Three reasons digital transformation initiatives are accelerating in the shipbuilding industry

The 2023 Shipbuilding and Lifecycle Technology 4.0 Event brought together a range of leaders in the industry to share their thoughts on the latest innovations and practices being developed across shipyards and ship lifecycles.  

As a proud supporter of the event, it was great to hear from the best in the industry over the course of two days about how they are utilising new approaches and technologies to make significant advances and tackle some of the challenges faced. As part of those insight sessions, John Maxfield and Paul McColl from Virtalis were pleased to provide our own views on how and why shipbuilders can implement immersive technology into their processes (and you can find the full recording of the session at the end of this post.)

Now, we’ve pulled together our key takeaways on why digital transformation is so vital to the future of the shipbuilding industry...

The need for sustainability at the heart of build strategies

Shipbuilders and shipyards are under increasing pressure to tackle the environmental impact of their activities, with a big focus on the topics of decarbonisation, recycling and second-life principles. This is reflected in legislation too, such as IMO 2023 which forms part of the International Maritime Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Strategy. The Strategy’s aim is to reduce carbon emissions from international shipping by 40% by 2030, and 70% by 2050, compared to the emissions in 2008. Therefore, many organisations are investing significant amounts of time and money in Research and Development to meet their own sustainability targets, as well as adhere to this kind of legislation.  

One way that shipbuilders are working towards their sustainability targets is by incorporating virtual reality technology into their design, manufacture, and training processes. Using VR, shipbuilders can test different designs and propulsion systems in a virtual environment before they are built in real life, and without the need for physical prototypes. This enables them to identify and address potential issues early on, making the final product more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. With cloud-based VR applications, teams can also work together more effectively without needing to meet up in person, thereby reducing the need to travel and emissions produced in this way.

Data – and the sharing of it – is more important than ever

Back in 2017, The Economist wrote that ‘the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data’. Quintillions of bytes of data are created each day. And as the shipbuilding industry undergoes its digital transformation, all the data it creates and works with needs to be carefully handled. It must be stored safely but in a way that it can also be shared safely with intended parties. When data is shared in the right way, it can empower everyone involved in the build of a ship to enable data-driven decisions.

That’s where digital twins and the so-called ‘digital thread’ come in. This technology can enable connectivity and collaboration for shipbuilders, partners and suppliers, with the right information delivered in the right place, at the right time. The digital thread is key to this. All the data about a product should be shared and exploited throughout its lifecycle, providing insight on its performance from design and build to in-service use, and then on to decommissioning and recycling. Sharing this data in a contextual, up-to-date digital twin can serve sustainability goals as well, by enabling engineers to carry out predictive maintenance on components that actually need it, when they need it, rather than focussing on preventative maintenance indiscriminately.

Getting comfortable with change is paramount

One repeated theme throughout the event was that the shipbuilding industry has tended to be behind other industries in digital transformation. Some shipyards may not immediately see the benefits of product lifecycle management but there are those that have begun implementing new technology and tools to improve their efficiency and vessel performance.

Though change may not be comfortable, shipbuilding can look outside to other industries, and apply learnings from those leading the way, to improve their own practice. Shipbuilding is in the early stages of putting data to work and it isn’t a completely smooth process. The enormous amounts of data need to be made useful, rather than sat in silos. Staff and crew need to be trained on getting the most out of the data, and allowed to focus on what they’re good at, with data collection ideally automated.

Industry trade shows and conferences, such as the Shipbuilding and Lifecycle Technology 4.0 event, are key in promoting the right technologies and the right attitudes. The industry comes together to learn from each other, rather than having to build from scratch each time.

Let us know your thoughts – do any of these points resonate with you? Are you now looking to kickstart or progress a digital transformation in your shipbuilding or maritime organisation? Drop us a line to find out how we can help.

Three reasons digital transformation initiatives are accelerating in the shipbuilding industry

This post was certified by Virtalis on Mar 14, 2023 and last updated on Jul 03, 2023

Review: This article is well-researched and provides valuable information.