could fully track progress. 

We looked at other tools, spent a small fortune trying to implement them, and just didn’t get results promised by the vendors. Either the system didn’t talk to our ERP and PLM systems how we wanted, or the tool was cumbersome and not easy to use. Really, we just wanted a single tool that integrated what we already had. One that could be used by anyone in the shipyard and could still be used in the Wi-Fi dead spots we have around the yard.”

“Our owners had invested a lot and our board was breathing down my neck to fix these problems, create better ways to manage production and, keep the project moving on schedule. If we were going to be more competitive, and win more contracts, we needed to get the conversation going. ASAP.”

To summarise what they said. They wanted a unified, accessible, and simpler workflow management platform for building high quality, complex vessels. A tool that would improve their project management and facilitate real-time communication of work packs for multiple departments. A tool that also communicated engineering and production changes, tracked build progress in real-time, and finish the job with as close to a as-built digital model as possible.

We invited this team to our Discovery Session and learned:

  1. Engineering blamed the shop floor, the shop floor blamed engineering, and everyone blamed production planning.
  2. The engineering managers thought the shipyard production team needed too much hand holding as they generated a never-ending stream of requests for information, slowing down both design and production.
  3. The production team felt they had an effective process in place, but their chief complaint was the work-packs often contained outdated drawings and they just needed more information.
  4. Production planning and the other support systems like project management and procurement felt that the data they were working with was always a day late and a dollar short.

Regardless of who was right, what they needed was a common platform where engineering, production and the other production support systems could share a common data set and work together to hit the yard’s milestones. Management needed insight into work-in-progress so they could keep the customers up to date and to also plan the upcoming production and budgeting cycles. They needed to know, in real-time, where the bottlenecks were, what the problems were, and where there were opportunities to be more efficient.

What They Tried…

Like many, these clients were doing project management by using their experience to estimate progress-to-date because they didn’t fully trust their tools. They had already tried outsourcing to get a custom-built workflow management tool. They weren’t looking to replace existing ERP systems or processes; they just wanted an add-on solution that would tie everything together.

Adding Human Resources

They were willing to put in the human resources, but the main problem was, the lack of communication and real-time collaboration on design questions and engineering changes. Production had detailed, but outdated 2D MI but drawings rarely provided enough context. Teams made changes on the fly, and they had no idea of the impact it had on other assemblies. Welders in the design office and engineers on the shop floor mean one thing: production has stopped. The shop floor was spending too many overtime hours sorting out engineering issues. Without the tools to communicate changes in real-time, production managers had wait for document control to reissue MI and that caused ripple effects, pushing out the project schedule.

Adding 3D Capability

They upgraded their CAD software and created a simple 3D model viewer, for the shop floor’s laptop. Yet workers were still reluctant to use it. The model viewer was slow and, as a walk-through tool, it didn’t help that much because it wasn’t able to capture critical information such as installation status. Crews were behind schedule and overtime costs were mounting. Despite the production design team spending long hours putting work-packs together, there were still many RFI’s and, to top it off, document control was a nightmare. Beyond using these models for marketing, walk throughs, and 2D drawing extraction, the customer was the first to admit that they didn’t really know how to take full advantage of their 3D model to enhance productivity on the shop floor.

Adding More Enterprise Software

There are so many software companies offering ERP and PLM systems for a multitude of industries, from aviation to aerospace, and some even have lightweight visualization tools. Many shipbuilders have purchased these solutions but found they don’t play well with, or don’t integrate at all with one another. This creates dead end data silos and makes collaboration between departments nearly impossible.

Hire Software Programmers

Our customers have put time and money into their business transformation to digital shipbuilding. They understand the need to modernize their shipyard. They realize how information-sharing can offer substantial efficiencies by connecting staff, tools, and supply chains. Shipyards have hired software developers in an attempt to create their own custom solution to integrate existing systems and databases. But software programmers aren’t shipbuilding technology integration experts or process design experts, as developers ourselves, we know building custom software tools from scratch is expensive.

So how do you modernize your shipyard’s technology and integrate workflows with a single source of shared and reliable data?

The answer is: it depends on you. There is no one tool that works right out of the box. However, the good news is we can help shipbuilders modernize their shipyard. Integrating workflows with a single source of shared and reliable data can absolutely be done. 

But here’s the problem: Shipbuilding companies can’t afford to go with something that doesn’t grow with them or that doesn’t demonstrate a great return on investment. They need a tool that supercharges, yet simplifies workflows. Something that incorporates design changes, tracks build progress, captures as-built data, facilitates collaboration, minimizes document distribution, helps visualize assemblies and their context, actually lowers build hours, all while talking with their current business systems. 

We recognize and understand that different yards have different competencies. Some will want minimal outside integration help, others can’t work in the cloud for security reasons, some have inhouse engineering, and others have subcontractors do it all. Whatever your situation, we offer a hybrid approach that works for you. If we set up a time to talk, we will help you understand how to think about the advantages of a mobile visualization collaboration tool, and we can discuss what’s best for your situation.

Three Benefits to Working with Us

#1 We’ve Already Done the Work
We have already done the research to identify best-in-class software for shipbuilders.

#2 We Only Work in Shipbuilding
We are marine business consultants with expertise in productivity and technology. Our team includes experienced naval architects, marine engineers, technologists, systems analysts, and project managers. We have a good idea of where your pain points are and what solution is the right fit. And if we don’t – we can help you source it.

#3 Our Assurance
We believe every business deserves maximum benefit from their investments in technology. Everything we do is designed to drive lasting change that is measurable and assures stakeholders that the business continues to benefit from increased productivity, quality, and reliability. As your business evolves, so too should the way technology is utilized.

Are We a Good Fit for You?

We have tools for and consult with shipyards of all sizes. We also have a practical understanding, of the size of yard that can muster the resources needed to take on the process improvement, systems integration, training, and financial investment that your business transformation requires. There are always exceptions of course, but generally here is what we’ve found:

  • # Your company is doing roughly $100m+ in annual revenue.
  • # Your average new-build program is typically above $25m+
  • # You have inhouse engineering as well as production design teams.
  • # Management sees business transformation to digital shipbuilding as a key competitive differentiator.