Warships are one of the most complex system of systems at the very leading edge of high-end, high-value manufacturing. They are made in modest numbers to demanding and developing requirements. They are one of the few products for which a prototype is simply impossible. Such is the pace of technological change and evolving customer need that no two ships of the same class are entirely identical.
We produce some of the most technologically advanced warships in the world. We are now developing new digital systems that aid our shop floor engineers to validate work more quickly and supporting them in achieving greater precision. By so doing, we will deliver our ships in a more agile and efficient way.
Agile ship production is our goal. Our research and technology processes are now making this a reality.
Richard Trumper, Chief Technologist, BAE Systems Naval Ships.
“Agile ship production is our goal. Our research and technology processes are now making this a reality.” Richard Trumper, Chief Technologist, Naval Ships.
Already, a typical warship design will have over 1,800 digital models shared across more than 1,000 of our engineers and the supply chain. These models include anything from initial concept to detailed hull design; simulations of propulsion systems to electronic architectures. More than 60% of most ship’s components come from the supply chain, from guns to engines to digital radar systems.
Our Global Combat Ship is the first of its type to be fully designed on digital systems and now we aim to go much further, as we digitise our shipyards.
We are putting technology toolsets directly in the hands of production engineers, through technologies like Augmented Reality glasses and mobile devices, and reviewing opportunities for assured data sharing through technologies like Li-Fi. In future, digital models will provide a single point of truth across the ship, but these must be easily accessible for shipbuilders who often wear gloves and other deliberate safety equipment.
Reflecting Industry 4.0, shipyard digitisation must not risk integrity and assurance. Radio Frequency Identification sensors on components to utilise the Internet of Things, for example, are only viable where there is a guarantee of cyber-security. So, we are also testing now to see how we can overcome these challenges across shipyards that by their very necessity resemble a small town.
Over the past two years, we have examined and trialled myriad new technologies, such as robotic welding and augmented reality that are made much easier to integrate when using a common digital design model. Many of these novel working methods are now being deployed throughout our estate.
We will continue to push the boundaries of modern shipbuilding and our new shipyard in Australia provides a unique opportunity to trial and introduce new methods of production in ways that have simply not been possible before.
Adopting novel production methods and continuing to review the latest technologies from adjacent markets, will ensure our ships remain the most advanced of their kind.