VR has been a very hot topic in the shipbuilding industry this last year. The increase of presentations at conferences is one sign that VR has (or will have) a significant positive impact on our productivity. There are also many clients I have engaged with who have invested in the relatively inexpensive VR hardware such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. The cost of VR hardware continues to drop with Oculus Rift and Touch controllers only being $450 CAD. However, the people I have talked to have yet to leverage VR in their production environment. There are many reasons for this with the major one being that the hardware is only one of the foundational pillars for a useful and value-add VR environment. Software and the integration with current information platforms that contains the source information to be displayed in VR are the other key pillars. This leads many these clients to attempt to search and in some cases, create custom solutions to leverage VR in their organization.
Last week I attended Autodesk University at the city that does not sleep, Las Vegas. As with all conferences there is a theme that is supposed to thread all the things you see and hear into a simple and memorable message. For Autodesk University 2017 the theme was “Automation is Here.” There is no doubt that the future will look different than it does today in every single industry and in our personal lives. To thrive in the future, we need to embrace the fact that change is coming and not fear something which may not happen.
This is something that we all know very well and many of us are in the midst of a business transformation which I have discussed in previous blog posts:
Throughout Autodesk University I listened to various presentations and had discussions with various people in different industries regarding what the future may hold so I thought I would write about some of my thoughts, observations and predictions.
I am on the plane back from the SNAME Maritime Convention which is the 124th event focusing on improving innovation and communication in the maritime industry. As usual I was impressed with the event due to the practical presentations and the diverse number of attendees. “SNAME means business” was the theme of this conference and it had a great representation from the 7 faces of SNAME.
There was a lot of alignment with the conversations I had with people in the marine industry and the talks, presentations and keynote. The overall takeaway I had from the conference was that the maritime industry is really near the inflection point of a real revolution. There were a lot of discussions about how companies are working towards a business transformation or they were at least thinking of one. Some organizations have a clear vision as to how to accomplish this though many are still in the decision and prioritization phase where they simply do not know where to begin.
I thought I would mention the items that seem to be at the foundation of many of my discussions as well as the presentations.
Weight Management is arguably the most important parameter throughout the entire design phase of your ship. From conceptual design to delivery,you need to have assurance that your weight of the vessel is within the correct parameters to meet the requirements of the ship.
Even though many SSI clients leverage ShipConstructor to get accurate and up-to-date weight take-offs from the 3D model, there are some situations where more is required. In these cases users require a more complete and robust weight management solution.
ShipWeight is an industry leader in weight management for any type of complex floating structure. SSI has had a long relationship with ShipWeight and with the help of DRS and NDAR we have created a really good workflow to exchange information between SSI’s ShipConstructor and ShipWeight via SSI’s EnterprisePlatform.
There is a huge amount of information contained in our environment these days. Most of the information that various stakeholders require to do their jobs is accessible to them. However, the challenge we have today is how to provide that information in the context and format they can consume without spending hours searching. For example, your purchasing department will have a hard time consuming BOM information from a collection of drawing PDFs, but would have a very easy time-consuming information from a single Excel file with a list of all parts, assemblies, spools and all relevant BOM data (not necessarily listed on the drawings) that they were interested in.
The question I am asked often is, “What is the best way for other stakeholders (planning, weight management, quality control, testing and verification, subcontractors, etc.) to get access the most up-to-date to the information they need without ShipConstructor?”
Even though I am an advocate of implementing a PLM system in every organization from the smallest design agency to the largest shipyard, I do understand the business of shipbuilding and that this business transformation takes time. With the latest version of SSI products (ShipConstructor & EnterprisePlatform) there is a now a way that any stakeholder in your organization can access virtually any piece of information in the ShipConstructor project in a format they can consume. This can be as simple as a native AutoCAD drawing for lifting and turning, a light weight Navisworks model of a unit, a pdf of an assembly drawing, or even an image of a model drawing. The possibilities are endless.
In my previous blog post I talked about the Digital Transformation Illusion which some companies are experiencing with recent efforts of incorporating “digital” throughout their organization. Some (not all) approach their digital strategy with a subconscious mindset of, “let’s digitize exactly what we do today.”
This mindset will result in improvements similar to digitizing a map by taking a picture of it and using the same processes for finding directions as with the physical map. These marginal improvements to our business are how the Digital Transformation Illusion manifest itself.
We need to embrace the mindset that we are going through a business transformation (becoming a butterfly) vs. a mere digitization of our current processes (faster caterpillar).
It seems that almost every company is going through a “digital transformation” these days. It is not a surprise that companies are trying to leverage all the mature technologies we have available to us today as they can improve the way we design, engineer, construct, purchase, maintain, operate and even decommission ships. This includes technologies such as collaborative information platforms, machine automation, drones, IoT, VR, AR, point clouds, AI, knowledge platforms, improved visualizations, generative design and UX just to name a few.
Even though I think our industry has never looked better in adopting new technologies I still think there is a major hurdle that we need to overcome. It is call the “Digital Transformation Illusion.” This illusion is holding many of us back in achieving the what is necessary.
In my previous blog posts Change Management with SSI (1 of 3), Change Management with SSI (2 of 3), I illustrated how you would be able to leverage SSI’s products to manage change in an engineering context as well as how to provide consumable content to the diverse group of shipyard stakeholders. However, the ability to generate content rich information custom tailored for each stakeholder in packages still leaves room for improvement. Most shipyards are evaluating their information systems, tools and environment in their quest for a business transformation. This search is leading them towards the capability to be able to leverage all their information from a centralized information platform. This platform will consume, store and configuration manage information from several different sources including products such as ShipConstructor as well as distribute this information to the many diverse stakeholders in a shipyard. A common information platform that is being adopted and implemented in shipbuilding is a PLM system.
The integration of an information platform with ShipConstructor is a key requirement for an optimal and streamlined change management process. This includes synchronizing the tasks created in the information platform with ShipConstructor tasks, associating the changed items including deliverables to a specific task and disseminating the information throughout the enterprise.
Last week I traveled to Lockport Louisiana for the final NSRP Computer Aided Robotic Welding (CAR-W) demonstration. The demonstration showed how you can leverage the weld information within the ShipConstructor 3D product model to drive a 9-axis robotic arm mounted on a gantry with minimal user intervention. There was absolutely no programming of the robot required since all the weld path and attribute information was generated from the ShipConstructor Marine Information Model and passed to Wolf Robotics CAR-W software. This is where the weld planning path magic happens as well as the kinematics calculation for the collision free movement of the robot. This all happens behind the scene with no input from the user.
The CAR-W phase I demo which I blogged about before (“Driving Automatic Welding Robots from ShipConstructor”) was focused on unique flat panels. However, this phase II was demonstrated on a more complex assembly which has double curvature. Check out the assembly with weld information below:
In my previous blog post Change Management with SSI 1/3 I discussed the mechanism to have all changes a ShipConstructor user makes to the project associated to the specific task they are implementing (ex. ECO 1234). This traceability of the changes can be used for reporting as you would expect; however, it can also be used to generate several content packages for different stakeholders. Think of it as each stakeholder getting a customized set of only the information they need and in a way that they can consume. This can be a content package which includes BOM’s, PDF’s of production drawings, nest tapes, pipe bending information, profile cutting machine data, a visual model containing just the changed items and many more.
In this blog post I will expand the change management scope by discussing the scenario with multiple changes by multiple users happening at the same time which is the typical scenario. In this scenario you will need to communicate with external stakeholders as in the previous post; however, there will also need to be a way to communicate your changes with the other disciplines of the engineering team in a real-time true concurrent way.