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The Digital Future of Shipbuilding

In the research project Mari4YARD, within the framework of the Horizon 2020 initiative of the European Union, a total of 18 partners from research and industry are outlining the future of the maritime industry in Europe. The focus is on the question of how small and medium-sized shipyards can improve their production with the help of new technologies. The Institute of Production Management and Technology (IPMT) at the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) is therefore developing a mobile AR/MR application to support the workers and construction managers at shipyards in their activities.

Manual Tasks in Everyday Work

The starting point are manual tasks, which are nowadays guided by 2D drawings, manuals and/ or data sheets (see Figure 1). Workers therefore spend a lot of their work time on non-productive tasks. Previous studies show that workers in some yards spend only about 21% of their working time performing work tasks [Tietze, 2016]. A large part of the remaining time is spent searching for information. On the one hand, the workers have to identify parts, positions and dimensions in complex 2D drawings. On the other hand, they have to search in manuals or data sheets for additional information, such as storage locations or process parameters.

Figure 1 - Paper-based Information Provisioning [Meluzov, 2022]

If questions or problems occur, workers have to approach their supervisors, who then handle the problem and work out solutions. This communication process results in communication errors and is unproductive due to the long communication channels (address, explain and understand).

Digital assistance systems are intended to support workers and supervisors in their work. The main goals of the developed digital assistance system are to (1) present the necessary information to workers at the right time in a user-friendly way and (2) simplify and accelerate communication between workers and their supervisors.

A Digital Assistance System for Shipyards

A digital assistance system is software that supports people in their tasks by presenting information clearly. The system developed at the IPMT achieves this by displaying work plans and additional information as well as monitoring the work progress (see Figure 2). This data is linked to the 3D model. The 3D views and the views in Augmented Reality mode also make it easier to understand the work tasks to be carried out. Augmented reality refers to the overlaying of real objects, in this case in the camera image of the tablet, with virtual objects. Collected information, such as progress or errors, can be linked to components and communicated between the actors. This guarantees a continuous, traceable and fast flow of information.

Figure 2 - Usage of the Mobile Digital Assistance System for Progress Control [own figure]

Different views of the assistance system are customised to the different user requirements. Workers on one side need detailed views of individual construction sections. Supervisors, on the other side, need to be able to get a quick overview of the overall situation and therefore require views of the entire ship or individual decks (see Figure 3). Thanks to the uniform data structure, the assistance system can meet these different needs.

Figure 3 - Progress Visualization in the Web Dashboard [own figure]


Vincent Settler
Tel.: +49 (0)40 42878 3879
Mail: vincent.settler(at)tuhh(dot)de

Christopher Mundt
Tel.: +49 (0)40 42878 3677
Mail: christopher.mundt(at)tuhh(dot)de

Institut für Produktionsmanagement und -technik
Denickestraße 17 (Gebäude L)
21073 Hamburg



[Tietze, 2016]                         Florian Titze, Analyse und Verbesserung der Arbeitsproduktivität in der Unikatproduktion, Dissertation, Technische Universität Hamburg, 2016.

[Meluzov, 2022]                     Nikolaj Meluzov, Informationsmanagement für ein digitales Instandhaltungsassistenzsystem, Dissertation, Technische Universität Hamburg, 2022.