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The shipbuilding industry is witnessing an unparalleled transformation with growing demand to build new vessels and expand geographic routes, tight budgetary measures, and most importantly, the need to deliver reliable designs at affordable costs. Given the nature of the industry, with a complex value chain that involves the building of massive structures, expediting the process remains a huge barrier for shipbuilding companies. Moreover, rising pressure for flexible ships from governments poses a challenge due to the traditional construction approach prevalent in the industry. In the presence of these demanding market requirements, embracing advanced technologies such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) plays a crucial role in modernizing fleets in a cost-effective manner in a shorter time span. Leveraging next-generation technology ensures durability and optimizes total ownership cost throughout its lifecycle. IIoT addresses various constraints pertaining to capital allocation, design, and build, and more importantly, supports optimal utilization of vessels during the commissioning and decommissioning phase of new and existing ships.

With the emergence of the new wave of digitalization, integration of IIoT plays a crucial role in reducing the intricacies and gaps in the present shipbuilding value chain. It promotes data transparency and accessibility across the value chain by leveraging the cloud infrastructure that reduces unnecessary delays in the approval and execution of strategic decisions by the management. Moreover, it helps redefine the industry’s service approach by ensuring a proactive maintenance by documenting and evaluating various components and systems which aid the engineers and staff members to reduce failures, enhance asset reliability, and prevent downtime with access to reliable data. With visibility on ship operations, they are well positioned to enhance the ship’s service lifecycle which reduces the need to re-engineer new projects.

Automation and IoT vendors are unceasingly working towards upgrading their software and IT architecture by assimilating technologies such as cloud, data analytics, virtual commissioning, augmented reality, industrial mobility, additive manufacturing, and automated guided vehicles (AUVs). These advancements assist in the construction of modular and compact vessels, improve the commissioning phase with minimal errors and efficient utilization of resources, enhance the decibel levels in ships, and enable free flow of data across the supply chain including fleet members. The integration of digital capability helps maximize productivity, improves overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and enhances operational efficiency.

There is active participation from the public and private organizations who are striving to harmonize and ease the implementation of IIoT in the shipbuilding industry. Regulatory associations and boards are rigorously working towards establishing a safe and secure network for data transmission, which is expected to boost the adoption of IIoT technologies in the industry in the forthcoming years. In Europe and North America, shipbuilders have shown a keen interest in leveraging IIoT and leading shipbuilding companies have connected ships in trial phases. The implementation of IIoT in the shipbuilding industry is expected to increase threefold in the next ten years.

Another key factor that is strongly influencing this shipbuilding industry is the increasing pressure from environment bodies. They are enforcing shipbuilders to switch to alternative and eco-friendly methods that conserve energy. This includes redesigning the ship with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind and switching to eco-friendly fuels for the engines. Though there is reluctance towards remodeling the ship operations, shipbuilders have launched pilot projects to test the viability of the new energy-efficient and environment-friendly models.

A progressive management team, a favorable cyber-physical environment, and access to a talented workforce form the building blocks of a successful transformation towards digitalization for the shipbuilding industry. It is imperative to redefine all the phases of the shipbuilding process including product design construction, maintenance, and operations. The use of IIoT based technologies leads to the emergence of new business models where shipbuilders are well positioned to build a digitally connected ecosystem that allows for efficient and effective management of end-to-end operations. At present, IIoT usage is at its nascent phase with gradual adoption by shipbuilding companies, predominantly the large giants, who have integrated intelligent sensors, cloud, and analytics to monitor their ship vessels, cargos, and routes on real-time bases. Similarly, to expedite the project design phase shipbuilders are leveraging AR (augmented reality) that reduces the scope of errors, enables duplication of tasks, improves turnaround time, and ultimately, enhance quality. As shipbuilders redefine their value proposition, the industry is likely to witness a gradual rise in the number of connected ships as IIoT serves as an ideal solution to overcome the aforementioned barriers, maintain cost levels and profit margins in volatile market conditions, offer new user experience, and explore new revenue streams.

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