Passenger, cargo and container ships, as well as tankers are complex and huge in size and so are their building processes. The process includes various working phases from the order and design to building smaller parts and bigger blocks, assembling the boat at the dock and finally giving it a test trial at the sea.  The big ships are often built with a method where big blocks are first constructed separately by various subcontractors, and then fitted together to construct the boat’s hull. Thus, the building process relies heavily on the use of material and almost on an unaccountable number of working hours. The length of different commercial vessels sailing on the Baltic Sea vary between 20 and 400 meters, and their gross tonnage between 100 and 200 000 tons. Some of the largest passenger vessels in the world have been built by Meyer shipyard in Turku, such as Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the seas, with the length of 361 meters and gross tonnage of 225 000 tons. These vessels can host almost 8 500 crew-passengers on board. Can you imagine the size and complexity of a shipyard, where these immense constructions are built?  Can you imagine how the complex and intricate supply chain with a huge number of subcontractors work? EXOPRODIGI work package 4 will take us closer to the shipyards, concentrating on 3D technology and high quality IT-solutions, aiming at optimizing and creating more ecoefficiency to the shipyard production planning and processes.

Producing a virtual twin of a shipyard

Work package 4 in the EXOPRODIGI continues the work done in the technology cases in the ECOPRODIGI-project. In ECOPRODIGI, various phases in the shipbuilding and repair processes were discovered to involve eco-inefficiencies, including block production, retrofitting processes and overall production planning activities. For example, the findings from ECOPRODIGI revealed that the use of 3D scanning technology in block assembly and retrofitting phases improves quality control of shipyards’ production processes, decreases deviations, and reduces material waste, energy and time consumption. Furthermore, it can be stated that optimising production planning with the help of digital solutions improves accuracy, efficiency and productivity, and enhances situational awareness.

One part of the EXOPRODIGI work package 4 is now focusing on the development of the shipyard facilities and workflows with the help of 3D scanning and virtual facilities. The aim of the virtual shipyard facilities, also called as virtual twin of the shipyard, is to improve layout planning and arrangement of the production facilities, which then again will enhance the process planning and reduce risks and delays in the production phase. In practice, the idea is to scan the shipyard facility of Western Baltic Engineering in Klaipeda, an indoor facility of about 150 x 200 meters, with a 3D laser scanner. This is a practice that is already widely used for example in the automotive industry, but so far it has not been applied directly at the shipbuilding environment, due to the complexity of the shipyard processes. EXOPRODIGI will now give this an ambitious try. The aim is to produce a virtual twin of the Klaipeda shipyard facility, and along with this a pilot tool, with which the virtual shipyard can be utilized for planning.

The basics of 3D laser scanning (© Jonatan Berglund, Visinator)

In short, 3D scanning will bring planning and production closer together. According to Jonatan Berglund, Visinator, in a previous project interview, 3D scanning technology will enable shipyards to solve problems before they propagate downstream in the production phase. This will pave way for more eco-efficient shipbuilding processes, where unexpected rework and overconsumption of materials can be avoided. EXOPRODIGI partners involved in this work are Visinator from Sweden, Western Baltic Engineering and Klaipeda Science and Technology Park from Lithuania.

Supply chain transparency and reliability in focus

The other part of the work package 4 concentrates on creating more transparency and reliability to the complex supply chain within shipbuilding. The supply chain can all in all include several turnkey suppliers, who have total responsibilities over larger entities of the ship construction, for example a restaurant block of the ship. Turnkey suppliers have then again their own various subcontractors, and not all of these operating at the same place nor even in the same country where the ship is assembled. Besides various suppliers, an enormous amount of data is needed for producing, storing and moving different materials properly and timely along the pipeline. Unfortunately, not all turnkey suppliers and their subcontractors have proper warehouse management systems in use, and the existing systems are not necessarily linked to each other. Thus, material information along the chain is scattered and possibly inaccurate, making it difficult to get a total picture of the supply chain situation. This can lead to full warehouses where excess materials are stored, since all parties are buffering to secure the project execution. Even unnecessary re-ordering of parts occurs, since the material availability information is missing.  This said, EXOPRODIGI partners from Finland, Carinafour and Meyer Turku shipyard, are working together to develop an IT-solution, where delivery and storage of different ship parts and sections by various suppliers can be more easily followed and optimized along the chain. The IT-solution will bring more transparency to the supply chain, eventually leading to the avoidance of overproduction of materials, as well as to more controlled material pipeline and therefore to more secured process execution.

The next half-year efforts to be made in the EXOPRODIGI project will help shipyards to develop their production processes to become more efficient, simultaneously enhancing environmentally sustainable working practices.