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Shipbuilding Technology and Education (1996)

Chapter:State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding

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Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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2—
State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding

Introduction

This chapter discusses four major areas of shipbuilding technologies (which sometimes overlap): business-process technologies, system technologies, shipyard production-process technologies, and technologies for new materials and products. These categories are useful for considering investments in technology, but in operation they interact and overlap. "Technology" is discussed in its full sense, that is, as a practical application of knowledge (or capability thus provided) or a manner of accomplishing a task, especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge. The concept of technology is interpreted in the larger sense because, as the discussion in this chapter indicates, the biggest challenges to a genuinely competitive U.S. industry are often matters of "soft technology," such as better marketing and cost-estimating techniques, as well as "hard technology," such as new hull designs. Most of the information in this chapter was obtained by the committee through the technology workshop and individual presentations made to the committee, as well as from the committee members' personal experience.

Business-Process Technologies

Marketing

Beginning in the 1980s with the elimination of construction differential subsidies, U.S. shipbuilders focused increasingly on high-technology Navy ships. Fewer than 20 commercial ships have been ordered from U.S. yards since 1982,

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

and all of these have been for the Jones Act trade. The recent announcement by MARAD and Newport News Shipbuilding about contracts financed under MARAD Title XI loan guarantees to build several tankers for a foreign owner is the first contract to build a foreign-flag ship in a U.S. shipyard since the 1950s. There have been several other promising announcements for foreign-flag commercial ships, but no other contracts from U.S. owners have been announced to date.

Because they are only now beginning to market commercial products overseas, U.S. shipbuilders are seriously deficient in commercial marketing expertise relative to their competitors, who have been successfully doing so for many years. In a recent major gaming exercise, representatives of U.S. shipbuilders, not surprisingly, showed very poor marketing skills compared to representatives of foreign shipbuilders (CNA, 1994).

Marketing in the shipbuilding industry, as in many other industries, is considered here to consist of the following stages: (1) segment definition and analysis, (2) product planning (for segments), (3) pricing, bidding, and estimating, (4) the sales function, (5) individual customer analysis, and (6) after-sales support. Government relations and environmental considerations are also significant marketing factors in the shipbuilding industry.

The consensus of the committee is that the U.S. shipbuilding industry is quite weak in a number of specific marketing areas. These areas include the fundamental understanding of the commercial market and its segments, the mix of buying factors most critical to each segment, and customer preferences and business economics (e.g., such buying factors as the relative importance of price versus financing and product quality versus time to delivery). The industry is similarly weak in responding quickly to the customer during preliminary design, knowing what parts are available, having a well developed ability to offer standardized options, and achieving adequate control over the time required to build.

There are several extensive, reliable, regularly updated databases on shipbuilding and ship operation available by means of real-time, online, user-friendly systems. For about $50,000 annually, shipbuilders can subscribe to three or four systems that are marketed internationally. Raw data, such as individual ship charter terms, vessel prices, cargo flows, schedules, tariffs, and so forth are collected by these firms and "repackaged" in fee-for-service databases. For instance, cargo flow information is usually purchased from various governments, the OECD, and other international organizations and repackaged for resale; price and vessel-movement information are developed from insurance and charter brokers. A quarterly compendium of historical data, including a set of forecasts for cargo movements and ship construction, is available. Independent consulting firms worldwide also offer tailored assessments for maritime firms, including analyses focusing on particular market segments or geographic regions.

Given these deficiencies in U.S. shipbuilding industry practice, what role could the U.S. government play to support the industry's development of commercial marketing? Marketing data are hard for government to gather because,

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

when useful, these data favor one company over another. Government must try to avoid favoritism in any actions in support of an industry.

The role of government in developing commercial maritime marketing technologies has been limited to basic data collection such as that associated with customs, census, and vessel registration activities. There is no generally available government source at this time that provides price, vessel-movement, insurance, and other commercially important information. In fact, governments, including the U.S. government, rely on commercial sources for understanding maritime issues and would be hard pressed to match the quality and quantity of marketing information and data already available on the commercial market. While data and information marketing technologies are, therefore, important for the rejuvenation of U.S. shipbuilding, there is little that government can do in this area that is not already being taken care of by the private sector. Moreover, shipbuilders must have people in their marketing departments who are skilled at asking the right questions of the commercial databases and at analyzing the data to suit particular market inquiries and yard projects.

The integrated marketing approach used effectively by foreign shipbuilders is one in which a builder's business processes and technology use are closely coordinated to achieve an overall competitive advantage. Experts in commercial practice suggested that U.S. shipbuilders should follow similar steps, which are already well known to U.S. shipbuilders, although they are far behind in implementing them.

First, evaluate the needs and requirements of the ocean shipping industry for new or converted ships, matching the builder's facilities, capabilities, and financial resources with those segments of the market that make the most sense, that is, those segments that promise the greatest opportunities for growth and for the yard to compete effectively. Shipbuilders should collect and interpret intelligence on trade routes and commodities from commercial and government services; from the builders' marketing and salespeople; and, especially, from shipowners in the targeted trades. The right approach requires more than talking to owners during periodic sales calls; it also requires conducting market research before owners are in the marketplace seeking proposals to meet their needs.

Second, identify specific needs and customers based on the results of the initial evaluation and develop initial conceptual designs. Design studies reflecting research and knowledge of the shipowner's particular trade provide support to sales personnel, especially when a shipbuilder is attempting to penetrate new markets. These studies give the shipbuilder's representatives an entree to the shipowner. In ensuing discussions, the shipbuilder learns more about the needs and insights of participants in the market segments of interest. Resulting ideas are then developed further by the shipbuilder's engineering personnel, who work closely in support of the overall marketing effort. Based on interactions with owners, shipbuilders are also able to refine their targeted markets and conceptual designs.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

From the earliest stages, conceptual, preliminary, or contract designs should incorporate production and procurement considerations based on shipyard standards. Later proposals will reflect the quantifiable cost and delivery benefits gained from using these standards.

Steps 1 and 2 form an iterative process, with the feedback from each stage creating new tasks for the other. Data and information collection, formulation of strategies and plans, and interaction with customers and suppliers take place simultaneously and interdependently. U.S. builders of large, oceangoing ships are at a disadvantage because of the separation of naval architecture from shipyard operations and the resulting knowledge barrier. The same barrier between design and production became evident in many U.S. manufacturing industries in the early 1980s.

Third, in later stages of the process, develop a detailed plan to market to an identified short list of potential clients, with the understanding, approval, and support of all key management elements in the company.

Fourth, implement this company plan including, as needed, additional R&D, product development (engineering and design), market testing (obtaining more information from targeted clients), or product-design changes to suit and sell the client (close the shipbuilding contract deal).

Some further observations can be made about successful commercial marketing in today's international environment. The various stages described above require a capable, if small, precontract design and engineering group. Expertise in conceptual, preliminary, or contract designs is not found currently in a number of American yards. The engineering and technical skills to support marketing must be established in-house for U.S. shipbuilders to succeed competitively. Shipbuilders will probably also need to establish field offices or have some of their marketers travel extensively to gather client information at the source. Equally important, shipbuilders will need to come to know clients and their culture. Appropriate leadership will also be required to make the right decisions about marketing intelligence, product-development investment, financing assistance, segment and client targeting, and so forth, as individual contract values can exceed $0.5 billion.

Because the approach detailed above is aimed at a targeted market, the designs developed are suitable frequently for several owners in that market. Thus, chances are increased for series production of similar vessels, with an inherent potential for reducing costs. Standardized designs can still provide variations in capacity (e.g., by varying length at the parallel mid-body portion of the hull), power options, deckhouse arrangements, tank coatings, and so forth, to satisfy owners' preferences.

By providing for these options during design development, the cost and production advantages of standardization can be retained. In practice, owners have found ships built to a suitable shipyard design incorporating custom features are more economical and preferable to ships constructed to owner-developed

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

customized designs, if the selling price reflects the substantial savings in cost and operating expenses inherent in that approach. (Standardization and its advantages are discussed at greater length below.)

A shipbuilder's skill in this approach can lead to unilateral or participant-restricted negotiations avoiding the less preferable option of participation in worldwide bidding. Most major buyers prefer to deal with shipbuilders they have confidence in based on previous satisfactory relationships.

Marketing can be and has been assisted by the U.S. government, including increased emphasis by the Department of Commerce at U.S. embassies. The Maritime Administration is developing shipbuilding market data and analytical capability for use in policy-making. This data will also be used in consulting with shipbuilders, especially the smaller yards, which cannot afford a full market research capability. Through the use of electronic bulletin boards, common data sets are being developed so that shipbuilders can base their analyses on the same data sets to the greatest degree possible. Industry, in general, cannot rely on government for much market research because the most beneficial information is developed in house, directly through competition and in coordination with other yard functions.

Because of their long absence from the world commercial shipbuilding scene, U.S. shipbuilders have not had the opportunity to develop either long-standing relationships or favorable reputations with prospective international commercial customers. An international ship broker reported to the committee that the image of large U.S. shipbuilders has also been tarnished by reports of difficulties with the U.S. Navy, their principal customer in recent years. An international view is that U.S. shipbuilders are difficult to deal with, rely on lawyers and the threat of litigation to settle disputes, are unreliable in keeping delivery commitments, and attempt to remedy frequent cost overruns by seeking costly contract changes. Both U.S. shipbuilders and others familiar with the circumstances maintain that many of these problems result from the way the U.S. Navy negotiates and administers its contracts—the number of inspectors and auditors from the local U.S. Navy Supervisor of Shipbuilding can number in the hundreds for each ship under construction. Even if true, these explanations may not diminish unfavorable perceptions of the U.S. yards in the eyes of prospective international customers.

Short of a wholesale overhaul of U.S. military procurement, the U.S. government cannot remedy this problem directly. However, government may be able to help shipbuilders gain an initial footing to prove themselves. Government does have a unique position with regard to international customers for U.S. vessels in that it may tie the purchase of U.S.-built ships to other international transactions, including commercial and military aid. Government can also intercede through diplomatic channels or use intelligence assets to assist U.S. shipbuilders. However, there is considerable danger of being accused of industrial espionage or "strong-arm tactics" that interfere with national prerogatives. Use

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

of U.S. government-sponsored foreign military sales also provides an outlet to international markets, but these contracts do not assist in the marketing of commercial ships.

Bidding and Estimating

The real costs of a U.S.-shipyard product are very difficult to evaluate using current information management systems; yet, evaluating real costs is essential for commercial practice, beginning with estimating and bidding. Current systems were designed to meet Navy specifications and regulations. In addition, they were designed to support an outdated approach to ship construction in which ships were designed and constructed system by system. U.S. shipbuilders find it difficult to estimate the costs of new ships for these reasons.

Activity based costing (ABC) is one potentially sound approach to cost estimation in a commercial setting. ABC allocates both direct and indirect costs according to an estimate of the resources actually expended by business units or product divisions in a corporation. The chief advantage of ABC is that it allocates so-called overhead costs according to actual utilization rather than according to direct labor hours or aggregate production costs. In ABC, production activities are allocated overhead and other costs according to actual consumption of corporate resources, such as sales, marketing, administration, and other activities, rather than by averaging across all activities. 1

Good commercial cost systems identify all the real inputs to a product; the value of system calculations depends significantly on the architecture of process simulation (a technology addressed further below). Because of shipbuilders' current use of the government "bid package approach," wherein a generic product specification is developed that can be manufactured by many suppliers, for example, specific component information is lacking that could make any one supplier's product most suitable. This information is critical for commercial bidding and estimating.

Estimating and bidding should represent the wisdom of the right interdisciplinary shipbuilding team. At one successful foreign shipbuilder, relevant technical, financial, and organizational expertise are directly involved in the bidding

1  

The following definition and rationale is offered by Michael O'Guin (The Complete Guide to Activity Based Costing, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1991, p. 31), "ABC assigns costs to products or customers based on the resources they consume. The system identifies the costs of activities such as setting up a machine, receiving raw material, and scheduling a job. ABC then traces these activities to a particular product or customer that triggers the activity. Accordingly, the product's costs embody all the costs of these activities. Overhead costs are traced to a particular product rather than spread arbitrarily across all products. In turn, management can learn to control the occurrence of activities, and therefore, learn to control costs."

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

process, with the head of the yard and high-level representatives from finance and engineering participating in the cost-estimation process for new ships. More generally, for successful commercial practice, U.S. shipbuilders must have engineers who better understand costs and financial experts who better understand engineering.

Product Differentiation

U.S. shipbuilders also lack good parametric design capability. Automated basic design systems that yield ship weight and cost estimates along with other information are available. Based on specification of such parameters as (for a cruise ship) number of passengers, berthing and dining area per person, and ratio of crew members to passengers, a system design for the ship can be obtained independent of hull type. Weight and cost estimates can be derived from this system design.

Automated design can be used to produce the greatest number of alternative designs, together with their total economy calculations, for the commercial customer's consideration. The following measures have been reported to be critical for automated design systems:

  • Develop a small but extremely competent commercial ship design and engineering staff that is not burdened by military projects and the associated paperwork.
  • Eliminate procedures in the commercial technical group that are required for compliance with Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and other military contract requirements.
  • Select up-to-date ship design and engineering software to run on personal computers that are interfaced to UNIX workstations for greater computer power when needed. Ship design computations should be performed using a common database that is carried forward into production.
  • Develop a detailed dual-cost computerized database system that can load historical Ship Work Breakdown System data and is product/unit-oriented to reflect how ships are now built in the yard. These systems should be cross-correlated, and the entire system should be set up to estimate the cost of large blocks for outsourcing.
  • Use these detailed databases to develop quick, order-of-magnitude estimates on a parametric basis.
  • Establish detailed (micro) cost-evaluation procedures, using industrial engineering/process standards techniques, to assist the ship design group in measuring the improved producibility of their designs. These cost-evaluation procedures should be related to empirical cost data.
Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

Sourcing

Effect of Navy Procurement Practices

For more than a generation of professional shipbuilders, the U.S. shipbuilding industry has been obliged by its primary customer, the U.S. government, to develop, design, market, and build ships following a comprehensive set of detailed ship acquisition rules and procedures. In recent years, these rules have been somewhat consolidated. Most of them have been documented and codified under FARs.

A prime purpose of these regulations is to control a huge procurement system (the U.S. government) and prevent buying decisions based on personal judgment, technical bias, or personal gain. Because military ships (including U.S. Coast Guard, Army, and Navy ships) are generally large and immensely complex, applying FARs, together with the vast array of other federal regulations, creates inherently inefficient design, engineering, and procurement procedures for both government and industry suppliers (the shipyards). Business methods developed to meet government procurement requirements are now entrenched in U.S. yards, especially those of private-sector warship builders and, to a lesser extent, U.S. Navy auxiliary ship constructors. Some of these shipbuilders are changing their methods so that they, like those few U.S. shipbuilders that have operated largely in a commercial shipbuilding market with a minimum of government involvement, will soon be able to operate in the international market.

The problems noted also have affected U.S. ship design firms, which have worked for many years under long-term, level-of-effort contracts from government agencies. European observers have reported a ''productivity difference factor" of about three; that is, for a given commercial ship, a U.S. design firm uses about three times as many labor hours as a non-U.S. firm. In addition, producing a commercial design for the Navy requires about three times the labor hours of a design for an equivalent commercial ship because of the Navy's design rules and review processes.

If U.S. shipbuilders are to compete internationally in commercial markets, they will clearly need to maintain closer ongoing relationships with worldwide vendors of major components in advance of procurements. They will also need to practice better just-in-time purchasing of materials and emphasize performance (rather than design) specifications in purchasing.

Procurement Practices

The alternative models of procurement listed below represent progressively closer supplier relationship:

  • traditional contracting for components through requests for bids;
  • long-term sourcing relationships with networks of suppliers; and
Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×
  • material control (with yard personnel working directly with suppliers to ensure the use of new technology, quality, and timeliness).

The procurement practices of U.S. shipbuilders are far less advanced than those of foreign competitors for commercial work. U.S. shipbuilders have tended to follow the first of the three models, generally placing detailed design specifications out for bid rather than trying to satisfy needs by less-tailored means, such as relying on vendor catalogs and using performance specifications based on a vendor's known capabilities. (Problems in using design, instead of performance, specifications are discussed below, under the section on standardization. See also the related discussion in Storch et al., 1994.)

One U.S. shipbuilder's representative reports, for example, that one of their most significant problems is the time required to get material because of the delay in getting vendor-furnished design information or (for government work) getting multiple quotes and justifying the choice of vendor. A significant amount of material now used by U.S. yards is, in fact, of foreign origin; but, although foreign acquisitions are common, continuing relationships with suppliers are not. This leads to critical time lost in procurement, especially when seen from the vantage point of commercial operations.

Foreign shipbuilders depend, instead, on small groups of suppliers with whom they have closer, longer-term relationships—relationships that often reflect other features of the "material control" model, such as a yard working with suppliers to ensure the use of new technology. Foreign shipbuilders also emphasize just-in-time approaches to material management, beginning with identification and purchasing, through warehousing, marshaling, handling, and assembling (Storch et al., 1994).

Because U.S. shipbuilders fail to emphasize just-in-time material purchasing and management, significant extra waste, rework, and monitoring result. Capital is tied up unnecessarily in stored goods and storage area. The current method of procurement is encouraged by U.S. Navy procurement practices, which provide progress payments based on completion of milestones. U.S. shipbuilders should develop more of a just-in-time approach to material purchasing and management to reduce inventories and associated storage problems.

U.S. shipbuilders will have to obtain many of their innovative components and materials from foreign sources. For example, various steel shapes used by foreign shipbuilders for improved productivity and reduced structural weight are not available from U.S. suppliers. This is also true for other important materials and components, most notably large castings and slow-speed diesel engines. Where there are U.S. suppliers for shipbuilding components and materials, virtually all produce for the U.S. Navy, according to government regulations and specifications. There are vast differences in manufacturing practices between producing for the Navy and for the commercial world, and generally U.S. firms are not price competitive when supplying commercial components.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

Until domestic suppliers offer such commercial items for sale, U.S. shipbuilders must rely on foreign suppliers. However, U.S. builders are at a significant price disadvantage because they have not maintained working relationships with foreign suppliers. Even after U.S. builders turn to foreign vendors they will probably remain at a disadvantage in terms of delivery schedules, owing to their small, initial levels of demand and the newness of their vendor relationships.

There are great sources of supply outside the United States that provide less expensive, high-quality materials that are available for immediate delivery. Offshore designers are often more familiar with the materials and production processes used overseas. Storch et al. (1994) recommend that U.S. shipbuilders develop a database of worldwide suppliers, along with some means of recording supplier performance.

Shipbuilders must work with vendors before projects to begin to understand what material is available worldwide and to develop specifications for components. Like their foreign competitors, U.S. shipbuilders will need more multilingual managers and engineers. (Worldwide source catalogues are not readily available in the United States for major or minor components, such as pumps, motors, and winches.) U.S. shipbuilders must use all appropriate means to build sourcing capability to compete in international markets. For example, purchasing offices should be set up abroad and shared by several U.S. shipbuilders.

Marketing Niche Strategy

Earlier it was noted that U.S. shipbuilders must target niche markets because the yards will find it difficult to compete in high-volume production markets where foreign competitors are well entrenched. U.S. shipbuilders must apply their use of technology in business relationships as well. They must select shipbuilding market niches in which they can be competitive, adapt the technologies required to develop competitive products, apply the product technologies required to differentiate their products (ship designs) from competitors' products, develop the process technologies required to design and build these products competitively, and last but not least, develop strategies for the procurement of everything the yard cannot make efficiently.

The last point is key to becoming competitive. If the right market niches are chosen and competitive products are developed, then maximizing total throughput for a given facility and labor force is critical to making money. High throughput in manufacturing is achieved by engineering products for efficient subcontracting of significant portions. In other words, maximize outsourcing to maximize total production throughput and revenues from a hard-core shipyard asset base and labor force. This approach keeps the work force at a smaller, more stable, more manageable size, with resulting higher employee motivation and productivity. This approach is far different from that of today's larger, government-oriented shipbuilders. In that approach, progress payments encourage large

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

in-process inventories, and little need is seen for greater subcontracting or related new technology beyond that which is developed under government-sponsored research. U.S. shipbuilders frequently need to build up quickly to peak capacity for specific contracts, but they tend to do this by rehiring laid-off workers.

In addition to developing technology to better outsource, such as better large-unit assembly/block planning and better accuracy control and quality assurance procedures applicable to subcontractors, U.S. shipbuilders need to develop appropriate business relationships with suppliers. These relationships should not be based on the traditional lowest-acceptable-bid response; suppliers should be considered as partners in shipbuilding. This requires developing the business, technical, and marketing skills and facilities for outsourcing work to subcontractors, and having representatives, including members of the engineering staff, available to the outsourcing contractors developing the design and specifications of products. Setting up and nurturing a network of supporting outsource contractors or teaming relationships with competing shipbuilders to construct large parts of a ship is something U.S. shipbuilders are beginning to consider. Several of the current MARITECH projects feature partnering in the development of new ship designs and methods for producing ships.

Even more basic than implementing a good outsourcing plan is establishing good business relations with international marine systems and equipment suppliers. U.S. shipbuilders must implement new technology developments, especially those developed abroad, and incorporate them into their designs, using the engineering expertise of the system supplier wherever possible. The builders should work the technology of the supplier base, rather than issuing shipyard-developed system specifications, and then try to obtain the best supplier base prices.

Human Resources

As indicated in the discussion of marketing above, the engineering manpower and skills needed for successful integrated marketing and design are not currently found in a number of U.S. yards. In the recent past, designs have usually been developed by government agencies (most often the Navy) or naval-architecture design agents who are not associated with shipbuilders. However, in-house skills to support the marketing functions described must be developed or strengthened. Engineering staffing must satisfy the needs for design personnel availability in support of marketing.

The question often raised is whether the high quality of Navy standards and workmanship may be an impediment to U.S. shipbuilders' commercial work. However, committee experience would suggest that this is not an issue. Even though the presence of Navy inspectors is more pervasive in a shipyard than is the presence of inspectors from classification societies, the latter enforce their standards as well as, if not better than, Navy inspectors. In fact, the U.S. Navy uses

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

inspectors from the American Bureau of Shipping to supervise structural fabrication of noncombat, and even some combat ships. Shipbuilders representatives report that some commercial standards are higher than Navy standards (such as those relating to pre-Stealth superstructure fairness). Although experience in other industries indicates that the blue-collar work force may require months to adapt from military to commercial projects, in basic shipyard processes such as steel fabrication, this transition can occur in weeks. Extensive planning is required for this transition, but most of it is associated with the new product line. The transition from building commercial tankers to building passenger ships would be no different than the transition from building aircraft carriers to building tankers. The latter observation provides some support for the idea that "dual-use" yards—yards producing both military and commercial ships—can be maintained successfully.

While the adaptability of direct labor is probably not so much a problem, the size of the current work force is, to some degree, a problem. There has already been downsizing already in the industry, and further downsizing would very likely accompany a shift from Navy to commercial work. Most European and Pacific Rim shipbuilders have high levels of efficiency in production, although for most countries, except Korea, labor rates are higher than in the United States. For U.S. shipbuilders to compete, they must also achieve these efficiencies. The result, however, will be fewer employees in the yard. Some currently competitive international commercial shipbuilders have also found it valuable to keep the work force down to a minimum, stable size (with some guarantee of job security), using outsourcing and subcontracting as needed. Subcontracting is used for a specific part of the ship, such as designing, fabricating, and installing the piping system. A major problem for U.S. industry has been the sporadic nature of the workload, which for many shipbuilders has led to problems of productivity and quality, such as the need for greater rework. Subcontracting the work may, therefore, provide some solutions, as it has for certain Japanese and European shipbuilders.

For similar reasons, motivation and training of the work force, by forming worker teams and cross-training, may both be significant issues in the near future. Developing good incentive systems, such as yardwide profit-sharing used in European yards, might also prove useful.

One U.S. shipbuilder has supported a major training initiative in quality-management process to reorient company culture and individuals away from the practices of the past, which were heavily influenced by U.S. Navy requirements, toward the simpler processes used by international competitors. This kind of initiative may be extremely valuable; at the same time, it obviously does not provide the full structure of a commercial management system.

The committee agreed that, in the area of human resources, the managers of U.S. yards, not the direct labor force, need to change most for the yards to compete in the world marketplace. Military administrative systems are far too laborious to support viable commercial enterprises. In addition, managers of

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

commercially successful yards will have to be as proficient in technology as they are in management.

Information Management Systems

As the discussions above suggest, U.S. shipbuilders lack the information management systems to compete in world markets. Marketing systems are not designed to gather and analyze customer data; bidding systems are slow and relatively inflexible; and cost systems are designed to meet military, rather than commercial, needs. While the United States clearly has adequate computer hardware for the industry to compete, hardware/software systems have not been designed for commercial shipbuilding practice. Software packages vary widely in their competitiveness. Management systems must provide up-to-date, pertinent information of the right kind and level of detail through a user-friendly format (including any helpful color graphics). Information systems must be flexible, integrated, and distributed. The systems now used in U.S. yards generally do not meet commercial needs.

The flexibility of systems means that, as shipbuilding activities are changed or reengineered, the various control, tracking, and accounting systems can be adapted quickly to the new circumstances. Optimally, this would mean that prior to a change in a shipbuilding activity the management system would be able to simulate the impact and weigh it against other possible changes.

The management system should be integrated in the sense that it can interact with and use information an data from the yard's various cost, accounting, labor, design, scheduling, and production systems. Integration would mean that progress could be monitored in all aspects of design, construction, and outfitting and that the impact of scheduling changes in one part of the yard on throughput in other parts of the yard could be assessed. Optimally, the system should include all suppliers, linking the elements of the enterprise.

Systems should also be distributed and accessible by different activities in the yard, so that work flow and scheduling can be adjusted by this means as well. Useful data systems will permit wide access and data entry, although completely free access and entry could raise serious problems. Technologies that might achieve such a distributed system include local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) system arrangements. Advances in such technology can be found in both U.S. and foreign shipbuilders. However, even though the general level of application of such computer technology is high in the United States, and therefore available, U.S. shipbuilders have been slow to apply it.

In short, management systems should combine software and hardware in PC-based systems to support rapid communication, monitoring, and controlling. The systems should permit high levels of data integration widely distributed among different disciplines and activities in the yard and should exhibit a high degree of flexibility to be responsive to market changes.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

Technologies for developing shipbuilding strategies and plans range from commercial off-the-shelf software for personal computers to large, custom, integrated systems fed by a shipbuilder's materials requirements, process, accounting, design, and architecture activities. Such simulation is related to simulation of shipbuilding processes as discussed in a following section.

The type of information and sophistication of methods need not be extreme for shipbuilders to realize considerable benefits. Properly specified, general objectives and the impact of changes in strategic thinking can be modeled on simple spreadsheets. More precise estimates can be developed and tailored from existing accounting system information or from other statistical data collected in the course of past ship construction. Thus, a shipbuilder may be able to develop a sufficiently accurate understanding of potential in a market with readily available software and internal resources.

There is a significant difference, however, between developing a notion of market potential and actually bidding for the construction of ships. The latter involves the ability to adjust prices based on customer requirements and trade peculiarities, including cargo handling infrastructure, draft, beam, and other dimensional restrictions, and scheduling requirements. To make such adjustments, a shipbuilder must be able to recalculate a vessel's construction cost quickly and accurately as bids are refined in competition. All of this recalculation can be, and in the past was, done by hand; however, today, through the use of cost models tied into shipyard design and materials databases, very precise estimates of cost may be achieved in short order (perhaps several days). The technologies required to accomplish such calculations are available commercially today although each implementation must be customized for each yard.

There are also emerging information technologies that can support rapid and accurate communication of technical data among suppliers, outsource contractors, and shipyards. With a good understanding of outsourcing and supplier base-engineering support, these technologies can be used to facilitate the process of moving the work and the knowledge skill to outside suppliers to increase throughput revenues and profits.

Technologies to assist in the interaction of customers and suppliers are significantly more advanced in the commercial world than in government. Activities such as "electronic commerce," where transactions are automated, and ordering, inventory, accounting, and funds transfers/payments are far better developed by private sector firms than by government organizations.

Insofar as U.S. shipbuilders will need to specialize in niche markets for the foreseeable future, yard management systems must also be designed to support the economic production of small order quantities. The shipbuilders could also develop better information management systems by building, say, six or seven commercial ships per year (perhaps through subsidy support or a requirement for cargo reservation for U.S.-built ships); however, such an approach is not required

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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for the development of commercial information management systems, as experience at some foreign private shipbuilders has shown.

The current Sealift program, through which U.S. shipbuilders construct commercial-type auxiliaries for the U.S. Navy, provides little help in developing commercial management systems because Sealift comes under Navy management control practices. In building Navy ships, for example, shipbuilders have to respond to many more on-site supervisory personnel (often 10 times as many or more) than when handling commercial contracts.

If the current Sealift ships were defined only through performance requirements, without invoking government procurement requirements, and thus were purchased by the Navy in the same way that commercial buyers procure ships, perhaps 90 percent of the benefits of producing a commercial ship for the international market might be obtained. The success of this strategy depends, of course, on the Navy's confidence that shipbuilders are willing and able to develop designs and on the Navy's willingness and ability to absorb the cost (partial or total) of unsuccessful designs. The Navy's ability to absorb these costs would also determine the number of participants in the program. The short-term increases in cost could be offset in the long-term by decreased management costs of shipbuilders. This concept would fit well with the increased emphasis by the U.S. Navy on affordability and versatility.

One important subject with regard to the committee's study charge is whether U.S. shipbuilders can effectively function as "dual-use" yards; that is, whether both military and commercial work can be carried out effectively within the same yard. Although committee members had varied opinions on this subject, the consensus finally reached was that dual-use production raises difficulties but is possible and may be a practical necessity for many U.S. shipbuilders in the current market environment. Many U.S. shipbuilders have produced military and commercial ships simultaneously over the past 40 years. Dual-use production has been less common in recent years; however, several U.S. shipbuilders are now working, with foreign-shipyard assistance, to move from full military production to joint military-commercial production.

Some of those experienced in this subject reported that segregation of facilities and work force is not required for dual-use production, although certain work practices developed on Navy projects would not be cost effective for commercial projects. However, military and commercial management and technical support groups must be separated, and two different sets of technology standards and business practices must be maintained. For dual-use production to succeed, management must not let complicated government-contracting practices creep into the commercial work. Some experts also recommended keeping common facilities and other indirect costs in a common overhead pool, especially for very expensive capital assets, such as drydocks and fabrication halls. With this practice, the yard's overall overhead pool costs will be effectively distributed. Competing in both military and commercial markets is a real challenge for yard management,

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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but potential rewards include reduced long-term business risks because of the yard's diversification.

Although there is a pervasive influence of government regulations associated with the building of military ships, shipbuilders can do much within the current system to simplify operations. There is a tendency to build complicated organizations to implement complicated regulations. Simple organizational and procedural solutions would come closer to the business practices required for competition in the international market. Likewise, the government (principally the U.S. Navy) can do much within the existing FARs to reduce the requirements for shipbuilders and, thus, help them simplify their business practices.

System Technologies

The overall application of technologies to shipbuilding is categorized as system technologies. The emphasis is on the overall process, rather than on individual material transformation processes. The specific technologies considered in this report are design, process simulation, standards and standardization, computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), yard layout, and mechanization and automation. The recommended improvements in the application of technologies are those needed to bring U.S. shipbuilders up to the level of technology application of the best foreign competitors.

Design

The subject of design was discussed above under Business Practice Technologies, especially the importance of the ship design process to marketing. Design will also be discussed under New Materials and Product Technologies, where the emphasis will be on developing new types of ship design for the market. The following discussion centers on the design process itself and on the importance of design for production.

In recent U.S. practice, naval-architecture functions have often been separated from the shipbuilding process. In general, there have been two kinds of relationships between naval architects and their clients: in one case, they are attached to the owner; in the other, to the shipbuilder. The latter relationship should be encouraged for the reasons explained earlier (see especially the section on marketing above).

The ship design process has become more computer oriented, with most computations and almost all drawing done today in an electronic format. However, various computer software packages have been developed separately, such as packages for naval architectural calculations of structural analysis and hydrostatics and for the numerical drafting of drawings. Several systems are being developed to ensure that all engineering calculations and other design information are drawn from a common database. However, such systems should extend beyond

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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the design office. The database should originate in the conceptual design that is part of marketing and carry over into production to ensure a smooth flow of information.

As was touched on briefly above, the design process should be better integrated with production. In general, ships should be designed with producibility in mind if they are to be built at a competitive cost. Developing a common database for design and production can be a great help in this area because the communication between design and production is eased, and the designer is more easily able to produce information that is useful for numerically controlled manufacture.

A major weakness of modern user-friendly computer hardware and software systems is that it is too easy to substitute computer-calculated results for well-thought-out solutions arrived at by basic approaches using simple tools (like a hand calculator). Therefore, computer output results should be checked by capable engineers who can use their knowledge of basic technical relationships and empirical data to avoid incorporating poor, computer-generated answers into design solutions.

Process Simulation

Process simulation offers a way to analyze processes, identify bottlenecks, and make cost-effective improvements. Often in manufacturing, relatively simple simulations can make a big difference. Process simulation can help overcome deficiencies of layout, particularly in older yards, where basic arrangements and boundaries are set. These yards may also be short of capital; therefore, major process improvements must be made with few dollars.

In assessing proposed production methods, it is important not only to consider the stage of the process to which they are directed but also to consider fully the possible effects of the proposed process changes on upstream and downstream activities. Changes can be selected and sequenced to achieve minimum disruption.

Process simulation can reveal which processes have no value to the customer, and these processes can be eliminated. Process simulation can also help organize the firm around process flows instead of around functional departments or activities of no value to the customer. Simulation is being used by some foreign shipbuilders to design automation improvements.

Of the six system technology areas surveyed by the committee, process simulation must receive the highest priority, for it gives structure to all the other efforts to improve the competitiveness of U.S. shipbuilders. This technology could also take advantage of U.S. expertise in computer simulation. Both defense and nondefense computer simulation in the United States are well advanced and are as good or better than in any other competitor nation. The United States can also apply technological expertise in product simulation to design and marketing.

As in other modeling, an incremental approach should be used to develop the

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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optimal simulation of shipyard processes. The architecture of the simulation could be designed up front, and the development of subsequent modules could represent stages of the production process refined through successive approximations. Experience has shown that too much simulation can be undertaken at one time. Failure to refine a model by adequate intermittent empirical tests can lead to an expensive failure.

Standards and Standardization

Shipbuilders must work to reduce the complexity and variability of processes. The benefits are not only lower costs but also higher quality, greater reliability, less maintenance, and more precise tolerances. With standardization, the resources and scheduling for production are predictable, and processes can be managed; contract bids can be rationally estimated; and inventories of spare parts can be reduced. Standardized production processes also allow for continuous improvement because problems of stable processes can be analyzed.

Stability of processes is essential to worldwide competitiveness in the shipbuilding industry today. Standardization has provided the basis for the productivity of Japanese shipbuilding and for other industries internationally, including automobile and aircraft manufacturing. (Japanese shipbuilders have communicated important principles of manufacturing control to their main suppliers as well—another factor to which their success has been attributed (see Storch et al., 1994).

Traditional U.S. shipbuilding processes are exceptionally unstable, involving a lot of rework and disrupted schedules. Problems of outdated production processes have been exacerbated by the almost exclusive emphasis in the United States in recent years on producing military vessels. Even with batch production of these ships, there has been much expensive customization, and many engineering changes have been requested after orders were placed.

Standardization can be usefully carried out in a variety of areas, including: parts; ship designs; working methods and related operator training; and through the use of administrative procedures to control changes made or other variability in parts or working methods. (Storch [1994] provides more detail.) Variety can often be effectively produced with little or no loss of performance and at lower cost, with faster delivery and higher quality, by offering limited sets of standardized options. This strategy is used successfully by the automobile industry, as well as by other shipbuilders. Without standardization, the use of such technologies as CAD/CAM, modern robotic welding systems, or the International Standards Organization (ISO) 9000 quality management code are unlikely to produce notable improvement.

A metric to measure improvement in this area might be the number of distinct parts. Other industries have sought 30 percent reductions in the number of parts in given products or product lines. Shipbuilders need to develop similar goals. For example, engineers should be given incentives to use established part

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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designs instead of developing new ones. (Storch et al., 1994, reviews various metrics for assessing production processes [pp. 76-81].)

The U.S. Coast Guard has been addressing the important related subject of harmonizing U.S. Coast Guard regulations with international standards, an extremely valuable contribution to increasing the efficiency of U.S. shipbuilding. The U.S. Coast Guard is now responsive to reducing or eliminating rules and regulations and to changing Coast Guard practices to follow international guidelines. (ISO efforts are now working through the International Maritime Organization on this development.) These changes will make it more acceptable to use foreign equipment. Committee members estimated, for example, that in recent years foreign component vendors have charged a premium of about 15 percent for procurement to U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a value considered a ''fear plus opportunity factor." Another advantage of using international standards is that the need for translators and the errors they can introduce is eliminated.

International standards also represent true commercial standards for products made for the commercial market. This is in contrast to some U.S. commercial standards, which are actually converted military specifications that do not represent items intended for use on commercial ships. The use of international commercial standards by U.S. shipbuilders not only ensures acceptable international quality but can also help support a domestic industry of suppliers.

U.S. shipbuilders must adapt to the metric system to efficiently produce both military and commercial ships. Procurement on the international market, which offers only metric parts, will be required for commercial ships and could, at the same time, provide commercial/naval consistency in the production of new U.S. Navy ship designs.

Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing

An integrated CAD/CAM system, properly used, can make material acquisition, design, and construction faster and automate much of the design effort. CAD/CAM also drives processes toward standardization. But without improvements in process flow, material acquisition, and standardization—without reengineering the firm first—CAD/CAM methods cannot provide these benefits. U.S. shipbuilders are generally as well equipped in this respect as their competitors, although they are behind the most advanced yards in the world. Continuing normal evolution should keep U.S. shipbuilders competitive in CAD/CAM technology.

The value of CAD/CAM is only partially realized because standardization is inadequate, and capital to upgrade is not consistently available. However, evolutionary upgrading of CAD/CAM systems should continue. For CAD/CAM systems to offer their full potential, greater emphasis should also be given to the standardization of parts, design standards, and process standards.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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Yard Layout

Most, but not all, U.S. shipyards were built decades ago to suit the needs of vastly different ships than the ones in demand today. Little can be done to change the boundaries and configurations of these yards. Through process simulation, however, bottlenecks in the work flow can be identified and offset by investing in process improvements. Because the geography of U.S. yards is largely frozen, process simulation becomes that much more important in assessing the value of specific capital investments. Without process simulation, managers tend to invest in more obvious measures, such as large cranes, when simpler and cheaper improvements may be more cost effective. Storch et al. (1994) observe that the greatest impacts on productivity come from emphasizing the development of efficient processes that are statistically under control.

Proposed changes in yard layout or other facilities must be carefully assessed for downstream and upstream effects as well as immediate effects, before proceeding. These changes should be undertaken using a team approach that includes facility personnel, design engineers, production planners/process control personnel, and material handling experts, as well as company consultant specialists, to analyze the production throughput for optimum results and improvement. Meaningful productivity gains are most likely if the builder develops a team approach that includes input from a representative group of production workers.

U.S. shipbuilders might be able to eliminate large amounts of material handling by modifying layouts, but they should be able to compete in spite of their current constrained geography. Many foreign yards are just as constrained, but this is not a major obstacle.

Mechanization and Automation

Mechanization and automation include measures, such as mechanically linked assembly lines and robots, that reduce labor requirements and improve the quality and repeatability of processes. U.S. and foreign shipbuilders make similar use of mechanization and automation for panel lines. Advanced automation, with robot welding and assembly, offers opportunities for in-process monitoring of quality and production efficiency; the high cost, however, must be justified by high volume and high labor costs. On the negative side, automation and mechanization tend to reduce flexibility. Their use will also be limited by the fact that U.S. shipbuilders will probably be producing very small lot sizes for the foreseeable future.

Shipyard Production Processes Technology

Shipyard production processes include the processes, equipment, planning, and other activities used to transform purchased materials, such as raw steel plates, structural shapes, components, and systems, into completed products. Many of

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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these processes are required to build a ship, including fabrication, assembly, outfitting, erecting, and testing and their associated functions, such as material handling and painting.

For this study, the shipyard production processes of material handling, accuracy control, steel fabrication, block assembly and erection, outfitting, blasting and coating, and testing were investigated for the application of technology compared to foreign yards and for potential impact on the international competitiveness of U.S. shipbuilding.

Material Handling

The principal goal in material handling is that the material be available when the worker needs it and preferably not before. Material handling encompasses not only equipment but also the logistics and planning needed to obtain and move the material. The items handled in a shipyard vary in size from piece-parts that can be handled manually to large ship sections that weigh more than 1,000 tons.

The specific types of material-handling equipment are dependent on the specific yard and its products. Thus, material-handling costs, problems, and opportunities are unique to each yard, depending on layout, facilities, process flow, product, and ability to eliminate unnecessary handling through effective planning. However, material handling is in general a significant cost driver in ship construction.

One means of material handling is using large cranes for moving large assemblies. During the 1970s, there was increasing emphasis on installing larger crane capacity to lift the larger subassemblies and modules being produced in building ships. With the subsequent production of even larger modules and blocks, new material transporters that go under the blocks, support them at many points, and move them while only lifting them slightly have been emphasized.

Clearly, yard facilities must be able to support the erection of blocks into the dock. "Even with the constraints of existing shipyard layouts, it has been found that ground-level transport systems require less capital investment than increased-lift-capability cranes. Also, all the non-value-added work that is necessary for heavy lifts, such as padeyes, temporary strengthening, is eliminated, and productivity is improved. … The need for increased berth cranage capacity to handle the larger blocks can be avoided by assembling complete 'ring blocks.' The superstructure/deckhouse and possibly main engine would then be the determining factors for the capacity of the berth cranage" (Storch et al., 1994).

The other aspect of material handling is controlling numerous small parts, such as brackets and pipe hangers, that make up the larger assemblies. Most U.S. shipbuilders today use bar codes to identify parts. Although the use of bar codes could be improved, the competitive impact of this improvement would be small.

It is less important that U.S. shipbuilders spend large sums on new material-handling equipment than that they use what they have more efficiently. Although

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

U.S. shipbuilders are not the most efficient in handling materials, they are not at a major disadvantage using cranes and transporters. The best opportunities for U.S. shipbuilders in material handling are in up-front planning, reducing the quantity of parts, streamlining processes, and developing more effective sourcing and building strategies.

Accuracy Control

Accuracy control is the ability to regulate dimension as a management tool for continuously improving productivity. Without accuracy control, interim products will not fit together as designed, resulting in loss of the savings from in-shop construction and equipment package development.

The technique of group technology as applied to shipbuilding means building a block or unit of the entire ship at one time and in one location, with the piping, ducting, painting and the like done by a single crew. The advantages of group technology include lower labor and material handling costs because a large amount of work can be done in one location. For the advantages of group technology to be fully realized, however, shipyards must have advanced accuracy control systems so the separate pieces will fit together properly with a minimum of rework.

There are two kinds of accuracy control: dimensional process control and statistical process control. Dimensional process control is the process of predicting distortion during welding so that parts can be cut and shaped to the correct dimensions. Statistical process control is the process of measuring dimensions during production to ensure that needed tolerances are met.

These techniques are critical to building large ship sections without trim or distortion. (Trim and distortion are not desirable because of unnecessary material costs and the high cost of trimming and straightening the sections.) By using accuracy control techniques, some foreign yards are building "neat" units, that is, cutting steel to final dimensions without the accompanying material waste or the need for final trimming during assembly.

The general level of application of accuracy control by U.S. shipyards today is low in comparison to many foreign shipbuilders. A large financial commitment is not required to implement an accuracy-control program. Rather, strong management commitment and understanding are required.

Steel Fabrication

Fabrication is the process of cutting steel plate and shapes to correct dimensions, then welding individual pieces together to form a larger assembly. The state of the art is to use electronic design data to drive numerically controlled (NC) equipment in cutting steel plates and structural shapes (without curvature).

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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U.S. shipbuilders compare favorably in flat plate burning: NC plate burning is essentially standard practice in all U.S. yards.

There are no major differences between foreign and U.S. yards in rolling/forming plates, except in the use of line heating, which is used in many foreign yards but is not commonly used in the United States. U.S. yards are behind in the application of technology for automated cutting and prepping of structural shapes (e.g., bulb flats, T's, flat bars). Only one U.S. shipbuilder is known to have an automated profile line (funded under Manufacturing Technology Program [MANTECH]).

Block Assembly and Erection

The terms "block" and "unit" are often used interchangeably to describe the basic building blocks for erecting a ship in the dock. These units consist of the fully painted steel structure of a portion of the ship, with most piping, wiring, equipment and machinery installed. After welding the structure of the unit together in a fabrication shop, the units are transported to an assembly shop where the outfitting is performed. Then the units are transported to the building dock to be joined with other units of the ship.

To shorten build times, increase throughput, and make effective use of the drydock, shipbuilders should concentrate on producing optimally sized (not necessarily the largest) erection blocks (Storch et al., 1994). U.S. shipbuilders are behind in this area of production technologies, particularly in the use of automation in the fabrication of the steel structure.

Block size and erection process must be strongly linked. This is where it all comes together—accuracy control, build strategy, block size and scope, and outfitting.

Outfitting

Outfitting refers to the systems, equipment, and materials that go into a ship beyond the steel structure. Outfitting generally includes the material and labor for pipe and pipe hangers; electrical wiring, wireways, hangers, and the like; joiner work, such as cabinets, paneling, woodwork, and trim; machinery, such as pumps and valves; and painting. Outfitting is generally classified by location. Installation of components and systems early in the structural fabrication sequence is known as preoutfitting; work done after completion of erection, and especially after launching, is considered to be final outfitting.

The consensus of shipbuilders is that preoutfitting requires less labor than final outfitting. Components and systems can be installed on small units and blocks in assembly shops more easily than inside the structure of a completed ship. Final outfitting is generally more expensive because items must be carried to the ship and then to the location in the ship where they are needed. It is possible, however, to overapply preoutfitting and spend more to protect equipment

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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during later assembly stages after it is installed than to carry it on board during a later stage of ship assembly.

U.S. shipyards that have produced large series of U.S. Navy ships have achieved a high level of preoutfitting skills. But without recent experience in commercial ship production, they may not be able to achieve the same degree of technological application as more-experienced foreign competitors who have been building series of commercial ships.

Proper outfitting requires extensive planning, as the thousands of items to be added to a ship along with supporting items must be at the correct location when they are needed. This planning requires a high degree of automation that links the design process with the production planning process. U.S. shipbuilders currently employ the same degree of technology as foreign builders.

Blasting and Coating

In all shipyards, surface preparation and painting are significant drivers in the cost of the ship. U.S. shipyard owners/operators are demanding (and receiving) high quality paint systems, because of the high cost of maintaining ships. Foreign shipbuilders have no major technological advantage in this area except the use of very large halls (buildings) where they can blast and coat large ship sections indoors.

A major problem in shipyards today is open blasting, which creates dust and raises environmental concerns. Other countries also have become or are becoming environmentally conscious, and open blasting is prohibited or severely curtailed. Thus, this does not necessarily put the United States at a competitive disadvantage.

Shipbuilders frequently order plate with a coating primer applied by the steel mill to prevent corrosion during transportation and storage. In other cases, the plate is blasted clean when it arrives, and a coat of primer is applied. In subsequent operations, stiffeners and webs are welded to the plates, and the plates are welded together. If the primer can be welded over without impairing the quality of the weld, the labor-intensive step of grinding off the primer is eliminated.

Currently, no shipbuilder anywhere has found a truly weldable primer that permits welding to be performed with no grinding or blasting beforehand. Although some welding processes permit the use of weldable primers, many others, particularly those involving high welding speeds, require that the primer be ground off to avoid contamination. The difference between the practice of U.S. shipbuilders and other builders worldwide is that many others have automated the grinding process. In addition, high production rates mean that assemblies do not sit outside for long periods prior to final welding, so there is not a large amount of rust to grind off. However, even if research produces a truly weldable primer, there will be little competitive advantage to U.S. shipbuilders because paint vendors will market their product worldwide.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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Testing

The technology of testing is important to consider because U.S. shipbuilders, due to their focus on naval shipbuilding, are very sophisticated in testing when compared with competitor yards. However, the competitive value of this expertise is limited. U.S. shipbuilders will probably perform less testing on commercial ships because commercial products are much simpler and because, for commercial ships, considerations of price override quality considerations faster than for military ships. However, to the extent that quality is valued by international shipowners, a competitive advantage is available if testing is performed to international standards using U.S. methods.

New Materials and Product Technologies

Shipbuilding, like steel production and mining, is an industry in which a great deal of technology, both process and product, has matured. By evolutionary steps, traditional shipbuilding has moved to construction based on modules, mechanization, and now, automation. In the hierarchy of shipyard technology, know-how is the most valuable technology, worth vastly more in terms of dollars per ton than, say, mass-fabricated steel parts. The product strategy now followed in commercial settings is to concentrate on three to four products, using market research to determine which products to pursue. In price per unit, U.S. Navy ships represent the highest return. They are followed by specialized ships such as cruise ships, high speed ferries, and LNG carriers. Each market segment will require specific advances in ship design and product technologies.

For a successful marketing and research strategy, a shipbuilder must recognize the importance of both market pull and technology push, as well as differences between the objectives of owners and shipbuilders. Shipbuilders must sell customers what they need, namely, a "payload" that provides profits, such as the interior of a cruise ship rather than the traditional deadweight tonnage. Money invested by the shipbuilder should go where the payload goes as well as where the material and labor hour costs go.

The nature and value of automated ship design based on parametric data were described earlier in this chapter. These design tools encourage creativity in product design by allowing consideration of the greatest number of alternatives. At the same time, they provide fast estimates of weight and costs and a total economy calculation for each alternative design. Automated ship design is a fundamental product technology that U.S. shipbuilders must develop to succeed commercially. New design technology will need to incorporate appropriate concerns for producibility, environmental protection, and worker safety. Attention to producibility keeps labor costs down, whereas attention to environmental and worker safety keeps legal liability down.

New ship designs cannot be patented. A good ship design is the product of a

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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good system engineering effort based on a good database of existing ship designs. It is not a single "new, better idea" that is patentable. Even "new, better ideas" for ship features are hard to patent enforceably in the global shipbuilding market—innovative ship designs are easily observed and copied. To establish and protect a position, a shipbuilder needs to make continuing improvements to any new ship concept and keep prices competitive. Some innovators believe that because of stronger U.S. laws, it is important to build in the United States to protect both patent and intellectual property rights.

Innovative shipbuilders face a challenge when trying to sell new products to very conservative shipowners, who will seldom pay more even for proven improvements and high performance. A variety of general factors may influence a shipowner's reluctance to adopt new products, including the inherent risks of new technology. Some owners do not want their fleets of ships to differ significantly from competing fleets. Also, some large shipowners may have an aversion to new designs because they reduce the number of common features in their fleets and introduce an element of risk in an established trade. At the same time, speed to market and uniqueness of products can be decisive in securing a competitive foothold. In short, selling new technology is challenging at best in this market of very expensive products.

Several questions need to be considered. Beyond the important area of automated ship design, which product technologies are likely to have the greatest impact on the competitiveness of the U.S. shipbuilding industry? How might these technologies be successfully developed and applied (including with respect to costs)? These questions will have different answers for different shipbuilders.

A wide variety of product technologies—ship designs, propulsion technologies, new materials, and other shipboard systems and components—might offer competitive advantages for U.S. shipbuilders. Table 2-1 shows a few selected areas of ship design and product technologies that the committee examined to gauge the current development for these technologies and their potential impact on and applicability to different segments of the shipbuilding market. Because of the different technology needs for different products and shipbuilders, product technologies could not be clearly ranked overall (nor could all potentially valuable technologies be examined). However, an attempt was made to rank the potential competitive advantages of technologies informally within five general categories, such as technologies for shipyard improvements, ship transportation systems, and so forth.

Particular competitive advantages in the technology areas identified would be seen if the following were developed:

  • breakthrough design capability, which allows a new design to be developed, implemented, built and marketed before the competition can copy it;
  • shallow water draft oceangoing ship designs for short-cut trade routes,
Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
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  • such as the Siberian Sea route between the north Pacific Rim and northern Europe;
  • unstiffened curved plate technology, which can enable more automated production and longer lasting ballast tank coatings;
  • automated cargo handling, including necessary dockside intermodal facilities (e.g., ship to truck/rail), with a time goal of unloading and distributing cargo in less than one shift (one to two hours is a conceivable goal, but distribution out of the harbor currently presents a bottleneck.);
  • ten years or greater maintenance cycle for drydocking and classification special survey (implementation of such technology would be dependant on acceptance by regulatory agencies and classification societies.);
  • reduced manning, as in a six-person or smaller crew, with one person stationed on the bridge (implementation of such technology would require changes by regulatory agencies.); and
  • improved maintenance/manning balance, including an optimization between shore-based and shipboard maintenance, considering turnaround time in port (manning, port time, and maintenance are interdependent; the goal is to reduce all to an optimum point).

Potential Competitive Impact

The following brief review illustrates how a few of the technologies identified by the committee might offer U.S. shipbuilders critical competitive advantages.

Advanced Propulsion Technologies

Interest in new propulsion technologies is driven by the search for improvements over current slow-speed, direct-drive diesel engines. The main candidates—gas turbine and gas-turbine diesel or combined electric integrated propulsion systems—are relevant only to niche markets, such as LNG tankers, short-distance shuttle tankers, extremely environmentally friendly tankers, fast ships, and cruise ships. Other prospective propulsion types, such as fuel cells and permanent magnet motors, are worth pursuing partly because of potentially low environmental impacts and also because they might reduce manning requirements. Diesel electric drive systems cost $4 million to $6 million more than slow-speed diesels for shuttle and Suez max tankers and offer 6 percent less thermal efficiency. Thus, they are useful only for niche markets or where high priority is given to ship control for environmentally friendly operation. However, a higher-frequency generator operating at a higher speed would make this technology more attractive. With permanent magnet drives, a major problem is the large diameter of the motor and the high acquisition cost.

At present, there are few restrictions on burning low-grade fuel at sea.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

TABLE 2-1 Ship Design and Product Technologies

Technologya

Technology Groupb

Technology Typec

Technology Sophistication

 

 

Today

5-Year Goal

Improved producibility

1

E

Medium-Low

Medium-High

Commercial ship design tools/ technology

1

E

Low

Medium-Low

Protective coatings

1

E

Low

High

Breakthrough design capability

1

B

 

 

Unstiffened curved plate tanker structure

1

B

Point

Design

"Fast ship" technology

2

E

Low

High

Cargo handling, including port and ship/terminal interface

2

E

Medium

Medium-High

Shoal draft

2

E

Medium-Low

Medium-High

Advanced propulsion systems

3

B

Medium

Medium-High

a Technology types listed by priority order as determined by the committee. Individual technologies listed within technology type by sub-priorities as determined by the committee.

b Technology groups:

  1. Shipyard-product improvement/development
  2. Transportation system requirement
  3. Material supplier driven
  4. Owner cost driven
  5. Social issues driven: implemented through rules, regulations, insurance and litigation costs

However, the restrictions on emissions of pollutants in or near port are increasing and encourage the development of new propulsion systems.

An example of advanced propulsion plant technology applied to tankers is now being evaluated as part of a fiscal year 1994 ARPA MARITECH project. Overall ship design tradeoffs are being made between alternate designs of integrated electric propulsion and ship service power plants; conventional direct-drive, slow-speed diesel propulsion; and geared medium-speed diesel propulsion.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

Competitive Impact

Technology Application

Today

5-Year Goal

Crude Oil Tanker

Bulk Carrier

Container Ship

RO/RO

Fast Ferry

Cruise Ship

Medium-Low

Medium-Highd

X

X

X

X

X

X

Low

Highe

X

X

X

X

X

X

Medium-Low

High

XX

XX

X

X

X

X

 

 

 

 

X

X

X

X

Medium

High

X

X

X

X

 

 

Low

Highf

 

 

X

X

X

X

Medium

Highg

 

 

X

X

X

 

Low

High

 

X

X

X

 

X

Low

Medium-High

 

 

X

X

XX

XX

c Technology types:

  1. Evolutionary—incremental changes in the immediate future
  2. Breakthrough—successful implementation will cause major changes

d Includes structural design for automated construction and extensive use of ship component and material standards.

e Design is only 5 to 10 percent of commercial shipbuilding costs. However, a bad design will be costly to build, operate, or to rebuild to correct.

f Here is an area where experience with U.S. Navy ships and technology from a good high speed commercial ship base.

g Turnaround of a large ship in less than eight hours, preferably less than four hours.



Initial results of the studies indicate a more compact electric propulsion plan that permits use of a larger portion of the hull to carry cargo than do the non-electric drive alternatives. Ship control and maneuvering are superior, and electric plant/propulsion plant system redundancy greatly increases the environmental friendliness of the ship (backup for failed systems or components). The speed potential is also increased, as are potential revenues and the ability to make up for weather or scheduling delays.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

Technologya

Technology Groupb

Technology Typec

Technology Sophistication

Today

5-Year Goal

Composite materials design, test, and certification

A. GRP Structure

3

E

Medium-Lowh

Medium-High

B. Other Composite Structure

3

E

High

High

C. Composite Machinery

3

E

Low

Medium

Reduced manning (≤6)

4

B

Medium-Low

Medium-High

Advanced ship management and control

4

E

Medium

High

Improved maintainability

4

B

Medium-Low

Medium-High

Improved environmental ''friendliness"

5

E

Medium-High

Medium-

Low

Improved worker safety

5

E

High

Medium-High

a Technology types listed by priority order as determined by the committee. Individual technologies listed within technology type by sub-priorities as determined by the committee.

b Technology types:

  1. Shipyard product improvement/development
  2. Transportation system requirement
  3. Material supplier driven

A vital developmental issue is presented by the U.S. Navy's development of new power plants. Wherever possible, commercial systems should be adopted for Navy use rather than developing independent Navy systems that are too complex and expensive for commercial purposes. The U.S. Navy should buy engines off the shelf to achieve significantly more affordable ships and to help support a broad industrial base. Committee members and workshop participants felt strongly on this subject, which is addressed in greater depth in Chapter 3.

Ballast Tank Protective Coatings

Another technology area that may have major competitive impacts is ballast tank protective coatings. Cleaning and recoating (painting) ballast tanks has

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

Competitive Impact

Technology Application

Today

5 Years

Crude Oil Tanker

Bulk Carrier

Container Ship

RO/RO

Fast Ferry

Cruise Ship

Medium-Low

Medium-High

 

 

X

X

X

X

Medium-Low

Medium-Low

 

 

X

X

X

X

Low

Medium-Low

 

 

X

X

X

X

Medium-Low

High

X

X

X

X

X

X

Medium

Medium

X

X

X

X

X

X

Medium-Low

Medium

X

X

X

X

X

X

Low

Low

X

X

X

X

X

X

Medium-Low

Medium

X

X

X

X

X

X

  1. Owner cost driven.
  2. Social issues driven: implemented through rules, regulations, insurance and litigation costs

c Technology types:

  1. Evolutionary—incremental changes in the immediate future
  2. Breakthrough—successful implementation will cause major changes

h Behind Europeans, ahead of Far East. U.S. is hindered mostly by regulations.

always been a messy, expensive job. But with new environmental and safety regulations, it has become an extremely expensive maintenance function, and shipowners are looking for coatings that will last 10 or 15 years or longer. For handy max-size and larger tankers, a ballast tank cleaning and recoating job can cost up to $10 million; it thus becomes the largest cost item of the five-year inspection survey. The double-hull tanker configuration makes the job even more difficult. Moreover, recently instituted human health and environmental regulations for shipbuilding make blasting and painting even more expensive than they have been in the past.

Extending the life of ballast-tank coatings does not mean simply buying better paint and applying it more carefully. The life of the coating is affected by the configuration of the steel structure and the quality of the steel fabrication process.

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

Coating breakdown and resulting corrosion begin at the inside and outside corners of the structure. Paint doesn't stick well to sharp edges or crevices; therefore, a double-hull ballast tank structural design needs to be developed that will minimize total stiffener structure length and associated welding length. Exposed plate edges that are clean and without sharp corners and that have no weld splatter lengthen the life of coatings, and their use is becoming standard practice by many foreign shipbuilders.

Tanker construction technology that uses unstiffened curved plates is potentially valuable because it accomplishes several goals and reduces the costs of the shipbuilding process. The unstiffened-curved–plate construction technology increases coating life in a ballast-tank structure built in standard cells welded together in standard double-hull sections. These sections can be hermetically sealed and automatically blasted and painted in a controlled environment without contact by shipyard workers. The internal structure is relatively smooth, with minimum stiffeners, because of the inherent stiffness of the curved plate. The result is low-cost, long-lived coatings that may last more than 20 years, if they are not damaged during ship operation.

The unstiffened-curve–plate technology potentially provides an excellent example of systematic, joint product-and-process technologies that should be developed and applied by U.S. shipbuilders to other types of ships and ship features.

Summary

This chapter has considered the technologies employed in shipbuilding and how the application of those technologies must be improved for U.S. shipbuilders to become commercially viable in the international shipbuilding market. Business processes in particular must be changed, including marketing, bidding and estimating, sourcing, and management systems. Additional investments will be needed in system technologies, production processes, and product design. In some cases, significant capital investments will be needed to improve efficiency. Table 2-2 summarizes each of the four technology categories important to the commercial competitiveness of the U.S. shipbuilding industry.

The priorities of Table 2-2 are based on the judgment of committee members of the importance of each technology area and the status of U.S. shipbuilders in each area relative to foreign competitors. A more comprehensive study could define the U.S. shipbuilding industry's current capabilities for building commercial ships of various types and capacities in terms of construction time; design and engineering labor requirements; nonrecurring labor, recurring production labor, and direct material costs; general requirements cost; and overhead expenses. Construction time could be broken down into two periods: (1) contract signing to start of construction (cutting steel) and (2) start of construction to delivery. The capability of U.S. shipbuilders with the leading international performance levels

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

TABLE 2-2 Priorities for Technology Investment

Technology

Status

Priority

Business process technologies

Very much behind, especially in marketing, costing, sourcing, and management systems; need to buy materials on the world market

Most important; urgent for marketing

System technologies

Somewhat behind, particularly in process simulation and standards

Middle priority

Shipyard production process technologies

Behind in material handling, accuracy control, and in block assembly and fabrication, although not desperately in any one area; primarily need to apply best practices; little new technology needed

Less important

New materials and product technologies

Behind in design for the world market

Varies by market segment

could then be compared for each element. This framework for evaluating the different technologies would provide another perspective on the assignment of priorities.

Clearly, improvement is needed in all areas, and improvements in one area cannot occur in isolation from the others. Business-process technologies require significant attention by the U.S. shipbuilding industry, and marketing strategies must be developed; but it is difficult to secure a sale without competitive price and delivery schedules. However, improvements in production processes cannot occur in isolation; they must be part of a total manufacturing process, which requires contracts for ship production.

The current marketing strategy of many U.S. shipbuilders of awaiting requests for proposals from either the government or private shipowners is changing to a strategy of actively pursuing commercial contracts at home and abroad. However, shipbuilders are hampered by the lack of market information, poor customer relationships, the inability to respond rapidly to customer needs, and the general lack of predesign capability, standard designs, established reputations, and general marketing expertise. Improvements in all of the above areas are necessary if U.S. shipbuilders are to become internationally competitive. However, because these are factors that relate mostly to individual shipbuilders and only to a small extent to the U.S. shipbuilding industry as a whole, improvements will have to come from individual shipbuilders improving their own capabilities.

Shipyard cost-estimating procedures today use a ship-systems–based approach rather than an activity-based approach in alignment with emerging

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

production practices. The influence of government procurement requirements currently hampers a change. U.S. shipbuilders require expertise in rapidly developing parametric designs and associated cost estimates to suit customer needs. Automated design systems can be a great help in this area.

Current procedures used by most U.S. shipbuilders for sourcing materials and components are based on compliance with the procurement requirements imposed by the U.S. Navy. These requirements have brought about distant relationships between shipbuilders and their suppliers rather than cooperative relationships based on mutual trust. Developing better relationships with suppliers, changing from requesting multiple bids to material control, and working directly with suppliers on product development can reduce procurement time, reduce rework, and reduce costs. Many suppliers for shipbuilding components are overseas, so U.S. shipbuilders must extend their sourcing capability worldwide, including development of multilingual skills. Methods of sourcing components are tied to a shipbuilder's marketing niche strategy and to developing a working relationship with vendors who specialize in that market.

Engineering capability in most U.S. shipyards has been developed to meet the needs of detail design of U.S. Navy ships rather than the precontract and contract designs of commercial ships. The training U.S. shipyard workers have received to achieve the high quality of workmanship required for U.S. Navy ships, however, is compatible with the quality now required by some commercial owners and classification societies. The greatest need may be for management to convert from government-procurement-based practices to international-commercial management practices.

Information management systems are required that are integrated with a shipbuilder's various cost, accounting, labor, design, scheduling, and production systems. These systems should include the capability of using simulation to predict the effect of changes before they occur. In addition, these management systems must support both government and commercial needs if shipbuilders intend to produce ships for both markets.

From the standpoint of system technologies, a design process that is consistent with international competitive standards should be capable of developing a database to describe the ship during conceptual design and should continue to use and build on that same database throughout shipbuilding stages to production and delivery of the ship. This type of design process is not only more efficient in transfer of data; it also helps to ensure that the design best accommodates the needs of production.

In the transition to commercial shipbuilding, U.S. shipyards are acquiring and developing new production methods. Efficient planning for the adoption of these methods can be made through the capability of process simulation. This capability is especially important in shipyards with limited space so as to obtain the best yard layout for production.

Standardization of parts and production processes can both reduce price and

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

improve quality. Standardization can encompass not only overall ship design but also standard components between different ship designs. Adoption of international standards by shipbuilders for parts and materials will assist with commercial marketing of ships.

Increased use of CAD/CAM is seen today in most U.S. shipyards. Full realization of the benefits of these processes requires concurrent improvements in other technologies, such as process flow, material acquisition, and standardization.

Shipyard layout can present difficulties, especially where space for production facilities is limited. However, many successful foreign yards have the same problem. The use of process simulation to investigate the effect on production of changes in yard layout is an important tool for overcoming the difficulties of limited space.

U.S. and foreign shipbuilders currently employ the same level of mechanization and automation of production processes. The most advanced systems have been developed for foreign shipbuilders, and the developers of these systems are selling them to U.S. shipbuilders.

Material-handling technology within U.S. shipyards today is about equal to world class standards, with the exception of large transporters, in which some foreign yards have greater capability. The area that needs the most improvement is logistics. Improving logistics will reduce the amount of material to be moved.

Accuracy control in shipbuilding can be improved through better application of dimensional process control and statistical process control. A commitment by management to enforcing production standards is required for in-process work and the final product.

A major improvement in steel fabrication in most U.S. shipyards would be the use of automated profile cutting and preparation equipment. Likewise, U.S. shipbuilders do not apply the same degree of automation in the production of structural units of the hull structure as foreign competitors.

The level of technology application in the United States for outfitting and preoutfitting U.S. Navy ships is the same as that in foreign shipyards for commercial ships. The automation of design and production planning are not at the same high level to support fully the outfitting process.

Blasting and coating of structures in the United States is not usually performed in large halls that many foreign shipyards have. No primer for steel available today is capable of being welded-over under conditions of high-productivity welding. Robotic grinding of primers prior to welding is also not practiced by U.S. shipbuilders as it is abroad.

The expertise in testing that U.S. shipbuilders have gained from naval shipbuilding will be of little advantage in commercial production.

Improvements in product technologies or facilities do not reveal any new technology that will give U.S. shipbuilders a tremendous competitive edge over foreign shipbuilders. As will be seen in the following chapter, the primary

Suggested Citation:"State of Technology Application in U.S. Shipbuilding." National Research Council. 1996. Shipbuilding Technology and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5064.
×

emphasis in government programs is on developing product technologies intended to improve the capabilities of shipboard systems. The real need is for improved design capability, so that when new concepts and products are developed, they can be moved into production quickly. Continuous innovations can provide a competitive edge.

References

CNA Corporation. 1994. The Shipbuilding Game: A Summary Report (CMR 94-84). Alexandria, Virginia: CNA Corporation.


Storch, R. L., and T. Lamb. 1994. Requirements and Assessments for Global Shipbuilding Competitiveness. Project funded by the National Shipbuilding Research Program, for the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Ship Production Committee, Program Design/Production Integration Panel. October 7. Report NSRP 0434. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

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The U.S. shipbuilding industry now confronts grave challenges in providing essential support of national objectives. With recent emphasis on renewal of the U.S. naval fleet, followed by the defense builddown, U.S. shipbuilders have fallen far behind in commercial ship construction, and face powerful new competition from abroad. This book examines ways to reestablish the U.S. industry, to provide a technology base and R&D infrastructure sustaining both commercial and military goals.

Comparing U.S. and foreign shipbuilders in four technological areas, the authors find that U.S. builders lag most severely in business process technologies, and in technologies of new products and materials. New advances in system technologies, such as simulation, are also needed, as are continuing developments in shipyard production technologies. The report identifies roles that various government agencies, academia, and, especially, industry itself must play for the U.S. shipbuilding industry to attempt a turnaround.

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