Shipbuilding and robotisation

The crude reality is that the maritime industry struggles in all aspects.

  Today the shipbuilding industry has just one client, the maritime industry (maritime transport and exploitation of sea resources – the offshore industry). The crude reality is that the struggles struggles as well.



These industries look for more profitability what seems to be possible only by increasing the efficiency of the internal processes


The maritime industry looks more and more to digitisation and automatisation; same does the shipbuilding industry however, for shipbuilding industry the automatisation looks more like rototisation.    

The reality is that fully embracing robotisation may be a realistic way for shipbuilding industry to survive in the “world of future”.

Robots are programmed to do standard jobs on standards details or units/modules. The robots for complex tasks (involved creativity - sic) have to be controlled by AIs and just now AIs might be just too expensive. 

Considering the brief logic described above it would make sense assuming that standardisation and modularisation are a prerequest for comprehensive robotisation.

However, as stated above, the only client of shipbuilding industry is the maritime industry therefore the drive for standardisation and modularisation should come from the maritime industry.


Unfortunately, after 24 years in the industry I’ve noted that traditionally it is a strong resistance in the industry regarding standardisation or the modular philosophy


The main stream in idustry considers that standardisation and modularisation adds rigidity into design and kills innovation.

My personal opinion is that the real problem is not the rigidity and the killing of innovation but the real problem is the discipline requested by standardization or modularisation.

The fact that standardization and modularisation request more discipline for all the processes is well know from the moment when Mr. Ford invented the production line, but it is a fact that the production line started conquesting the world economy from that moment and becomed one of the major reasons why we are where we are.

I trust that it is reasonable obvious that the maritime industry is miles away from the effectivenes of production line best impersonated by the cars’ factories.

It has to be observed that South Korean shipyards managed to do something in this direction hence South Korean shipyards took for a while the lead role of global shipbuilding. 

Today some other advanced shipyard are taking steps further using the enhancements of the informatic systems but, from the perspective of the physical reality, comprehensive robotisation is the next logic step for an industry mainly defined by the words “sweat and muscles”…  

For many others, either standardization or modularisation, or both, are the traditional enemies of customisation.

The customisization will definitively remain essential but the Pareto law applies very well here as well: 80% of the results are achieved with 20% of the resources; hence, majority of the customisation should be done mainly by the application of standardisation and modularisation.

The automotive went through a similar process – many car models shares same basic platform provinding in this way 80% of the results but the remaining 20% of the results of Pareto law - is achieved by customized features for safety, speed, comfort or “aww” factor.


My main conclusions for entering the “world of future” are:


• The robotisation is a must for the survival of shipbuilding industry;

• The robotization could be implemented on the base of increased standardisation and modularization of shipbuilding processes;

• The advanced segment of the shipbuilding industry could find a competitive advantage in implementing robotisation but this route won’t be fully sustenaible on long run if the entire maritime industry didn’t adopt a paradigm shift regarding the standardization and modularisation.