• Digital technologies are changing the shipbuilding industry.
    Digital technologies are changing the shipbuilding industry. Getty/Accenture

The naval shipbuilding industry in Australia is experiencing a wave of change and disruption like never before. Rising program costs, international competition and pressure from government customers to deliver value for money are prompting many manufacturers to consider new, digital approaches.

Recent Accenture research of aerospace and defence executives found that while 97 per cent are willing to digitally invent their business, only nine per cent are already using digital capabilities to drive operational efficiency and business growth. This highlights significant opportunities for shipbuilders to embrace digital reinvention.

One way forward is to apply what Accenture has coined Industry X.0 – smart, connected and living technologies - to power, progress and create a fully digital value chain. Supported and enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry X.0 builds into a connected ecosystem of digital technologies that drive higher operational efficiency, faster growth and enhanced experience for both the customer and operational user.

Furthermore, opportunities are available to invest in digital capabilities that are deployable across the ship lifecycle, rather than just in individual phases such as design or build.

Accenture recommends focusing on the below five key capabilities:

1. Digital Twin and Digital Thread

Investing in a “digital twin” of the ship design can drive product competitiveness, better integration for the supply chain and enable effective manufacturing. In addition, a “digital thread” provides access to latest information for every task.

2. Data and Analytics with Intelligent Systems

This can drive operational efficiency and continuous improvement throughout the program. For instance, GE and CSIRO’s Data61 have developed a data analytics solution that will provide the RAN with greater insights into their fleet engine performance.

3. Mobility with Immersive Technology

Immersive technologies, using virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), can enhance the design process and simulate the fitting of complex build procedures. A leading local example includes Dassault Systems, who are working with the Future Submarines project designer to build Australia’s first virtual shipyard in Adelaide.

4. Intelligent Automation

Robotic process automation can streamline manual processes such as procurement, change management and engineering support tasks. Autonomous surveys – using drones, underwater vehicles and spider robots to compile a material state picture – can reduce emergent work during overhauls.

5. Advanced Manufacturing

This consists of combining advanced manufacturing, IoT, data and analytics into an integrated production operation for the shipyard. The use of 3D printing of parts in building, maintenance and on-board ships can also reduce inventories and increase asset availability.

Advances in digital technologies herald a new era of opportunity for Australian shipbuilders. It’s time to embark on the journey.

Note: Paul Mylon is the Aerospace and Defence Lead for Accenture Australia and NZ.

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