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Braving New Waves Together: Leveraging On Technology


Celebrating 40 Years of ASMI
World-Class Industry
Premier Centre For Ship Repair And Conversion
Glowing Prospects For FPSO Conversion
Offshore Bonanza
Specialist Builders
A Complete Maritime Community
Developing Human Capital
Safety First
Leveraging On Technology
Battle For Hearts and Minds



Leveraging On Technology


Innovate to Lead

As technology development is seen as pivotal to Singapore’s continuing success as a premier international marine and offshore centre, companies are embracing innovation to help differentiate them from the competition. “Technology has provided us the competitive edge in staying ahead of the competition these past decades. We must not lose this edge. Therefore, we need to continue to invest in technology and in research and development, and to continue to innovate to stay in the lead,” said Mr Chia.


While the contract-clinching proprietary designs have made the headlines for the shipyards, developments on the shopfloor have brought about process improvements which have made a difference to companies’ productivity and safety, and contributed to their bottom line.


In rallying ASMI members to make innovation pervasive within the industry, Mr Chia said, “The word ‘innovation’ may seem like a big thing to many. However, innovation can also be carried out at the shopfloor level in our workplace. Through Safety Innovation Teams, our marine workers have come up with small innovations that help make their work safer, and at the same time improve productivity and reduce costs. This is a very important area to encourage as collectively through such pursuits, the industry will be able to inculcate and build up the mindset and capability of our people to innovate.”


Working Better, Working Smarter

The industry’s search for better processes began in the early 1980s to curtail the need to employ ever-increasing numbers of men to take on the increasing work volume. The advent of computers in the 1980s saw the industry embracing the CAD/CAM Technology. Individual shipyards adopted CAD/CAM, numerically controlled burning machines and semi-automatic welding machines to expedite work and enhance efficiency.


Their efforts were complemented by industry-initiated programmes. Urged on by the government, five major shipyards came together to standardise work procedures for ship repairs. 11 standard procedures were drawn up covering work in areas such as turbines, centrifugal pumps, cargo blocks, condensers, boilers and main engines. Mechanisation was introduced in work processes to improve productivity.


A fresh attempt was made by the industry in the 1990s. Together with the Productivity and Standards Board, and the National Science and Technology Board, ASMI launched the Marine Technology Programme (MTP) in 1995 to advance automation in shipbuilding and repair and develop new processes for enhanced safety and productivity. Altogether nine projects were developed in two phases over six years, including improvement of ventilation in confined spaces, staging, pipe fabrication and automation of the welding process.


Over the years, perceptible improvements in processes and engineering have also been made at the individual company level. In 2001, ASMI organised a 3-month long productivity road show to promote productivity improvement. The mobile exhibition showcased the innovative equipment and gadgets developed in-house by seven shipyards to improve production efficiency.


Breaking New Grounds

The rig building shipyards are standard bearers of what can be achieved through innovation. Keppel FELS has a full suite of rig designs which it can offer to customers while Sembcorp Marine can provide designs and turnkey service to customers for jack-up and semi-submersible rigs, including supplying the drilling equipment. Both companies have also honed their work processes which have enabled them to accomplish more within a shorter time frame, earning them early delivery bonuses from satisfied customers.


The two companies are investing considerable sums on research and development (R&D) to maintain their market leading positions. Sembcorp Marine Technology was set up in 2007 to sharpen the company's competitive edge in marine and offshore technology. The S$1 million R&D centre focuses on new product development and process innovation.


In the same year, Keppel O&M also made its biggest commitment to R&D with an injection of S$150 million in seed money to establish Keppel Offshore & Marine Technology Centre (KOMtech), to focus on developmental technology. The new centre strengthens the R&D initiatives undertaken by Keppel O&M's technology units – the Offshore Technology Development, Deepwater Technology Group and Marine Technology Group.


A Helping Hand

“The government is committed to promote R&D in the offshore and marine engineering sector… The relevant government agencies are working closely together to ensure a conducive environment for offshore and marine R&D in Singapore,” said Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, then Minister of State for Finance and Transport, in her speech at ASMI's anniversary dinner in 2006.


Indeed, government bodies such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), EDB and MPA are lending a helping hand to reshape the marine and offshore landscape with their support for the industry’s R&D efforts. Together with research agencies like the NUS’ Centre for Offshore Research and Engineering (CORE) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Centre of Innovation (COI) for Marine and Offshore Technology, they are working with shipyards and marine companies to help transform Singapore into a global maritime and offshore hub.


Funded by SPRING Singapore, the COI aims to help marine and offshore companies, especially SMEs, develop new and innovative products and solutions. The COI provides the platform for SMEs to try out new technology ideas and enhance their capacity for innovation. Since it became operational in 2007, Mr Tan said that it has undertaken over a dozen projects for both SMEs and non-SMEs. Among its early successes is the first heat exchanger testing system for heat exchanger and piping specialist, Heatec Jietong.


SPRING has also set up a S$8 million Marine Capability Development Programme to support local marine SMEs to develop capability in engineering services, streamline work processes, create new and innovative products as well as to certify products and processes to international standards.


Companies can also draw on government funding to finance their R&D endeavors. The marine community can tap into the S$100-million Maritime Innovation and Technology Fund (MINT) established by the MPA to build up maritime R&D capabilities and develop the maritime technology industry. They can also avail themselves of the R&D capabilities residing in tertiary institutes and government-funded research centres.


In developing its award-winning 'Load-out and Mating-in-Dock' technique to facilitate simultaneous construction of multiple rigs, Sembcorp Marine's Jurong Shipyard benefited from working with CORE. “When we first came up with the idea of skidding metal against metal without toppling the structure, we had the idea, we had the solution, but we needed super computers to test it,” said Mr Wong Weng Sun. CORE provided the entire verification, which enabled Sembcorp Marine to press forward with the development.


Turbocharger maintenance specialist Tru-Marine has a long and satisfying relationship with the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), an R&D centre funded by A*Star. Beginning with the development of the weld repair of an aluminium alloy impeller in 2003, Tru-Marine has collaborated with SIMTech to harness technology to improve its turbocharger repair competencies, which enabled it to provide customers with more cost-effective and timely solutions.


By seizing the opportunities and accepting the helping hand extended, industry members are developing new capabilities and strengthening existing ones to help secure Singapore’s place as the pre-eminent node for the marine and offshore industry.

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