The more complex modern ships become, the harder it is to maintain peak productivity during the design process.

Engineers run up against bureaucratic logjams which can see non-value added work spiral. Time-consuming interruptions are a distraction from vital tasks. Process bottlenecks can have knock-on effects over the course of a brief that amount to massive delays. Inadequate information processing can lead to work being repeated or skipped altogether due to wranglings over the location and accessibility of crucial data. And growth in siloing is stymying teamwork when it is most necessary.

Fortunately, help is at hand. Many of the world’s most tech-savvy shipyards are turning to product lifecycle management (PLM) systems – software packages that can digitise manual processes, centralise project data and break down communication barriers to focus teams’ minds on the task at hand. But, for those yet to make the leap, the idea of stepping away from the design spiral’s comforting familiarity can raise more questions than answers. Read on to find out more about what PLM systems offer – and why, with the right knowhow, a smooth implementation could be more straightforward than you think.

Leave your productivity killers behind

Many potential benefits of a PLM system will depend on how they are implemented by individual organisations and the most pressing productivity problems they have hitherto faced. But there are three key priorities that should convince naval architects to take the leap.

First, cost savings and reduced development times. A PLM system acts as a centralised repository for product and process information. That means multiple teams – whether completely siloed or just lacking in organisational impetus – can seamlessly synchronise their efforts. Such a system eliminates the need for time-consuming searches across myriad information sources, significantly reducing data duplication. Naval architects save valuable time and resources through streamlining their work. The result is reduced costs and improved efficiency.

According to a recent report by Tech-Clarity, a research firm, 57% of engineers in complex industries reported that PLM systems reduced errors in engineering. And the same proportion of respondents pointed to resolution of conflicting and outdated information problems following an implementation. Evidence from the industry is clear: PLM systems crack down on mistakes and ensure all participants in a project are on the same page, with knock-on benefits for bottom lines.

Second, enhanced collaboration. In shipbuilding, collaboration among a wide range of stakeholders – designers, suppliers, shipyards, and subcontractors – is crucial for success. A robust PLM system helps bring these shareholders together via seamless information sharing and real-time collaboration. Wherever they are in the world, centralising all project data in a single system means communication gaps shrink and the potential for error is reduced.

Project partners and clients can access accurate and up-to-date information when and where they need it. This accessibility fosters better decision-making, streamlines approval processes, and enhances overall project coordination. Teamwork doesn’t just nudge a project towards its conclusion – it can provide a springboard for new ideas that can be carried into future briefs, boosting productivity in the long run. PLM systems provide the foundation for doing exactly this.

Third, organisation-wide benefits. PLM systems aren’t just for engineers; they can boost productivity across an entire shipyard. This is because teams can work in tune with one another at the click of a button, cracking down on time wasting and fostering a renewed focus on innovation and quality.

71% of respondents to Tech-Clarity’s report identified the ability to centralise or control access to data as the top benefit of a PLM system. Centralisation ensures all stakeholders have access to accurate and up-to-date information, minimising errors and improving decision-making. 48% of respondents mentioned the ability to change or manage processes during a brief – meaning enhanced operational agility and adaptability. By managing product data across multiple domains (emphasised by 43% of respondents) and leveraging a unified Bill of Materials (38%), all participants in a project can achieve consistency, reduce errors and enhance collaboration throughout the ship’s lifecycle.

PLM systems: how to get started

Smooth PLM system implementation and setup hinges on several factors. Firstly, flexibility in configuration is crucial. According to Tech-Clarity’s research, 74% of companies that rated their PLM implementation as easy emphasised the importance of flexibility in configuring the solution to match their unique requirements; opting for a PLM system that offers configurability enables organisations to accommodate processes specific to them.

Another vital consideration is choosing a trusted partner with a track record of excellent customer service. Working with a reliable PLM solution provider, offering comprehensive support and guidance throughout the implementation process, can significantly contribute to a successful rollout. When organisations have access to responsive customer service, they can address challenges promptly and ensure a smooth transition to new systems.

Organisations can unlock even greater value from their PLM systems by expanding their usage beyond basic file storage and management functionalities. Tech-Clarity’s research shows that highly satisfied PLM users deploy their systems to manage complex tasks like engineering changes and design release processes. By utilising PLM for these critical tasks, firms can streamline workflows, reduce errors and improve overall efficiency.

One solution that can expedite all of the above tips is underpinning PLM implementation with cloud-based infrastructure. Cloud-based implementations provide numerous advantages, including rapid deployment, enhanced accessibility and seamless data sharing among project partners. Design houses, shipyards, suppliers and subcontractors can all work together in real time.

Tech-Clarity’s research reveals that a massive 78% of respondents who rated their implementation as “easy” had deployed a cloud-based PLM solution – contrasting with just 15% of on-site deployments. For shipbuilders, the cloud’s advantages are particularly compelling, simplifying collaboration and information sharing among stakeholders dispersed across different locations.

In an industry as complex as shipbuilding, implementing PLM systems in accordance with best practices can pave the way for increased efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced collaboration. Working with an expert partner, like Siemens Digital Industry Solutions, can help naval architects do just this. Download the ebook on this page to find out more.