In Depth: Intelligent Knowledge Management as the Fast Way to Optimal Ship Design

Sharing and storing knowledge during the building process of a vessel can be a hassle.

Bart Daman, Ko Stroo and Dolf Manschot, project manager/naval architects at Ulstein Design & Solutions, facet his challenge on a daily basis.

Their knowledge and experience are key to the development of complex vessels for a diverse range of applications and working environments in a relatively small period of time and often for ships that have never been designed nor built before.

Digital knowledge management is a relatively new development in the maritime sector.

“We started talking to Shipbuilder about how we could store our knowledge and make it accessible in a smarter way. We deemed Shipbuilder to be most fit for our purposes. The software is already developed to specifically structure and document ships and shipbuilding processes,” Daman said.

“Of course, we are ship designers working one abstraction level higher, but the set-up of the software forms an excellent basis. In cooperation with Shipbuilder, we have developed a company-specific environment where we can safely document our knowledge of ship design, requirements and component properties,” he added.

After delivery, an accessible maintenance schedule can be offered. The maintenance schedules of equipment and systems can easily be imported into Shipbuilder. As such, a shipping company receives a clear overview of, for instance, when oil and water-separation filters need cleaning or when the service technician should be called in for inspection. The chances of maintenance being forgotten, or overlooked because of piles of documents, are reduced to a minimum.

About the advantages in the design phase, Stroo said: “Together with Shipbuilder we created a tool that allows us to develop a ship design faster starting from a high level of abstraction and client preferred attributes. By digitalising our knowledge of characteristics, components and ship processes we can establish links even faster.”

“In the near future, we expect to be able to see which engines are most suitable for the type of ship we’re designing with the click of a mouse. In addition to this, Shipbuilder supports us to generate consistent specifications much faster, which is a great advantage.”

“Because Shipbuilder has made our knowledge management more efficient, we can focus on what we do best: develop innovative ship designs. With the knowledge and details available in Shipbuilder, optimising and further shaping of the ship design is significantly faster than before. And as we are able to document our daily gain in knowledge directly in our knowledge data base, the quality of this data rapidly improves further,” Stroo continued.

Daman pointed out: “We expect this to provide us a constantly growing competitive advantage.”

Daman explained that, in order to survive, the development and application of knowledge management must become a top priority in the maritime sector: “We work on really complex ship designs, with a lot of changes in the process, both big and small. Shipbuilder helps us manage these changes a lot better. Clients are impressed by our response time and the consistency of our specs. Before, the risk of errors was much higher as by using Word you’re more inclined to copy text. Using Shipbuilder, this is now history.” 

Daman has a clear vision. The future will see knowledge management tools being used more and more already in the first client contacts.

“Together with the client, we can fill in the desired specifications. By leveraging the available semantic knowledge data, we can already show in these first conversations in which direction potential solutions can be found. In this way, we expect to guide and advice our clients even quicker regarding operational requirements and commercial preconditions, realizing the client’s most optimal ship design much faster.”


This article was previously published in Maritime Holland edition #1 – 2018.

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