Establishing continuous naval shipbuilding in a leading defence company

Our customer has a rich heritage building ships for the Royal Navy. Its most recent product has been developed into a global combat ship and has been successfully sold to the Australia and Canadian Navy.


The Commonwealth has established the programme, charged with taking the shipbuilding capability, processes, technology and global combat ship design from Glasgow and implementing this in Australia. A new shipyard is being established and built in Adelaide, South Australia, and prototyping production of the Australian variant is starting. 


Our customer is optimised to build ships in the UK for a UK customer. With the award of the contract, it has had to rapidly develop an export capability. This includes setting into operation an integrated team spanning two continents with a time zone difference giving minimal overlap of the working day. The technology and data were subject to legal, security and export controls, and had never previously been released outside the local operation.  


Many of the existing systems were running on outdated versions, and the level of technical debt was high at the outset. Meanwhile, the local shipbuilding capability in Australia was becoming moribund with a gap between major builds and loss of experienced staff – the industry needed a kick-start. The first delivery was agreed to be a prototyping programme, to trial the new-build factory, to run all the processes and technology, and to create five blocks (around a third of a ship) before starting the full production ship build. The programme had committed to a First Cut Steel milestone for prototyping in December 2020. There was no detailed plan of how to achieve this government imperative. 



Key challenges  


  • Identify the prototyping design separation challenge, shape and implement the solution approach and deliver to the time line  
  • Carry this approach through to the global combat ship design separation, deliver a federated PLM and separate CAD model for the first time in the history of our customer  
  • Leverage the time zone problem, where the two halves of the programme worked 10.5 hours apart during the winter, to create a ‘follow the sun’ approach to business systems migration and cut over. 

Project One was asked to structure the technology delivery programme for prototyping: a lead to build the prototyping approach and plan; a project manager to deliver the core complex integrated systems; and a business analyst to manage the key requirements and design.  


Within six weeks, a roadmap for the next 18-months of delivery was created, while a solution was also shaped for a key constraint: the separation of the CAD/PLM systems and data from the reference ship. Stakeholder agreement was obtained across the many business functions to a new approach. Subsequently, working with the leaders in engineering, the approach and plan for prototyping design separation was developed, and a firm delivery plan baselined.  


The Project One team led the delivery, constituting the critical path of the entire ship build programme, achieving the prototyping design separation milestone in May 2020 – on time and to plan. This enabled platform engineering to take on the detail design, and ultimately for Cut Steel to take place when promised, with the Australian Prime Minister in attendance. 


Multiple integrated business systems were delivered along the way, such that the Australian business had a full suite of systems in place to support the start of their prototyping fabrication. 



Project One partnership 


Project One was able to bring a small team of consultants with vast experience across the change lifecycle – they were not experienced in ship build but leveraged the experience of their colleagues to build in ideas from within other sectors of our customer, as well as other industry client assignments. Within two months, they were able to advise on the end-to-end implications of approaches and decisions as they built the understanding to inform on the full ship build process. This was valuable in working with our customer colleagues, expert in their silo areas. Keeping a cool head, and working with the full range of stakeholders, they were able to shape the change, coach stakeholders and build trust in the delivery. 


When COVID-19 hit, in March 2020, the team transferred to their home locations and continued to host calls across Glasgow, Filton, Melbourne and Adelaide. The transfer was seamless, as it occurred at the peak of the delivery, with the core CAD and PLM engineering systems going live in Australia only a month later. Subsequently, Project One has also provided a resource to shape the global combat ship delivery portfolio, and to establish the requirements stream for the production design separation programme. Both of these roles have now been handed over to in-house resources in order to allow our customer to continue independently. 


The prototyping milestones were achieved, and First Cut Steel took place in December 2020, an important contractual, political and social milestone. A separated engineering model was shaped and delivered, allowing prototyping to build on a CAD and PLM from the reference ship design. All integrated business systems that support the enterprise were delivered on time, allowing full end-to-end business flow for a new ship build operation. This formed the foundation of the digital shipyard, with further innovations planned to move to a paperless shipyard. Project One worked to highlight the importance of production design separation.


The solution was shaped and delivered for the introduction of variant management of a federated PLM, through an 18-month delivery, one of the most complex on the Hunter programme. Tying in Canadian Surface Combatant, to ensure synergies across the client commitments, this shaped into a global combat ship delivery programme, where Project One provided the technology programme leadership. This is ongoing and delivers into the first-of-class Cut Steel milestone in December 2022. 



Project One adding value  


  • Created the prototyping technology delivery plan, built alignment and delivered all key milestones to plan – in a complex environment where such predictability is not the norm  
  • Built confidence and gained the respect of the Commonwealth, with successful prototyping readiness events  
  • Delivered a successful programme allowing our customer to succeed in the wider endeavour  
  • Developed close interworking with client staff in UK and Australia, ensuring handover to local staff when possible and allowing the programme to continue with a fully empowered local team. 

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