Integrated Shipbuilding Data Management

Posted on August 08, 2023

This paper was presented for the first time at the annual Conference on Computer Applications and Information Technology in the Maritime Industries (COMPIT) held in Drübeck. Germany, from 23-25 May 2023.

Author: Ludmila Seppälä

1. Introduction

Ship design and building require naval architecture, engineering, and technology knowledge. These areas are essential for defining the functionality of future floating structures and receive the most academic and computational attention. For a typical commercial vessel construction project, detailed engineering requires the management of up to 5 million construction components. Shipbuilding projects for marine structures typically last between one and five years and demand extensive process management data. This includes managing downstream and upstream shipbuilding data, materials, and personnel and data management for the entire engineering and production process. Unfortunately, these aspects are frequently neglected in research, but they present opportunities for shipbuilders to gain a competitive edge and benefit from digital transformation.

This paper focuses on integrated data management throughout a vessel's design and construction process, including extensive change management and overall management of all related data, including 3D and 2D designs, documentation, and bills of materials. The topic relates digital solutions for ship design and data management to the shipbuilding business process throughout the entire lifecycle of a typical shipbuilding project, from the concept phase to delivery and even operations.

2. Three layers: intent-driven design, data management, and process management

Typically, researchers use a design spiral to illustrate the shipbuilding process, which is a classic method for describing the cyclical development of the design through stages. It can also be considered from a linear product life cycle perspective, from functional to detailed manufacturing stages. These processes constitute a layer of intent-driven design with a unique complexity, typically consisting of several disciplines or function-specific applications. The other two layers consist of data management and process management. From a data perspective, the design process is associated with a vast quantity of diverse data types, including 3D models, calculations, drawings, and specifications, among others. A PDM (Product Data Management) system is commonly used to manage and control this information. Such systems, prevalent in other industries, have only recently been implemented in shipbuilding. The final layer is process management, which reflects how the shipyard or design office organizes and manages activities – a design for the organization, workflows, project management, etc. The interconnection of these three layers is where digital tools can significantly optimize the time and costs of the overall project. The shipbuilding industry was focused on design processes and tools for a long time, disregarding the other aspects. Data storage and management were partially included in the scope of intent-driven design tools, and process management is often overlooked as a purely business or organization management discipline.

This paper provides a generic consideration for the three layers discussed, humbly acknowledging that each shipyard or ship design organization works uniquely. This way of working often encapsulates a competitive advantage or trade secret. The primary goal of this paper is to find an underlying model that can help describe the overall process and pinpoint possibilities to adapt existing tools, learn from other industries, or improve software tools.

Three layers infographics

Fig.1: Aligned processes along the shipbuilding lifecycle: Design, Project Management, and Data management – separate applications and interfaces for each function

3. Intent-driven design

Shipbuilding typically employs specialized software applications for functional design and calculations, modeling software for detailed design, and various applications for managing production.

Historically reliable CAD-based shipbuilding techniques utilize 3D model data and automated production output, Seppala (2021). It is a well-established technology that effectively addresses the complexity of shipbuilding engineering, design, and concurrent collaboration. For large-scale projects, a large number of engineers and designers can reach thousands of individuals who require access to diverse design data, ensuring online collaboration and security layers.

Detailed engineering, where the majority of time is spent on ship design, typically uses intent-driven CAD software, Sieranski and Zerbst (2019). Some parts, usually equipment and units for various purposes, are developed and supplied by specialized subcontractors. Others are fabricated on the shop floor or onboard from steel or armatures. Designing such components is challenging, with the complexity stemming primarily from the high number of topological connections between the components. In addition, the level of complexity increases if (as is the case in the majority of instances) the work must be performed concurrently and involves multiple subcontractors specializing in specific design disciplines and providers or various technologies utilized on modern vessels. The requirement to manage complexity justifies the utilization of intent-driven design applications. Using multi-edit and preserved topological connections, it is possible to mirror and reuse similar structural components without storing each component as a separate 3D object.

This methodology generates vast quantities of diverse data types, including 3D geometry, meta-data, topological relations, product and work breakdown structures, and more. In contemporary shipbuilding, integrating this data with manufacturing execution systems (MES), procurement and material management, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) presents a challenge and a paradigm shift. Existing large-scale software solutions from other industries, such as automotive or aerospace, cannot handle the scale of shipbuilding projects and the particulars of topological connections. Therefore, it appears feasible to augment existing CAD-based solutions with data management systems and collaboration tools in order to organize design and production processes.

The number of components increases steadily throughout the design process, resulting in a rise in database sizes. Modern CAD solutions make it easier to maintain up-to-date 3D and related data, but storing the entire history of modifications presents a challenge and raises the question of structuring and identifying the required information.

4. Data management

As described, ship design and shipbuilding involve vast quantities of data, which arrive in specific formats and configurations and are simultaneously processed by multiple specialized applications.

Considering the shipbuilding process from the perspective of technology and software solutions, the composition of specialized systems varies significantly between work scopes. As their work often consists of engineering and design documentation, the naval architecture bureau would prioritize engineering, simulation, and design solutions. In addition to managing design information, a shipyard must also manage design, materials, construction, and personnel. In shipbuilding, there is an undeniable need for a centralized data management system that can manage large amounts of data, ensure data consistency and accuracy, and facilitate teamwork.

Numerous discussions exist regarding the role of seamless data transfer in the industry, with the most frequently cited initiatives including ISO15926, STEP, and OCX format usage or conversion of native data between vendor-specific formats (Sieranski & Zerbst, 2019). In contrast to the construction and mechanical industries, universal data formats and exchange protocols have yet to emerge.

All of these factors necessitate shipbuilding technology requirements and increase the complexity of data management. The idea of storing all of this data in a generic PDM solution may sound like a solution, but the volume and interconnectedness of the data raise concerns. A transparent data structure model can improve the situation, but there is no consensus on what such a model should look like. SFI classification, which is frequently referenced, provides a valuable foundation but is frequently modified for each shipyard.

The ideal situation might be described and is a centralized data management system that can manage large amounts of data, uses a universal data model suitable for different types of vessels and projects in shipbuilding, ensures data consistency and accuracy, and facilitates extensive teamwork. Data security, integrity, and interoperability are formidable obstacles that must be overcome. Lastly, big data analytics provides opportunities for improving efficiency, reducing costs, and enhancing safety in shipbuilding; however, managing large amounts of data generated by various sources is a significant challenge.

5. Process management

In addition to the IT and integration architecture challenges, successful shipbuilding project management requires optimizing collaboration processes. Due to the desire to reduce project durations and the involvement of subcontractors or affiliated companies with remote offices, concurrent design processes across design teams, disciplines, stages, and physical locations are becoming more common. This requires robust design data control and management and process management tools.

Several research initiatives exploring these areas form different perspectives, however, often focusing on a single project or single shipyard situation and omitting the underlying general model discussion.

Applying Lean principles to shipbuilding production is one strategy for addressing these obstacles. In their study, Song and Zhou (2022) proposed a Lean-based manufacturing process for shipbuilding that prioritizes eliminating waste and optimizing workflows. The study found that applying Lean principles to shipbuilding projects can increase efficiency and decrease lead times.

Using a similar strategy, Ahn and Kim (2022) proposed a method for aligning mega block production and scheduling dock equipment use. They demonstrated that applying Lean principles to production schedules can significantly boost productivity and decrease project lead times.

In addition, offshore shipbuilding production requiring robust design data control was explored. Semini et al. (2022) examined the difficulties of managing design data in offshore production shipbuilding projects. The research proposed a framework for managing design data consisting of data exchange protocols, security measures, and validation procedures.

Focusing on manufacturing strategy is essential, but the design process, including innovation and decision-making aspects, also requires digital support and must be considered. Garcia Agis (2020) discussed incorporating digital tools into the shipbuilding design process to facilitate creativity and decision-making. This includes utilizing virtual reality, simulation, and digital prototyping tools to enhance collaboration and decision-making.

Lastly, it is essential to consider shipyard business management in the context of the overall shipbuilding management discussion. Bruce presented the significance of aligning shipyard management with business strategy for long-term success in his book from 2021. It includes integrating shipbuilding projects with business objectives, establishing a clear governance structure, and fostering a continuous improvement culture.

6. Lifecycle approach and disconnected shipbuilding stakeholders

The life cycle approach in shipbuilding is a comprehensive and systematic method for managing a ship's entire lifecycle, from its initial design to its eventual disposal. This approach ensures that each phase of the ship's lifecycle, including design, construction, operation, maintenance, and disposal, is effectively managed.

The life cycle approach is founded on total life cycle management, an integrated strategy for managing all phases of a product's life cycle. For shipbuilding, this strategy requires a coordinated effort from all project stakeholders, including ship designers, shipbuilders, ship owners, and regulatory authorities, and as of today remains somewhat a theoretical concept.

The life cycle approach begins with the ship's design phase, during which ship designers create a functional and later detailed ship model. This model is used to simulate the ship's performance under various conditions. Environmental and safety regulations, the ship's intended use, and operational requirements are also considered during the design phase. During the construction phase, the ship is built according to the design. At this phase, quality control and safety measures are implemented to ensure the ship is built according to the specifications of the design. Following construction, the ship enters its operational phase, during which it is put into service and used for its intended purpose. During this phase, the performance and maintenance of the ship are monitored to ensure its continued safe and efficient operation. Regular inspections and repairs are performed during maintenance to ensure that the ship remains in good condition and continues to operate effectively. This phase also involves replacing components and systems that have outlived their usefulness. The disposal phase concludes with the ship's safe and environmentally responsible decommissioning and disposal. This phase entails the removal of hazardous materials and the proper disposal of all waste.

In shipbuilding, the life cycle approach is dreamed of as a comprehensive and systematic method for managing the entire lifecycle of a ship. This approach ensures that each phase of the ship's lifecycle is effectively managed, from its initial design to its eventual disposal, by coordinating the efforts of all project stakeholders.

Changing stakeholders throughout the life cycle is a glaring complication of this strategy. If the first phase focuses primarily on the functional design of the vessel, the second phase focuses on the detailed design and construction of the vessel, and the third phase is entirely independent of shipyard operations. At this stage, the shipowner can benefit from using the vessel's digital assets or digital twin, but this is infrequently the case.

Another preventing factor is the project's relatively short lead time, in contrast to other industries such as automotive and aerospace, which precludes extensive variants research. If the design of a car prototype can take several years, but millions of cars will be produced afterward, then for shipbuilding, there will be one unique vessel built to order and, at most, several modified sistership projects.

All of the factors mentioned above make using PLM in shipbuilding controversial. Although life cycle stages are implicit, the changing of stakeholders and the low-profit margins of shipyards prevent the concept from being used effectively.

7. Integrated management of shipbuilding data

Integrated shipbuilding data management refers to the efficient collection, storage, processing, and analysis of shipbuilding project data throughout the entire life cycle of a vessel (or the process of building a vessel). The shipbuilding industry has acknowledged the significance of digital transformation, and research on integrated data management platforms and systems has expanded in recent years.

Lee (2020) discusses the development of an integrated information system for the management of shipbuilding processes. The system was created to increase productivity by integrating the design, engineering, and production processes. The author also emphasizes the significance of a standard data format to facilitate the effective exchange of information among the various departments and stakeholders involved in the shipbuilding process.

Zhang et al. (2021) examine data-driven intelligent decision-making techniques within the shipbuilding industry. The authors analyze the use of big data, machine learning, and other data analytics techniques to improve shipbuilding decision-making. They also highlight the significance of data quality and integration for effective decision-making.

Choi et al. (2021) propose a design for a shipbuilding integrated data management platform. The authors argue that the platform should be able to collect, process, store, and share data from multiple sources in real-time to improve decision-making and the overall shipbuilding process.

Kim et al. (2022) present a digital twin-based integrated shipbuilding process management system. The digital twin is a virtual model of a physical system that enables real-time monitoring and analysis of data. The authors argue that incorporating the concept of the digital twin into shipbuilding can increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve the final product's quality.

In conclusion, the shipbuilding industry can benefit substantially from integrated data management platforms and systems that facilitate the efficient collection, processing, storage, and data analysis throughout a vessel's entire life cycle. Integrating digital twin concepts, big data analytics, and machine learning can improve decision-making and overall efficiency.

8. Conclusions

The proposed shipbuilding process layers outline the opportunities for shipbuilders to gain a competitive advantage and benefit from digital transformation. The paper has highlighted three layers that are essential for effective shipbuilding: intent-driven design, data management, and process management. In addition, intent-driven design is crucial for managing the complexity of designing and fabricating vessel parts. Managing ship design, engineering, production, and maintenance data simultaneously relies heavily on data management. A centralized data management system can guarantee data consistency and accuracy, manage large amounts of data, and facilitate team collaboration. In conclusion, a holistic approach is required to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the shipbuilding process when managing data and processes.


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