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How mid-tier shipbuilders can transform their business, even with limited resources

There are underlying forces at play, creating barriers for mid-tier shipbuilders in their efforts to improve their processes and build better ships. In a survey conducted by First Marine International (FMI), data shows that mid-tier shipyards lagged behind their counterparts in innovation. The reasons are multifold, but despite the data, there are many ways mid-tier shipbuilders can also benefit from business transformation to digital shipbuilding, even with limited resources.

Mid-tier shipbuilders are lagging in innovation

Based on the 2014 US Naval Shipbuilding and Repair Industry Benchmarking study conducted by FMI, for each element around process improvement that was evaluated, mid-tier shipbuilders received lower scores compared to their larger shipbuilding counterparts.

The process improvement-related elements that were evaluated are as follows:

  • Attitude to change and new technology – whether the company had a culture of continuous improvement and their teams’ willingness to adopt new technology
  • Organization for performance improvement – whether there were people or teams dedicated to driving performance improvement
  • Process engineering – whether there was a dedicated process engineering team that had standard procedures for constructing interim product structures
  • Metrics and measures – whether they had metrics for each department and how well the metrics were communicated

The lowest scores reflected companies whose teams were conservative, had no dedicated process improvement team, no standard procedures and limited performance targets.

Mid-tier shipbuilders consistently scored lower than larger shipyards in process improvement efforts (FMI)

Why did the mid-tier shipbuilders consistently score lower? The reasons vary, but it’s likely to be a combination of factors, such as:
  • They don’t have the time or resources to focus on innovation
  • Their teams have trouble moving past legacy processes and procedures
  • The is no existing solution that can adequately address the all-too-familiar schedule delays and quality issues
…or so they believe. Despite all the limitations, mid-tier shipbuilders CAN overcome these obstacles and become best-in-class through creating a culture of continuous improvement.

Mid-tier shipbuilders deserve to be best-in-class too

Let’s talk about how companies can create a culture of continuous improvement by describing its attributes. Firstly, we recommend putting people at the center of your business transformation journey.

Taking a people-first approach to change increases the chances of adoption and sustainability of improved processes. Many companies are too focused on technology and end up with processes that are not the right fit for their team and technology that doesn’t get used.

Speaking of technology, a culture of continuous improvement enables organizations to extract more value from existing technology. Finding ways to use your existing technology more effectively is a great way to gain some quick wins as you ramp up your process improvement efforts.

Another piece of the improvement puzzle is standardizing your processes. Creating standardized processes will eliminate confusion, help your workers’ efficiency, and even lessen the pain of losing your best workers due to retirement. Clearly documented processes can help even those new to the shipbuilding industry get up to speed faster.

Lastly, improving how you gather, store, and use your data will help you make better decisions whether you’re on the shop floor or in the corner office. Making data-informed decisions will help you and your team avoid constant schedule delays and reworks.

There are countless areas in any shipbuilding company that can benefit from creating a culture of continuous improvement.

The mid-tier shipbuilder’s plan for success

We know that shipbuilding is a difficult and competitive business. There isn’t always the time or resources available to examine where you’re wasting money. So, we’ll give you a shortcut. These are the steps we walk through with our clients to start generating quick wins.

Step 1: Interview key stakeholders – outline current processes and business goals

Step 2: Analyze current processes – identify pain points that are wasting time

Step 3: Identify improvement opportunities – based on industry best-practices

Step 4: Create a roadmap – establish priorities and deliver rapid results

Step 5: Time for execution – improve your business one process at a time

A huge measure of success for mid-tier shipbuilding companies lies in the ability of its leadership to create a culture of continuous improvement. Starting with incremental change, it is possible to become a best-in-class shipbuilder with limited resources.

To learn more, download our paper – 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 process improvement, fill out a short form and we’ll give you a call.