PLM – Driver Also In The Shipyard

PLM – An Important Driver Also In The Shipyard

Siemens PLM Software for Shipbuilding

Located in the major port of Hamburg, Bert Geisler carries worldwide responsibility for the solutions that Siemens PLM Software has developed for shipbuilding. In a discussion with Ulrich Sendler concerning this article, Geisler describes in detail the strategy that Siemens is following and the success of this industry-specific solution. His assessment in this article of how shipbuilding is developing on a global level also to a large degree represents the current Siemens appraisal of this sector.

Some years ago, Siemens PLM Software selected eight industry sectors for which industry-specific add-on packages were to be developed. These so-called “Catalysts”, intended to accelerate the successful introduction of PLM software, in the meantime exist for the automotive, aerospace, consumer goods, electronics, energy, engineering, shipbuilding and medical equipment industries. Although not necessarily apparent at first sight, shipbuilding is not far behind the automotive industry in its importance to Siemens PLM Software – both in turnover and in the number of customers.

Bert GeislerBert Geisler during Shipbuilding fair in Hamburg 2014 (Photo Sendler)

Concentrating on the needs of shipbuilders for over a decade and extending its standard software to cover the industry’s requirements has paid off handsomely for this solution supplier. It is everywhere coming increasingly clear that particularly in shipyards there is a huge potential that can be well catered for in the course of digitalization. Industrie 4.0 and the Internet of Things will in future also be found in this industry wherever one turns.

Across the globe, however, this industry can take very different forms. The specialties and focus of the shipyards often differ just as much as the tools, methods and processes used in the design and building of the ships. The shipyard can perhaps be better understood as a hybrid industry – plant construction, engineering and discrete manufacturing here come together and overlap in a unique manner. This represents a particular challenge for industrial software designed for development, production and management.

Siemens PLM Software decided not to produce different solutions for the differing shipbuilding segments but to develop a single, flexible and global solution that would apply to all. In other words, a shipbuilding solution that would permit every customer to select those components that he needed.

Trends in shipbuilding

Much is changing in international shipbuilding, and much has already changed. Some yards have been unable to survive such changes, while others have profited. One trend in particular is unmistakable and applies across the board – the building of so-called standard ships such as container ships is declining because the market is approaching saturation point, is highly dependent on world economic fluctuations and is difficult to service in a profitable fashion.

With regard to navies, development is, as is to be expected, regional and differs widely around the world. In the USA, for example, the budget sequestration decided upon at the end of 2011 (because of the danger of the United States becoming insolvent) came into force in March 2013. This halved all federal spending, including military spending. When the special military needs that since the attack on the World Trade Center have led to an emphasis being placed on another adversary – international terrorism – are taken into account, then it becomes clear that naval shipbuilding in the USA has fundamentally changed in the last 15 years.

Strong growth is to be found in the building of special ships of every kind. The increasing search for, and exploitation of, resources in the ocean and at extreme depths in the floors of the oceans are important drivers, as are the erection of offshore wind farms. In special shipbuilding, above all else the rules of discrete manufacturing apply – whether for a dredger or a cable layer, a drilling platform or a construction vessel. Almost every single ship is unique and even the seldom-encountered sister ships are almost never the same. It is therefore particularly important in this kind of shipbuilding to have traditional shipyard processes take a very large step forwards with the help of digitalization.

Whether a ferry, a megayacht or a cruise liner – in size and complexity they can be compared to specialized ships and to some extent to cruisers and frigates and even aircraft carriers.

Marine ships in the harborMarine ships in an harbour (Photo Geisler)

As well as the special characteristics of the individual shipbuilding segments, in general and across the planet a rapidly increasing amount of legislation and regulations affect the industry. These range from those concerning CO2 emissions and the saving of energy through to protection of the seas against contamination and other hazards.

No matter the sector or region, in the future digitalization – as integrated and universal as possible – will here, as in other industries, be one of the requirements for achieving a leading position in the market or even for maintaining a competitive one. Traditional methods that still depend heavily on 2-D drawings and manual documentation are just not capable of keeping up the pace that is today expected in shipbuilding.

Regional characteristics

Worldwide, the shipbuilding industry has reacted in many different ways to the developments of the past decades. The EU (including Germany) has mostly stopped producing standard ships. As an example, the container ship business has mostly gone to Asia – above all to China, South Korea and Japan. Instead, the remaining shipyards have concentrated on building special ships such as offshore support and construction vessels, megayachts and cruise liners as well as on naval vessels and submarines for the navies concerned.

Nevertheless, even here they are by no means without competition. South Korea, China and Singapore have also taken up leading positions in the building of offshore platforms, while Japan is well out in front in the construction of tankers and bulk carriers and in orders for the military.

Asia has built up an enormous capacity that permits the building of a large number of very big ships in a short time. The Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea is currently the largest in the world.

In the USA, the construction of naval vessels has played an important role for a long time but suffers from the imposition of the long-term restrictions discussed above. Canada has an extensive shipbuilding program covering both naval vessels and civilian ships constructed as a reaction to the effects of global warming. Wherever the retreat of seemingly eternal ice fields has released land, hundreds, even thousands, of coastal kilometers are created that up until now have had no access either by land or sea routes. Everything is needed here from harbors and coastal roads through to coastguards and a naval presence. In South America, an offshore industry is developing just to meet the needs of the countries concerned. In addition, some important military projects are being carried out in international cooperation.

How shipbuilding differs from other industries

The difference between shipbuilding and other industries is many-layered. The engineering, construction, operation, maintenance and modernizing of ships can be compared in parts with the corresponding processes found in other sectors, but never in their totality and across the entire lifecycle. Moreover, this is exactly the reason why Siemens PLM Software undertook the development of a Shipbuilding Catalyst.

Barriers that arise between the specialized technical disciplines are well known across all industries. The use of specific technical computer support has not reduced the size of these barriers – they have in fact become greater. The computer specialist does not understand why the geometric product structure in 3D is the essential for the mechanical engineer. The machine builder has difficulties with the circuit diagrams and logic plans or behavioral models of the electronics and software. No matter how much the software systems concerned accelerate and make work easier in the various divisions, the potential offered by interdisciplinary cooperation has hardly been taken advantage of. This is true of shipbuilding just as much as it is true of other industries.

The break lines between product development, production planning, production and operation are also not something special. The value creation chain is in almost all cases still just a linear sequence of individual phases and parallelization is still in its infancy.

In the shipyard, this is aggravated by the fact that parallelization is not a “nice-to-have” but instead hard reality that the tools that support the various processes must cope with. A good example is the case where the hull of the ship and its superstructure has already been assembled but the construction of the main engines have not even finished. So not only do the placement and the connections have to be taken into account, but – with a priority that is just as high – how the engines are to be installed must be considered. It must be remembered that we are here talking about two- and four-stroke engines that, for a large ship capable of holding 15,000 containers, maybe up to four stories high and 30 meters long.

MAN BW diesel engineMAN BW diesel engine (Source MAN)

This difficulty, however, not only applies to the main engines but in principle to all components of the ship, no matter how big or small, from the electric cabling to the piping system. Such systems are not first delivered and then assembled together; the assembly begins at the same time as the development and manufacture of the units.

From its complexity, a ship – and in particular a drilling platform – can be compared to a process industry plant. Everything must be planned and tested in advance before it can be put into operation. And in the same way as in plant construction, the engineering involved in shipbuilding still primarily depends on 2D data for parts of the overall construction and models that are true to scale. The documentation of the various craftsmen and technical specialists has been kept in folders in paper form.

Once the ship has been completed and launched, it does not much help the shipyard as far as the next order is concerned. Even sister ships, which are not often found except for the Navy, differ from one another so much that the ratio of 80 to 20 (reuse compared to new construction), practiced in mechanical engineering for many years, is hardly ever achieved.

It would be good if at least the ship’s concept, which forms part of the engineering work at the outset of the order, remained the same. This is however not the case and it is mostly not trivial changes that are made during construction. A cinema planned for a megayacht may have to make way for a multistory swimming pool with a water slide. Or the weaponry planned for a frigate is replaced by something different. Moreover, such fundamental changes to the order usually do not lead to being able to delay the handover date.

All of these special challenges – and we have only mentioned some of the most important – can no longer be managed economically with traditional shipbuilding methods and processes. The alternative – and here there is no difference between a shipyard and an engineering or car factory – is thorough digitalization of the value creation chain.

It is the degree of digitalization that decides the competitiveness of the yard – the five pillars of the solution for shipbuilding.

The various standard software programs from Siemens PLM Software used in the individual links in the shipbuilding value creation chain can now be listed. In addition, the list can be carried forward with a range of programs from other manufacturers that are also installed. This is however just the status quo and does not really help the yards further. They are looking for Siemens to commit itself to shipbuilding for the long term and develop a solution that is specific to shipbuilding. Exactly that is now happening.

Siemens PLM Software has studied the processes in shipbuilding in detail and has split them into five categories (pillars):

  • Ship Design & Engineering
  • Digital Ship Construction
  • Shipbuilding Program and Product Management
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Ship Service & Support

Each of these pillars was examined to determine what steps and activities they contain and what tools and methods could be best used. Almost all components of the Siemens PLM Software portfolio were found to be capable of contributing. To obviate each section of a yard and each supplier having to put together and implement the desired elements from this portfolio, an additional aid, the Shipbuilding Catalyst, was developed. The Catalyst helps to configure the correct software building blocks for each of the five process pillars named above. It indicates which functions from which system are normally used and also offers best practice examples so that along with the software support, the user also receives support in aligning the processes for the future.

The five pillars are now examined in more detail:

Ship Design & Engineering

Design, development, construction, validation, documentation – everything necessary for an initial description of the ship to be built belongs in the first pillar. For Siemens, systems engineering functionality has a high priority here, because every modern ship is to a high degree a system of systems. This encompasses the explicit recording and structuring of requirements, the architecture and the implementation of the desired functions in the individual disciplines in digital models of the components, for example in the marine steel construction, the construction of the equipment needed or the construction of parts from composite materials.  And of course this process pillar also includes the required analysis, calculation, simulation and testing.

calculation of injection nozzleCalculation of the injection nozzle at MAN Diesel & Turbo mit Siemens LMS (Source MAN)

From this example, it can already be seen that all of the Siemens PLM Software authoring systems, from NX and Solid Edge through to Fibersim and Tecnomatix, have their place. Teamcenter is used as the data backbone and is well capable of centrally managing this initial ship data. The data includes that coming from third-party systems, such as circuit diagrams from an ECAD system or a ventilation shaft that has been constructed by the supplier using a 2D CAD system, but which is closely related to other parts or sub-assemblies.

The openness of the data management is an important requirement that applies to all five process pillars. This is because many software systems specific to shipbuilding have been developed in past decades and implemented in shipyards whose data must also be integrated. Moreover, there is hardly any yard that can afford the luxury of simply laying old data and old systems aside and starting afresh.

Digital Ship Construction

This pillar comprises the complete assembly phase of a ship. It is worth noting that the English-language word “construction” does not just mean “constructing”, but also includes the building, the assembly and the setting up. As already mentioned however, the physical assembly of the ship is somewhat different from putting together a vehicle or assembling a washing machine. This has an effect on the choice of suitable software tools used to digitalize this step in the process chain.

As well as data concerning the ship and its individual components, here the layout of the yard, the planning and the ongoing validation of the assembly must be taken into account and include the planned material flow and the storage locations for certain materials and parts. There is another important factor that in this context may not be expected, but which relates to the process of building the ship. To visualize this, let us again consider the example of the main engines – on the one hand, as we have seen, a considerable part of the ship’s hull may have been assembled before the main engines are installed. On the other, however, the engines must be installed in the ship and tested and commissioned before the ship can really be considered finished. This also applies to many components and assemblies that are to be fitted.

This results in a situation that is highly unusual for other industries – service and maintenance must already commence before the ship is even launched. As a direct consequence, maintenance, repair and service are work steps that belong in the Digital Ship Construction pillar.

Shipbuilding Program & Product Management

These terms describe the actual management of the shipbuilding project in the yard and include recording the requirements, the project time planning and the definition of sub-project plans for individual workgroups through to how faults are to be dealt with. Of central importance here is configuration management and change management. A shipbuilding project comprises a huge amount of parts, pieces of equipment, assemblies and products coming from a very large number of suppliers. Planning, configuring and assembling these hundreds of thousands or even millions of parts requires very thorough configuration management. And in the shipbuilding project, change management means keeping all the changes – from thousands of orders and ends up to serious changes to mean assemblies – always under control.

This process pillar also includes issue management, i.e. how problems are solved. Because the ship is built in a series of highly iterative steps, many problems first occur during assembly and must be solved during the building process but before completion. Such problems could include something as simple as scratches on a freshly painted wall that occurred when installing a large section of piping. They are listed on a to-do list on which nothing may remain by the time the ship is launched.

A problem could however be more serious, such as the main engines causing vibrations in a certain rpm range, something that may well require a great deal of post-assembly work. Here CAPA (Corrective And Preventive Action), better known from the automotive world, can be used to take corrective and preventative measures taken as a result of defects found.

Documentation, for example that concerning the Compliance requirements, also plays an extremely important role in this area. The more thoroughly this process is digitalized, the fewer breaks in media that will have to be overcome will be encountered and thus the more certain the shipyard can be that the ship will be a commercial success.

Supply Chain Management

Just as in the automobile and aerospace industries, global cooperation, not only between shipyards but also between the suppliers of goods and services is today the norm. While there are entire regions who lead in design and engineering, others are particularly good at assembly. Norway, for example, has a great deal of experience in offshore design but the building of the ships is often carried out in teams distributed across the globe, and largely in Asia.

Just as in other industries, the quality of the cooperation in such distributed teams is highly dependent on the degree of digitalization and the openness of the systems used. At Siemens, Teamcenter and NX represent the functionality needed to put together the packets of data required by the suppliers in order to carry out their tasks and then integrate the work of external partners again into the central product model – and all in an efficient and consistent manner.

Ship Service & Support

How completely can the data that comes into being in design, engineering and assembly be also used as a basis for service and maintenance? The answer to this question is decisive in determining how efficiently the service lifecycle management of a ship can be operated. In the best case, the service data should largely be capable of being configured from the engineering data – i.e. the field of service knowledge management.

However, this is not the only goal that the fifth process pillar of the Siemens PLM for Shipbuilding solution aims for. It also accommodates service engineering, which handles the technical engineering of service activities.

Service documentation supports the documentation of the service tasks that are to be carried out, the technical publishing and on through to 3D animation that helps the service staff to find the problem areas in the ship and possibly even supports and through videos or virtual walk-throughs to see exactly what will be needed and how a problem can be best remedied before they even start to take action. Service operations include the planning and organization of how service is carried out as well as quality assurance of service activities.

The end effect is that an integrated process is made possible – from the development and building of the ship through to regular or unscheduled service and any modifications required. In the near future, even the environmentally sound scrapping of the ship will depend on accurate configuration data.

Closeness to the customer

The first parts of the Shipbuilding Solution and the Catalyst are already available and will be systematically added to and extended in the coming years. Several Siemens shipbuilding customers are cooperating very actively in the design and they bring in important requirements, proposals and also examples of best practice. Some already use the solution but do not show their hand, because often the use of modern software tools and the corresponding modifications to the processes are decisive competitive advantages.

HHI ShipyardShipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries (Source HHI)

The Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) shipbuilding division is the biggest shipbuilder in the world. With 10 large docks and 9 Goliath cranes, this large team of engineering specialists has the facilities to develop and build a large range of vessels such as oil tankers, container ships, mass goods freighters, automobile transporters or frigates and submarines.

Several years ago, the company decided to take a major step in the direction of the integrated management of shipbuilding-specific data through the use of Tecnomatix and Teamcenter from Siemens PLM Software that would “permit integrated management across the entire process of sales, design, production and aftersales services” as General Manager Seung-Seok Kim notes.

It is intended to extend the existing installation even more in the coming years, for example to support mobile devices, an aspect that is enormously important in such a huge shipyard. And in the long term, says Kim, “we are considering extending the installation into a digital yard that will also support lifecycle services after the ship has been commissioned.”

Although at HHI a special system from another supplier is used for 3D modeling, its data is centrally managed using Teamcenter, at MAN B&W Diesel in Denmark it is exactly that 3D modeling that the customer wanted from Siemens. This MAN Munich daughter company has not only been one of the world’s leading suppliers of diesel motors for ships and for stationary energy supply for over 100 years, it is also a leading provider of turbochargers and power station units. Several years ago, the company moved from 2D construction to 3D using NX. The prime consideration in doing so was not primarily and not only the considerable saving of time in design. It was above all the great benefits that 3D models can now offer downstream processes, servicing not being the least of these.

Among others, Siemens names the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) as an example of a military user. Teamcenter is here used as the backbone of the design repository that ensures online access to all technical data concerning the various weapon systems to be maintained.

It would be possible to give further examples. It will however become really interesting in the next few years when the first customers report their experiences with the Shipbuilding Catalyst and the Shipbuilding Solution.

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