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It includes state of the art design software tools for preparation and sharing of designs, 3D digital virtual reality technology for simulating walk through of fully populated compartments and ship, Product Lifecycle Management Solutions (PLMS), Data Base Management System, ERP packages etc. The availability of IT solutions would improve the production efficiency many folds.
Incorporation of modular construction technology in shipbuilding reduces build period and also the overall cost of the project. In modular construction method, large movable sections are constructed individually and then welded together. This method requires greater accuracy in the manufacture of the units, but at the same time, reduces construction time by a factor of almost 10. This technology has been successfully used by Royal Danish Navy in Flyvefisken Class, US Navy in Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Australian shipbuilding industry, Fincantieri, Italy; Damen shipyard, Netherlands; MEKO Frigates by Germany etc. Indian warship building has been severely affected by capacity constraints and the need of the hour, therefore, is to break the capacity barriers, conventional methods of ship construction, and adopt the modern techniques like the modular design and construction technology.
Automated NC profile cutting machines, robotic profilers and robotic welding reduces the amount of time and manpower for production. Robotic systems are a part of modern shipbuilding and can carry out welding, blasting, heavy lifting and other tasks.
Warships can be assembled at one shipyard from modules built at multiple shipyards at different locations. Assigning modules to shipyards can lower the costs of an overall program and overcome existing capacity constraints in the primary yards and ensure timely delivery. Modular construction technology is often used while sharing of construction load. The construction of INS Deepak, the fleet tanker was undertaken at two different locations and assembled at the prime shipyard. Further, large sections of Virginia class submarines are built by Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Newport, with the two shipyards alternating final assembly and test in US. The UK’s new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth class has been built at multiple shipyards, with final assembly at Rosyth. France used modular shipbuilding on its Mistral class landing platform helicopter amphibious ships; the first two ships of the class were built in two halves at different shipyards and brought together. These countries have used this strategy to offset constrained defense budgets and share production of a single ship to sustain multiple shipyards, reducing costs and overcome capacity constraints.
3D modelling solutions provide comprehensive work sharing capabilities, design automation tools, and customisable design rules that can create competitive advantages. It can be used to periodically review and identify necessary changes during the design phase itself, when modifications are easier to make and more economical to implement. 3D modelling is used in design activities related to plates, profiles, piping, equipment, outfitting structures, Habitability Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) ducting and hangars and supports among many others. Another technology that is used is the virtual ship building concept which simulates and optimises the entire shipbuilding life cycle process in a virtual environment from initial development stage to launch.
The product cycle time, cost competitiveness and quality can be improved by eliminating waste in the manufacturing process through continuous improvement by the workforce. This is the purpose of lean manufacturing.
“Change is a nature of life, but challenge is an aim of life. So always challenge the changes, not change the challenges” Swami Vivekananda
Indian shipbuilding Industry has been surviving on its labour intensive conventional shipbuilding methods and not adopted the modern shipbuilding techniques. The various problems faced by the Indian defense shipyards along with methods to overcome these problems have been brought out in chapter II. To develop the requisite force levels of IN, it is necessary and prudent to establish a build philosophy which is technologically advanced, economical to build and easy to maintain and support through its life. The leading shipyards in the world have improved their efficiency and productivity through implementation of Modular construction technology. The Indian Maritime Security Strategy – 2015 also highlights that – “Efforts towards modularity will also be perused, with encouragement to Indian shipyards to develop and expand their capacities for modular construction and repairs. These will cater for upgrades, address technological obsolescence issues, and reduce replacement time, towards operational and financial benefits”. It is therefore essential to replace the conventional methods of ship construction with Modular shipbuilding technology.
Modular design and construction is an architecture where functional subsystems are physically localised in a well-defined area and installed on a dedicated structure. All interfaces of these elements are very well defined with minimum interdependencies with overall system. In modular construction, the design is completely modular. By breaking down complex structures to defined building blocks, the engineer is able to manage large and complex systems in a structured way. The combination of individual blocks or modules makes the end product. Unlike standard construction, where most of the design, engineering and construction activities are performed in sequential order, activities for modular construction involve additional interdependency, since activities can be performed in parallel in various fabrication shops and / or at various construction sites. The use of modular construction technology in warship building is more beneficial due to complexities involved, interface requirements of various weapons / electronic equipment and long gestation periods of more than 10 years required for conventional design and construction of warships.
Defence shipyards have been building ships by constructing the hull and launching in water and thereafter undertaking installation of machinery and equipment in highly cramped spaces. A very small percentage of outfitting is carried out before launching and majority of outfitting works are performed after vessel launching. Pipe spools, ventilation ducts, foundations, cable traces, etc. are fabricated in shipyard workshops and sent to the outfitting location on large pallets, followed by their installation at the appropriate stage, necessitating an extensive paint touch-up. Modular construction of warships enable mission flexibility and future upgradability for enhanced service life of the ship; achieve synergies in procurement, integration, equipment, system testing and parallel ship hull construction; and finally would enable reductions in life cycle costs and costly upgrades. Modular construction coupled with fixed price contracts would further reduce the construction periods and cost overruns. Comparison studies between conventional and modular construction has brought out that maximum savings are in labour efforts required for outfitting and man hours saving has been noted to be 22.8% in a specific case study of modular construction. The level of modular construction adopted by Indian defense shipyards presently remains limited to fabrication of hull portion with very limited outfitting work.
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