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Building the future RAN: the potential for Australian–German industrial collaboration

Posted By on April 21, 2016 @ 11:00

Image courtesy of Flickr user swgn

Editor’s note: The Strategist has invited all three SEA 1000 contenders to explain their approach to meeting Australia’s future submarine requirement.

Germany undoubtedly has led the world into a fourth ‘industrial revolution’—Industry 4.0. With limited natural resources, Germany has grown to export over US$1.3 trillion of mainly high-value manufactured products annually.

The German export success is based on a number of factors, which offer some significant synergies for Australian industry.

Germany has encouraged and recognised the role of small and medium-sized, largely privately (often family) owned companies (so-called SMEs) as the powerhouse of innovation, productivity and manufactured exports. The large German conglomerates, such as Siemens, MTU, Rheinmetall and thyssenkrupp, have supported the German SMEs as a vital supply chain of innovation and competitive products and services for their international market penetration.

The German union movement is engaged in the nation’s productive enterprise and plays a constructive role in secure employment and continuous productivity improvement, innovation and the digitalisation of industrial processes.

Germany treated the re-unification of East and West Germany as an opportunity to invest in new infrastructure and modern productive capacity. As German industry is export market driven, it’s always striving for the latest innovative processes and products that are internationally competitive and desired. Its strong industrial base helped the country to cope with the 2009 financial crisis better than most.

Underpinning German industrial success has been a national policy called ‘Industrie 4.0’—the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. A vital element of this has been the development and implementation of advanced (digital) integrated product development and support environments (IPDSE) and wide application of novel technologies to interface, in the main, existing production tools and equipment. Those systems use sophisticated 3D design/development/monitoring tools and an unbroken digital thread that facilitates error-free numerically controlled production, operation and support. The result allows complete product lifecycle management (PLM), over the entire life of the product.

thyssenkrupp is a global technology company and it has led the way in digitising the shipbuilding industry in Germany and the world.  Both surface ships and submarines are designed and managed in an integrated product development and support environment.  At the heart of tkMS’ Digital Shipyard is Siemens’ PLM Teamcenter a system embraced by a handful of world-leading shipbuilders following its outstanding success in industrial sectors worldwide, including automotive, aviation, aerospace, chemical/resources processing, and shipbuilding programs. Around $700 billion of US military programs are now managed on Siemens PLM Teamcenter, including the nuclear-powered submarines at Electric Boat and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

tkMS IPDSE (digital shipyard)  enables safe development and/or scale-up of new products with full integration of lessons learned from previous evolutionary product design/development, and elimination of errors and interface conflicts prior to production commencing. The 3D virtual digital models provide training and pre-production practice to improve productivity levels to the benchmark standard—regardless of geographic location.

The global supply chain can be integrated into a unified information and data management system that provides seamless communications while protecting classified information and IP. The 3D model and data-base is updated continuously to deliver the as-built configuration model for use by the operators through the lifecycle of the product. Efficiency gains of between 50% and 150% are realised from construction through the entire lifecycle.

Over the last two decades several leading submarine designers/builders have developed integrated design, production and sustainment systems that have revolutionised shipbuilding, particularly for highly complex platforms such as submarines and in one US case, nuclear aircraft carriers.

thyssenkrupp has progressively developed its ‘Digital Shipyard’ or IPDSE for its global operations and project delivery, worldwide. thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (tkMS) uses Siemens PLM Teamcenter as a core element in its IPDSE to design, deliver and support its naval surface ships and submarines to its many customer navies, whether they’re built in Germany or offshore.

This is a genuine breakthrough that enables design data and construction detail to be transmitted to any geographical location with absolute confidence so that the build program can be a mirror of the original. The digitalisation of the tk MS naval industry systems has enabled it to dominate the international naval market for surface ships and conventional submarines, delivering all its contracts on fixed prices.

If selected by the Australian Government as a partner for the Future Submarines Project, thyssenkrupp has committed to establish its ‘Digital Shipyard’ in Australia, and to establish a Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence (SCOE) in Adelaide, linked to the Siemens PLM centre at Tonsley Park, as well as to the tkMS ‘Digital Shipyards’ in Kiel and Hamburg, and the SCOE in Virginia, USA. That will establish a unique defence industry interoperability capability with Australia’s allies for both information and IP security.

The SCOE in Adelaide will extend to other industry centres in Australia—to enable all companies in the Australian supply chain to participate in the tkMS IPDSE and become part of the global advanced manufacturing process and supply chain. tkMS has met with around 500 such companies during the Future Submarines Competitive Evaluation Process and has identified nearly 3,500 Australian companies that could potentially participate.

The IPDSE is the future of manufacturing and it’s equally applicable to the smallest local SME as well as to the largest international conglomerate. It will provide the opportunity for Australian companies at all levels to join in this fourth ‘Industrial Revolution’ and be globally competitive. It can play a key role in putting into practice the Turnbull Government’s visionary innovation agenda for advanced manufacturing in Australia.

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