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Naval shipyards: Military shipbuilding of the future

18.06.2019

The military shipbuilding market is undergoing profound change. Theo Herzog, Managing Director of Lean Maritime GmbH, is showing the specialised shipyards new ways. LMCP asked him about this:

Mr Herzog, what challenges is the European naval shipbuilding industry currently facing?

“The framework conditions in the marine defence sector have changed radically over the last ten years. Governments allocate a comparatively small budget for the manufacture of military vessels. At the same time, they expect much shorter delivery times – in some cases by up to fifty per cent. Whereas in the past shipyards in their own countries were preferred as a matter of course, today countries are putting out major orders to tender throughout Europe or even internationally. This has already significantly changed the European military shipbuilding landscape – and with it the competitive situation for smaller, independent shipyards. A current example of this development is the thirty-billion-euro order that Australia has awarded to a shipyard in France for the construction of submarines.”

What measures can naval shipyards take to remain internationally competitive?

“The network idea must replace the nationally oriented structures, even in operations. Two large shipyards in France and Italy have shown the way, merging across national borders. In particular, the German naval shipbuilding industry appears completely fragmented. Cooperation at national or European level will enable traditional shipyards to recover lost ground and operate internationally. But mergers alone are not enough. Every company involved in military shipbuilding has to produce much faster and cheaper than before. With consistent quality, of course. What is needed now is efficiency.”

You yourself have brought about such an increase in efficiency in military shipbuilding. How was that possible?

“For more than three years, Lean Maritime has been helping a major military shipyard in France to significantly reduce throughput times for the construction of frigates and at the same time make its work processes more productive. To this end, we have established a way of thinking in the company that is based on lean principles – adapted to the requirements of a complex large-scale construction project. To do so, we first analysed the entire manufacturing process, from the first steel cut to the interior installations on board. Building on this, we optimised processes, reduced waste and identified solutions to specific corporate problems. At the same time, we introduced and stabilised entirely new processes. With the help of employee training and more specific team training, we were able to embed the new way of thinking and new approach into the corporate culture in the long term. This has reduced delivery times and manufacturing costs – each by a double-digit percentage.”

Which of your top skills were necessary to prepare the military ship builder for the future?

“Reorganisation, project and process management, change management, planning strategy, subcontractor management and digitisation of workflows. These capabilities have enabled us to stabilise the company and make it competitive – not least because the confidence of the clients in the yard has grown over the long term.”


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