Last year, we had a call with a structural production manager at a shipyard that builds large complex ships. Following the completion of a prototype, the business development team had negotiated fixed price contract for a sister ship to be delivered. The production manager was now under pressure with tight deadlines to deliver the sister ship in 2023. He needed suppliers that were able to propose solutions to help the yard meet its targets.

Our process improvement team took a look at their 3D CAD model and their workflow databases, ERP and PLM. The 3D CAD model was being used to extract and print 2D drawings for work packs. The databases, while easy to use on their own, were not talking to one other so data was being entered twice. Requests for information from the shop floor to engineering were piling up.

They needed help and I was certain that our SmartShape solution would solve their problems. They had a best-in-class ship, and I knew we could reduce their costs significantly.

They agreed to run a 6-month pilot program to verify that:

  1. SmartShape would improve their ship-building process faster with less risk of disruption than any other single change.
  2. We would make better use of the data they already have to improve their productivity as soon as possible.
  3. SmartShape would provide insight on work-in-progress to track if production was on schedule.
  4. SmartShape’s 3D visual interface would be easy to use and work anywhere in the shipyard

The Problem

Phase one of the project: We always start with gaining an understanding of what the biggest pain points are and see if there are any problems we can solve immediately for the customer. We also conducted a review of existing 3D models and databases and we identified upcoming milestones to be met.

After interviewing the leadership team and production managers, our team learned the shipyard’s immediate pain point was the welders were behind schedule. They were tasked with welding a specific pipe configuration in place in many of the ship’s compartments that would eventually end up as the compartment deckheads – a process that would be repeated 900 times.

After reviewing the assembly instructions in their work packs, the welders were finding the drawings confusing as the 2D assembly drawings were both reflected and inverted.

The Solution

Our team built a SmartShape configuration to address the problem.

The welders could touch the 3D model, enlarge, rotate and invert the panel they were working on in any way they wanted. Seeing the panel in 3D helped to clarify things right from the start.

However, as questions arose, comments were made in SmartShape, directly from the shop floor. There was no need to leave the yard to meet with engineering. Engineering viewed the issues in real-time and resolved the issues much sooner.  The result was a 45 per cent reduction in time per task and 2-person months per vessel in total.  

From start to finish, the implementation and execution took less than 6-months. During the pilot program, we went from 10 to 800+ users within the first 12 months of deployment. In September, they  “laid the keel ” on schedule and under budget. They also now have two-more sister ships in the pipeline.