Jiangsu Province Shipbuilding Enterprises & smart manufacturing
The Naval Architect: January 2016
At this time the Smart shipyards of NanTong, COSCO and KHI Ship Engineering (NACKS) are all part of the 2015 pilot project which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. As the first smart shipbuilding pilot project this event is significant for conventional shipbuilding enterprises, integrating different high-tech and smart elements. This means that the idea of robot production is turning into a reality, which is inseparable from the in-depth integration of industrialisation and the information super-highway. It is predictable that smart manufacturing and digital manufacturing will bring about a new era for the shipbuilding industry.
Currently, the “China Manufacturing 2025” policy has been dedicated to the integration of the information super-highway and industrialisation. Experts in the field believe that the “China Manufacturing 2025” policy is to further deepen and upgrade the integration between these two trends. With the development of society and technology, the information super-highway has become an indispensable tool for management in the shipbuilding industry. Conventional shipbuilding has been increasingly replaced by the information super-highway, networking and the use of intelligent systems.
Domestic shipbuilding and the offshore industry must take advantage of the chance to enhance their competence in the information super-highway so that the industry can increase the pace of take-up in digital shipbuilding, which will ensure the competitive edge in terms of high-tech-high-value vessel and offshore competitive equipment, and will realise China’s transformation from simply “made-in-China” to “smart manufactured-in-china”.
Smart approach to shipbuilding
With the help of information technology and its application in production, management and operation, Japan, South Korea and others have taken large numbers of orders, promoting their efficiency. Admittedly, China is a big country in terms of shipbuilding, although some of its products are considered to be cheap and low logo due to the lack of independent R&D, poor innovation, and the low degree of information and development competence.
At the end of last century, large scale state-owned enterprises (SOEs), such as Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co., which is affiliated to CSSC and Jiangnan Shipbuilding, successfully built their own management information systems (MIS) and product information modules, thus realising the goal of parallel designing and promoting the development and application of Continuous Improvement and Monitoring Systems(CIMSs). They also introduced various shipbuilding manufacturing management systems at the same time. Many domestic private shipbuilding enterprises are also responding positively to this trend. Some large and medium-sized shipyards and designing entities established LAN, carrying out enterprise-level CIMS pilot work. Although these are preliminary attempts, they pave the way for future information super-highway development.
With the progression of the twelfth five year plan, China’s shipbuilding industry has the foundation to become stronger and more competitive. Particularly after the financial crisis, the market became increasingly competitive, raising the significance of the information super-highway in the decision-making of shipbuilding enterprises. The information super-highway is significant for companies in terms of transforming shipbuilding patterns, enhancing competitiveness and qualification. Lots of shipbuilding enterprises have made plans for future development in light of the information super-highway. They demonstrate unprecedented enthusiasm for the construction of the systems.
A private shipbuilding enterprise executive confirms the functions of the information super-highway construction, saying: “The fast expansion of enterprises has to be built with modern management tools”. He points out that when new plants are under construction, involving hundreds of projects and billions of Yuan in capital, the workload can be finished within seconds. This is amazing compared with the 3-5 day work flow that is seen without the assistance from information super-highway management software. This is a great improvement for efficiency, but also represents an improvement in the accuracy of the data. Under manual conditions, it is impossible to input the raw material for as many as 20,000 to 30,000 types of steel and parts, not to mention the types and specifications exceeding 10,000 parts. But management software makes it possible to find out the inventory with a click, which can be as specific as the particular date’s inventory, inventory capital turnover, fixed asset and depreciation value, etc.
The above become trivial changes after the application of the information super-highway on the management chain. With the trial operation of a digitalised national shipbuilding laboratory, and with the robot production line in operation in ship enterprises, plus a series of auto production lines featured with high efficiency and intellectualisation, more enterprises are combining the information super-highway with their development. With constant innovation and development, “smart manufacturing” has become a driving force for the “China Manufacturing 2025” policy. Liao Weiqun, vice president of Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group, says, this year, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding is to further promote specified management projects, implementing “integration of information technology and industrialisation” policy into the ERP software management project, thus promoting product design, procurement and qualified delivery of ships.
Innovation-driven digitalised shipbuilding
With the establishment of modern shipbuilding, domestic shipbuilding enterprises have gained substantial impetus for their development. Different enterprises have turned their strategy from passive adaptation to active studying and application. Executives also give priority to the construction of the information super-highway, pooling much financial support and human resources into it in order to speed up the information process.
An executive from a mid-sized ship enterprise says that two years ago, in order to comply with industry standards, his enterprise had to make involuntary changes in order to survive. But now, with some favourable policies from the industry policy-makers, shipping industry enterprises have consciously invested capital in information construction, procuring a safer, more reliable and effective information process and consolidating their business. This will prove to be beneficial for the slack shipbuilding industry.
Jiangsu New Century Shipbuilding Group vice chairman, Zhu Bingkang, says: “Our group is to quicken the speed of digitalisation and construction. We should take advantage of advanced and applicable management systems, promote the modern shipbuilding management mode, therefore realising the integration of production resources, operational resources and construction resources, so that we can fulfil the mission of digital shipbuilding and the information super-highway.” New Century Shipbuilding insists on innovation-driven development and maintains the sustainable development through “Internet-plus” policy implementation, modern information technology, organisation innovation and technological innovation.
Within recent years, Nantong COSCO KHI Ship Engineering (NACKS) is dedicated to CAD technology, successfully introducing TRIBON for designing and computer-integrated-manufacturing systems, and investing several times in information systems. Simultaneously, the company is developing its own R&D, with its application in such systems as Cost and Payment, PSPC, Fixed Assets, Cost Control, and Safe Information Management and Information Sharing. The development and application of these systems has greatly upgraded business management in terms of integration popularisation, automation, efficiency, management performance and lowering costs. The executive says that in the following stage, with the in-depth implementation of the twelfth five-year plan, the company is to focus on improving the computer integration competency, with much effort spent on TRIBON upgrading to AM12, the second development after its upgrading, ERP system improvement, FA projects, and robot development. It’s also to reinforce its simulation experiments, verification and optimised technology studies and applications, increasing the pace of modern shipbuilding, digitalised shipbuilding, and enterprise upgrading.
Experts in the field suggest that, in the future, shipbuilding and offshore equipment manufacture should be a trinity of the information super-highway, automation and intellectualisation. Smart manufacturing is the outlet for competitiveness for the Chinese shipbuilding industry. It plays an essential role in improving production efficiency, product quality, lowering costs, industry upgrades and China’s international competitive edge. However, it is worth mentioning that development of the information super-highway is a complicated process, which demands persistent effort instead of short term struggling. To realise digital shipbuilding we should increase the connectivity between design, production and management.
Experts also provide suggestions for this goal, namely comprehensive planning, implementation decomposition, and priority goals for which policy can emphasise the overall planning, information innovation systems and improve the connectivity between design systems and production management systems. An ideal carrying out of this strategy would avoid the trap of discrimination between tasks of minor and major importance, or disagreement between exterior and interior. A massive information process demands talents that master knowledge in shipbuilding, management, information technology or database technology, which is rare in China. How to train such talents, value them and retain them in the team is worthy of attention from leaders, and from the industry as a whole.