I thought I would do something a little different for Easter Monday/Weekend (depending on where you are in the world), it’s still work related but not what you would typically read on D&M. I hope you like it.

Last year I was kindly invited by SuperYachtDesign.com to write an article for the Guest section of their quarterly publication. For each issue they invite Industry Professionals to offer up frank and thought provoking articles to publish towards the front of the magazine, these particular pages have been graced by articles written by some extremely well known and respected individuals within the industry, so I’m extremely proud to have an article published in the same way theirs have been. I decided to take the opportunity to get something off my chest which has been bugging me for years now, I took a deep breath, threw caution to the wind and started typing. Since it has now gone to print I’m allowed to share it with you, so here it is:

The Super Yacht industry has learnt a lot from other industries. We have successfully migrated the use of design and presentation tools, exotic materials, manufacturing techniques and systems from other industries to ours. Nevertheless there is still a lot of transferable knowledge out there, which we have yet to take advantage of.

One major area of weakness for the industry is the insatiable desire to start manufacturing the vessels before they are ready to be. As an example you wouldn’t find a building, an aircraft or a vehicle commencing manufacture, or construction prior to the design being fully signed off. All of its structure, systems, and interior are fully integrated and established before any money is spent on laying foundations or tooling manufacture. So why is this acceptable for the Super Yacht industry, when it isn’t for other well established manufacturing and construction industries around the world? The Automotive, Aerospace and Construction industries complete the designs prior to commencing manufacture because it’s the cheapest and most efficient way to manufacture their product! Why do the big players in this Industry think we are any different? There are a number of arguments which could be had about this and everyone will have their own opinion. We don’t know the complete answer, but I do know it needs to change.

Opportunely several software companies have been working towards creating solutions which allow tight collaboration and seamless associative data reuse between designers and engineers. By integrating or packaging various software solutions into a single software suite, they are providing all the tools you need to design Super Yachts. From creating conceptual renderings, modelling hull surfaces & structure, pipe runs, developing electrical schematics, FEA & CFD optimisation, interior design, renderings and construction drawings. Couple this with increasingly integrated and intelligent PDM, PLM and ERP software, then you can see its becoming easier and easier to work collaboratively on a fully functioning digital prototype from multiple sites around the world in real-time.

It all sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Well it would be if everyone required was involved from the beginning and that’s the difficult part. There are only a few ways we can see it happening:

1. Every single part of the process is ‘in house’.

2. All the companies involved are part of a ‘Joint Venture’ and therefore have a common interest.

3. The project is headed up by a project management company which operates using the vision I describe. Then all the companies it contracts are treated as equals, with every process as important as the next.

On the other hand, Architectural companies around the world are embracing a standard known as BIM (Build Information Modelling). As part of their contracts, the sub-contractors are required to provide simplified 3D CAD models to the prime contractor. These models not only contain geometric information but also performance data and specifications for its interaction with other systems and components around it. This allows the prime contractor (usually the architectural firm) to collate all this information and the respective 3D models into a master model of the building or structure. Enabling them to check specifications have been met, the required clearances are in place, installation sequences have been considered and any interferences are picked up and subsequently dealt with. The result is a well thought out integrated design which should allow construction to proceed in an orderly and timely fashion. Why can’t the leading figures in our industry get together and create a standard we can all work to in the same way?

I’m glad to say here at SMI, we have experienced a view into the world SMI envisage through a new build project run by a New Zealand project management company. They were the prime contractors and employed a number of local companies and a few from overseas to construct M/Y Black Pearl. They treated all sub-contractors as equals (including the Ship Yard, Naval architects and Interior designer) and considered each of our requirements as a whole throughout the entire process. The result was a tremendous vessel with a homogeneous design.

SMI are entering into an exciting period as a result of a joint venture with a shipyard in China. All parties involved are forward thinking and innovative. As a company we are extremely keen to implement high levels of collaboration, automation and integration within our processes and products. We have no doubt that in a few years SMI will be able to write another guest column informing the industry of the challenges we faced and how we overcame them.

Industry wide it’s going to take a major shift in thinking by a willing group of people or companies, to achieve the kind of collaboration required to create a fully detailed Super Yacht digital prototype prior to any material being cut.

If you want to read the other two articles which were published at the same time as mine, you can by viewing this pdf

I also suggest you take a look around the Super Yacht Design website, there are some stunning images and small articles on their site.