Maritime slowwlllyyyy enters the 21st century
Many of you may know that I’m a naval architect by training and, despite a career more related to software than ships, I’m still part of a proud seafaring tradition. Building and operating ships is fascinating! And, lately, it’s coming up more and more often in my software-centered world.
Part of this is
That connectivity can extend beyond the ship, to the system of ships and associated devices that make up a working port. How many ships, barges, tugs, cranes, trucks, and other pieces of equipment are in the Port of New York
I recently spoke with someone about port operations, and here’s what I learned: Yes, the port needs to be safe for humans and the cargo that is the point of all of this activity. But
Now extend that view outwards. If we can have autonomous
To get to this vision, we need a far more digital ship than we
It all starts with, forgive me, naval architecture
Many of these yards are
That’s true of every business
- Generative design
—of the hull, yes, but also of propeller blades, structural components and in overall system optimizations
- 3D printing
—of replacements parts (at sea or in port), of complex curvature parts in initial construction, of small-scale test concepts
- Laser scanning
—of the yard and production lines, to know what’s where and to have a realistic view for future planning. But also of completion progress, to check for appropriatefit, to iterate on design changes
- Factory optimization tools
—Eli Goldratt’s The Goal can be appliedto shipyards, too. Where are the bottlenecks? What can be mademore efficient, and will that help or hurt the entirety?
—not just for the sake of the 3D model, which can feed interference detection, bills of material and so many other traditional uses, but for all of thenewer opportunities it provides. Not to be exhaustive, but we can use the CAD model to communicate with the owner or classification society and other stakeholders. To train tradespeople in construction processes and techniques, and ship operations personnel —and to seek their input on potential changes. To create augmentedand virtual reality (AR/VR) toolsetsfor a better understanding of the vessel. To serve as the basis for a digital twin, should that prove of value (and I think it is, but that’s another blog post)
—most ships are already highly automatedto minimize onboard crew and to keep these massive power plants operating safely. But as is true in most industries, that data is used in the momentand then , generally,relegated to a data historian. It should also be usedfor maintenance forecasting and planning, to fine-tune operations for fuel quality and weather, to assess crew tiredness or capability, to prepare for port repairs or other work at greater levels of detail … So many possibilities without adding anymore sensors.
I could keep going but you get the idea. Rather than continue to list technologies, consider this:
The title image of this post is of the Steam Ship Bremen, built by my grandfather’s shipyard in 1928. Family lore says
Shipbuilding is a hybrid industry, a cross between AEC and manufacturing. Ships are typically more customized than not (AEC), but yards have the ability to industrialize some processes in dedicated facilities (manufacturing). We can set up dedicated welding lines, build modules or entire blocks indoors and offsite, and adopt technologies that control inventories, changes and processes — all of which would set shipbuilders up for more repeatable success. We can’t control demand for new ships, but we can build more effectively and set those ships up for success in a more digital world.
I would argue that it’s never a good time, and that there’s never the right amount of money floating around. But now feels like the right time to pick a process that’s not as efficient as one would like, and fix it. Then another and another. Shipyards, what are you waiting for?
And if you’re not a shipbuilder, what are you waiting for? You, too, should be looking at these technologies and thinking about the impact they could have on your business.