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Riding the Wave of Digital Transformation – Digitalization for Shipbuilders

Shipbuilding is manually intensive and over-reliant on legacy processes and technology. As a result, shipbuilders are missing out on the benefits of digitalization that are being realized in other industries. 

Sub-optimal productivity is just one factor however. Like all industries, shipbuilding is also facing strengthening demand from customers, regulators and the public to increase sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of their activities. 

However, a lack of visibility across internal processes and the wider supply chain means that it is very difficult to exert complete control over project management and budgets. And without visibility and control, shipbuilders cannot achieve the savings and efficiencies they need to better navigate the uncertainties of the future while embracing sustainability. 

You can’t see what you’re doing 

The key to digitization is data and how your business uses it. Your business will need tools that support information flow and allow your stakeholders to make smarter strategic and operational decisions. 

Many shipbuilders still rely on a collection of disconnected applications for project management – Excel spreadsheets remain an essential tool, despite being unfit for purpose. Rigid and inflexible, this software cannot adapt when you need to change and refine your processes. 

Standalone ERP solutions offer many advantages over spreadsheets, but they still cannot provide visibility over your whole supply chain, nor are they purpose built for managing the complexities of Shipbuilding. This limitation means that your business is unable to properly plan new builds – or to react effectively to disruption and unexpected events. 

Improving visibility with an Enterprise Project Performance platform 

Instead, these tools need to be complemented with a single Enterprise Project Performance (EPP) platform. Fully flexible, the EPP is a single repository for all your project related data. By breaking down existing data silos, you gain an end-to-end view of your operations, empowering stakeholders to improve project outcomes and cost control. For an optimal result, you want to have an ERP as a financial system integrated with an EPP system for project and portfolio management.  

Using EPP you can: 

Assess risk management 

Collate data from previous projects to improve planning and risk identification – even before construction begins. In this way EPP allows you to define flexible project plans that are more able to adjust changing circumstances – and avoid foreseeable risks altogether. 

Manage cost and schedule 

Moving away from the best-guess efforts of your estimators is crucial to reducing over-spend and waste. EPP offers more detailed visibility it is easier to identify and quantify problems earlier, offering opportunities to better contain costs and impact.  

Improve data handling 

Dismantling silos allows for an improved flow of data across the business. This means that information can be used across disciplines, for much more than ‘just’ project planning. Improved data handling allows shipbuilders to extract more value from their information – and to increase their use of automation during fabrication. Replacing manual processes will help to reduce costs, risks and project overruns. 

Information is key to transforming the shipbuilding industry 

While the manufacturing and process industries realized the value of information for driving efficiency and cost savings some time ago, shipbuilders are lagging behind. Faced with demands for better cost control, improved project outcomes and a more sustainable construction process, their business needs to use data more intelligently navigate the rough waters of change. 

If you’d like to learn more about improving project performance in the shipbuilding industry, check out our eBook “Sailing the Seas of Uncertainty: Maximizing Efficiency Across the Entire Shipbuilding Project Lifecycle.”

About the Author

Ingo Kocke is Senior Industry Consultant for the solution EcoSys Enterprise Project Performance at Hexagon, a company that supports its customers in their digital transformation by offering innovative solutions to adopt new technologies applied to the management of large industrial projects. He has a Diploma in Industrial Engineering and Management and has long term extensive experience in consultancy, international project management and project controlling. Additionally his background in global ERP system integrations allows him to support organizations by improving, transforming and integrating their processes, tools and technologies to a modernized approach and todays digitization requirements.

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