Industry 4.0 – with its battalions of new technologies – is now the driving force in the transformation of the manufacturing sector. But the production of larger projects, especially shipbuilding, is just beginning to meet the potential of transformative technologies. Here, Matt Medley, IFS’s Industrial Director of Aerospace and Defense Production, outlines the rise of digital shipyards for both military and commercial shipbuilding – and emphasizes the need for an integrated data environment to support an increasingly digitalized manufacturing and construction ecosystem.

There is no doubt that Industry 4.0 has led to dramatic changes in the production of products, machinery and equipment. The impact of Industry 4.0 can be clearly seen in many aspects of individual aerospace and defense (A&D) production, such as the creation and assembly of components from components used in the production of extremely complex military platforms such as aircraft.

However, shipbuilding takes this complexity to a whole new level by combining the disciplines of production, construction and project management. Now there is 3D printing, artificial intelligence and AR / VR, not to mention digital twins, machine learning and high-performance computing – all proven technologies and key players in the increasingly digital sector. The stage is ready for the arrival of Marine 4.0.

Shipbuilding is ready for digital change

The rationale and motivation for adopting Maritime 4.0 is clearly explained by Australian Institute for Industrial Transformation: “In line with all other forms of production, Industry 4.0 offers a vision for the transformation of the shipbuilding industry through the creation of” digital shipyards “and the adoption of the Shipyard 4.0 program.

“It is important to recognize how transformative such a vision is and how challenging it will be to realize it. Motivation and motivation must be powerful, and the benefits must be extensive. The ideal of digital shipbuilding and, importantly, sustainability, is driven by the prospect of significant improvements in productivity, efficiency, reliability, quality and safety throughout the life cycle of ships.

Market forecasts support this growth trajectory. Research and markets Data show that the digital shipbuilding sector is ready for explosive growth – from $ 591 million in 2019 to $ 2.7 billion by 2027, with an impressive annual growth rate of 21.1%.

What does Marine 4.0 actually mean?

According to a recent study in Procedia Manufacturing Industrial Magazine Published as part of the International Conference on Industry 4.0 and Intelligent Manufacturing, Marine Version 4.0 allows:

  • Automated integration of real data in decision making
  • Adoption and implementation of related technologies for design, production and operation
  • Reduction of environmental impact of ships related to production, operation and disposal, including emissions, underwater noise and use of materials
  • Affordable and sustainable work
  • Reduce risk, increase safety and security

It is essential that shipbuilders prioritize digital progress. Digital surveillance of maritime and naval assets begins not at sea, but at the very beginning of the ship’s life cycle, in the design process and at the production stage.

The success or failure of the implementation of Marine Version 4.0 depends on addressing four critical areas. First, implementations must address the breadth and depth of complexity that Industry 4.0 has never encountered. As a result, secondly, the implementation of the technology should not be in pieces, but part of a much broader integrated environment. Third, all implementations must establish the highest possible security within this digital thread, and finally, no implementation can ignore the need to build sustainability.

Complexity comes with territory

The difference in scale means a difference in appearance – shipbuilding is closer to managing a complete construction project than traditional production of parts and products. Think of the latest aircraft carriers currently in service and under construction, such as Gerald R. Ford of the US Navy..

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has a 78-meter-wide flight deck equipped with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system and advanced arrest equipment. The carrier has a capacity to carry more than 75 aircraft and can accommodate 4,539 personnel. The production of such a complex, state-of-the-art asset requires supporting systems for effective management of a complete construction project.

Even commercial shipbuilding, although often less complex in design, comes with its own set of complexities, such as strict import / export rules that vary considerably from country to country, new requirements for infectious disease control and high labor costs. to name a few. Global competition in shipbuilding is fierce and dominated by low-cost countries: More than 90% of world shipbuilding takes place in only three countries: China, South Korea and Japan.

Dealing with such complexity requires the support of an industry-specific and enterprise-wide system that can manage such a unique production process. Completion of these types of complex structures takes years and must be managed very carefully in terms of time and cost. This means that project management support is crucial.

This means managing supply chain processes to optimize the scarce resources and parts supplied by multiple second- and third-tier manufacturers around the world. This means asset management functionality that can manage maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) throughout the life cycle of the ship for those shipbuilders who continue to support asset management after initial construction and deployment.

Allowing transformational change in the shipyard and at sea

Naturally, the transformation technologies that are an essential part of Industry 4.0, from AI and machine learning to 3D printing and digital twins, will play a key role in Marine 4.0 strategies, and taking advantage of these technologies requires digital transformation. In response, the major navies have taken steps to digitize in recent years.

In 2017, the Royal Navy announced NELSON project, specially designed to provide digital transformation throughout the service. In the same way, the US Navy has made great strides with its own Naval Operational Business Logistics Enterprise (NOBLE) project. The program will eliminate more than 700 database / application servers and consolidate more than 23 currently isolated application systems, ultimately aiming to improve asset readiness both onshore and in-house.

Shipbuilders must now cross the digital divide. Any successful digital transformation program for naval or maritime transport means the introduction of a fully integrated data environment (IDE), which requires close cooperation from military organizations, industry players and, of course, software vendors. It is clear that a fully digital shipyard needs to be backed by a software system that is flexible enough to act on the growing volume and complexity of data to provide quantifiable operational benefits.

Take the IFS client, submarine and warship builder ASC, Australia’s largest general defense contractor, which recently announced a company-wide digital transformation program. The comprehensive program will lay the groundwork for ASC’s transition to digital shipyard, facilitating more streamlined processes, improved system integration, and expanded real-time data usage to stimulate optimized decision-making across the organization.

Security in the digital marine ecosystem

But the IDE and digital support supporting maritime 4.0 will not come without their challenges. Cybersecurity will be as widespread in the shipbuilding sector as in any other. This is acknowledged by a recently published document from the US Congressional Research Office US Navy Structure and Shipbuilding Plans:

“The digital thread of manned ships and autonomous platforms provides enormous opportunities for efficiency in coordination, operation, maintenance and cyber resilience,” the document said. “However, this thread of critical data, including the location, course and health of the platform, is one of the biggest opportunities for cyber threats and cyber attacks on naval ships. End-to-end cybersecurity and anti-counterfeiting technology need to be considered for a wide range of systems, from small portable autonomous vessels to systems as large as carrier groups.

The defense sector is well ahead of the curve when it comes to best practices in cybersecurity, and shipbuilders serving military customers will need to ensure strict compliance. Regulatory-compatible software can be a key factor in bidding for shipbuilding contracts.

To this end, enterprise software must be a strategic tool for providing information and cybersecurity. It must be designed from the outset, with security in mind, and address risks and threats throughout all phases of the software development lifecycle.

Sustainability is already part of any progressive manufacturing business strategy

Maritime sustainability has been a huge focus area in recent years, and Maritime 4.0 will, of course, have a positive impact on sustainability. IMO it was leading efforts for the whole industry to accelerate a major transition to fuel and technology in response to the climate challenge. Its aim is to reduce the annual CO2 emissions of at least 50% by 2050

At the same time, the military is considering more environmentally friendly operations for newly built ships. The Royal Navy recently catalytic reduction system introduced in two of its newest warships, which reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 97%.

A recent academic paper The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design at the University of Cadiz highlighted 12 key technologies for Industry 4.0 as the most influential to make the shipbuilding supply chain more sustainable – including additive manufacturing, big data analysis, augmented reality and more. In all this, supporting enterprise software has a significant role to play in this green maritime future.

Good supply chain optimization can help manage composite materials and new manufacturing techniques that will drastically reduce unnecessary emissions. Again, the IDE plays a key role here. When shipbuilding data is transmitted through a single system, enterprise software can actually assign a sustainability assessment to each process in the shipbuilding organization’s value chain.

Maritime 4.0: power to the digital shipyard

The link between Maritime 4.0 and the digital shipyard of the future is clear to both commercial and military shipbuilders. But making this digital change involves tackling the complexity of projects, components and data on a scale far beyond traditional A&D production.

As a result, shipbuilders and naval organizations recognize the need to move to an integrated data environment, because only in this way will they be able to reap the benefits of efficiency, visibility, security and sustainability of Maritime 4.0 in an increasingly digital sector.

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