Maritime engineering often involves large development project, and safety critical aspects are often at the center of consideration when developing something new. This results in large amount of technical requirement text that needs to be processed and understood.
Looking at the expected changes in the industry in the next few years, it is safe to say there will be an even larger amount of regulation to deal with. Engineers already spend a lot of time processing this text, and this is likely to increase in the future.
Regulations, standards, customer requirements…
Depending on the project and the field, developing something new, or simply replying to a customer request in a new location, can include a lot of extra work when regulations and standards are involved.
Regulations change from region to region, and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) works with governmental regulatory bodies to oversee collaboration in the field of shipping and international trade. IEC and ISO also play a role with several field related standards, such as ISO/TC8, ISO/TC10, IEC TC 18 (and many more depending on the field), which are considered together with regulatory bodies to avoid duplication. For ships, an extra layer of complexity can also come from being able to conform to a certain class.
Engineers have been battling with regulations and technical standards for years, but an important source of textual requirements comes also from customers and stakeholders. When selling a complicated system, or when purchasing them, there is a lot of text data that needs to be processes by the experts. This can be a matter of working through received tenders, or separating pages upon pages of customer requirements to the right teams. Simply put, the more complicated the system, the more data is often involved.
Complex in nature, large in amount
With large amount of data comes also large amounts of difficulties. Communication between different teams in a projects can be hard if the information is vague or ambiguous. All requirements need to be verified, but with thousand of pages, it is easy to miss the important detail. Information coming from many different stakeholders can cause contradictions in the analysis and it can be hard to spot these issues before it is too late. If the text corresponds to a longer project, any issues not solved in the beginning of the project, can have exponential costs down the line.
New technology showing the way
The amount of data is only going to increase. There is an incomprehensible amount of data generated at any given time; by 2020 this is expected to increase by 4,300%. This is not all without cause. Looking only at the maritime industry, several radical changes are taking place; autonomous ships are being introduced, sensors are being applied more than ever, robotics are helping with complex tasks and communication systems are expanding.
With new technology come new regulatory issues. Safety critical systems are getting more common and this will cause an increase in requirement text and need for verification.
Taking advantage of this huge amount of data requires a different way of thinking: How data is built and used? How much of it we can handle? How fast we can process and analyse it? And where and how are decisions made?
How to deal with all the information?
On the procurement side, large integrated tools such as SAS Ariba can help control a large set of suppliers and improve supply chain management.
Artificial intelligence can also be utilised, and tools such as Selko Analytics can automate some of the tasks in processing large quantities of text.
And finally, to keep it all together, protocols such as the Shipdex Protocol can help keep everyone in sync.
Maritime engineering is a fascinating field, that is facing some exciting changes in the coming years. People and organisations will interact differently and processes can be improved, leading to better and more rewarding work. Being able to harness this data and get the most out of it is going to be more important than ever, but also present a great amount of opportunities.