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Feature Article

Small Shipyard Gains Big Efficiency

By Jacqueline Richley • Mark Waldie

Spectrogram of raw data segment with cetacean activity automatic detection
(green peaks in small figure).

While some marine-related businesses may have struggled in recent years, Mustang Marine (Wales) Ltd. (Pembroke Dock, Wales) has faced the opposite challenge. The company's reputation for high-quality bespoke vessels and the popularity of its Ribworker line of rigid inflatables has resulted in rapid growth. Therefore, this small boat builder realized it had to adopt enterprise-level technology and processes to accommodate its recent expansion.

Culture Shift Needed
The status quo was not an option, which led to a transformation in the mindset of the management team. Previously, a small, select group of executives could direct day-to-day activities based on knowledge stored in their heads and paper lists. Much of the work was done directly by managers who had hands-on involvement and understanding of many areas of the business. In being so intimately connected with all aspects of the company, they were able to be aware of what was going on throughout the entire organization. Furthermore, these managers could count on a substantial supply of experienced shipbuilding craftsmen who already knew much of what to do.

But as the company expanded, that changed. The demand for experienced and skilled labor outstripped the supply, and even the most knowledgeable and talented individuals could no longer keep track of everything that needed to be done. Thus, the management of Mustang Marine realized they could no longer run the organization 'craft up,' but rather it had to be organized on a 'supervision down' principle. And more to the point, the supervision and entire organization of activities had to be based on a centralized repository of accessible data with effective reporting systems. This entailed a greater reliance on sophisticated software technology and appropriate changes in business processes to enable efficient and effective materials resource planning (MRP), labor and facilities scheduling, and product lifecycle management (PLM). The goal was to make the company 'data-driven.'

Analysis of Requirements
After a critical self-evaluation process, the company embarked on a three-year knowledge transfer partnership program with Swansea University in order to develop a customized solution for the management of information. To better understand the scope of the challenge, an entity relationship diagram was developed. This diagram showed what data were needed by various departments, when it needed to be captured and its capabilities for reuse. The goal was to find a way to capture data correctly the first time and to put it in a single accessible source. Additional attributes could be added later, but everyone would work from a centralized data repository as much as possible. The ability for software to handle these requirements was a key factor in determining Mustang's choice of technology.

Other factors that were important were the ability to reuse work and share data with other companies. There was also the realization that by adopting new technologies and procedures, things had to be relatively simple and natural for everyone in the organization. A principle that was cited was, 'Good software integration should nurture the user through company procedure, thus reducing the quantity of things the user needs to remember to do.' Based on this high-level analysis, the company selected software.

Selecting a Software Platform
Mustang Marine decided to base its technology solution on SSI's (Victoria, Canada) Autodesk/ShipConstructor Platform plus Microsoft SQL. There were a number of reasons for this. First of all, the company wanted software applications that were specialized for shipbuilding. On the other hand, it wanted 'mainstream' computer-assisted design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) tools with greater strength in outfitting and CAD/CAM production synthesis. By using more mainstream tools, information could also be packaged and used to assist the end user in the through-life management of the vessel.

Integration of various programs was crucial because no one piece of software could do everything that Mustang required. Software applications that came close to doing everything were generally geared toward very large corporations and would have cost vast sums for customization to Mustang's specific needs.

The Autodesk/ShipConstructor solution plus Microsoft SQL gave the best mix of everything, since it included industry-specific functionality incorporated into the widely used Autodesk product portfolio of CAD software.

It was also natural to scale up to this solution since Mustang Marine had already been using the ShipConstructor application as its preferred tool for the detail design and production engineering of vessel structures.

ShipConstructor/Autodesk, Microsoft SQL
The ShipConstructor application is a variation of Autodesk's popular AutoCAD design and drafting program that incorporates shipbuilding-specific menus and tools. It integrates seamlessly with all of the other Autodesk products and is widely compatible with other software used by Mustang Marine. For instance, Mustang decided to use another Autodesk product for planning the outfitting of vessels. The product selected was Autodesk Inventor, a product that works well with ShipConstructor since they are both part of the Autodesk ecosystem. To continue this article please click here.

Jacqueline Richley is currently the senior industrial designer for Mustang Marine, based in Pembroke Dock, Wales, with nine years of design experience, including furniture design, consultancy work and boat building. She is responsible for developing, implementing and integrating 3D CAD for vessel fitout design and systems design, and utilizing these tools to generate production design information. She is a member of the senior management team, instrumental in developing the company's marketing and branding.

Mark Waldie is currently the public relations coordinator for SSI. He is responsible for promoting SSI's software solutions and success stories worldwide via various forms of media. He is an award-winning author of various technical papers and has more than 15 years of experience marketing advanced technology to naval forces.

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