International Marine Industries (IMI): the route to a Smart

International Marine Industries (IMI): the route to a Smart

Digitalisation can be achieved fast without too much legacy: we learn from IMI's Emad Al Humam about the Smart Shipyard of the future

IMI's Ras Al-Khair site will become the region's largest shipyard when it reaches its full production. The construction work has been fast-tracked since its launch in 2017. The yard is spread at a five square kilometre area at Ras Al-Khair on the east coast of Saudi Arabia. It's a massive $5bn investment for the country, but the revenues it's expected to generate in the near term make it a sound one. 

The success of IMI's shipyard, the anchor project at King Salman Complex for Maritime Industries and Services, is built on the collaboration of well-known leaders in the industry who have a proven track record. In addition to Saudi Aramco at 40% ownership,  Hyundai Heavy Industries,  Lamprell, and Bahri each have a 20% stake. Each one of these partners was strategically selected to add an area of strength to the maritime yard. This is done by leveraging the know-how of Hyundai and Lamprell, as well as, the initial offtake support from Saudi Aramco and Bahri, guaranteeing 20 offshore rigs and 52 vessels over the next ten years.

Combined, these strategically selected partners and governmental support will contribute to the overall success of the maritime yard. IMI was officially registered in Saudi Arabia as a limited liability company (LLC) in December of 2017. 

The key enablers to ensure the success of the King Salman Maritime Complex and  the shipping industry in the kingdom have been identified. To address these enablers, IMI has been working closely with the Saudi Government to create & enable an environment that will make the yard' globally competitive'. Thus far it has been able to secure the Government's support for infrastructure development and is working to leverage Government and other institutions to develop supporting financial services for our customers and suppliers.

IMI's Senior Vice President for Corporate Services Engineer Emad Al Humam was seconded to IMI from Saudi Aramco in 2016. During his assignment with IMI, he has covered various roles such as VP – IT, CFO, VP of Procurement and Supply Chain Management and Senior VP of Operations Services to his present position of Senior VP – Corporate Services in which he covers HR, Training & Development, HSE & Quality Management, Facilities Management, Industrial Security & Fire, IT, Digitalisation & Innovation and Cybersecurity. 

"While leading the IT, Digitalisation and cybersecurity teams, I want to make sure that our strategic objectives can be achieved using the latest and state-of-the art technologies that will give IMI a competitive advantage in the maritime industry". More than 120 employees are planned for IT, digitalisation, and information security functions.

Technology-led development and execution

The last couple of years have been critical to IMI's rapid growth strategy, so the onset of COVID-19 came at an awkward time – it could not be allowed to slow progress. Operations had to be maintained while enabling as many people as possible to work from home or remotely and making this possible fell to Al Humam's lot. This enabled him to drive forward the establishment of IT and Cybersecurity platforms to ensure zero interruption to the business. In fact, in many ways, the spur of the pandemic speeded up implementation of digital work and communication platforms.

"We had to follow government guidelines to allow employees to work from home and remotely. All our measures were very successful, though, and we did not even have a single case of COVID-19 spread case within our offices!" 

A flexible work schedule was created to make it possible for staff from more than 20 countries around the world to collaborate remotely. Flexible working patterns, with four days on and three off, became a long-term strategy to keep operations going 24/7. These strategies have been a real accelerator and proved very successful for the business continuity during the pandemic. 

The partnership road to digitalisation

Al Humam presented the IMI digitalisation strategy to the Board in 2020. "After securing Board’s approval, we immediately set about implementing it by detailing more than 60 digitalisation and innovation initiatives, identifying a strategy for big data, data analytics and AI. Big data, Analytics, and AI platform will provide insights on predictive maintenance, digital twins,  health & safety, energy & water management, and environmental aspects. These insights and analytics will be based on real-time data, environmental conditions and yard and fleet operations. We worked on fourteen business areas for this initiative of digitalisation strategy. It resulted in the identification and documentation of over 100 scenarios. 

“Our yard is under construction right now – we are going to reap huge value in the way of operational efficiencies, from cutting material wastage to better employee output. Also through data analytics we will provide product lifecycle management and enhanced service delivery to IMI customers. As a result, IMI will be positioned to have a competitive advantage in the maritime industry."

He points to two outstanding projects already successfully in place. The first is development of data strategy and implementation roadmap for data analytics and AI, working closely with Microsoft. The second is an ERP platform from IFS. IMI Business is successfully operating the IFS ERP system for support business functions such as Finance, HR, Payroll, IT, Procurement, Asset Management and maintenance, repair, overhaul (MRO) operations. Implementation is ongoing for the core functions. Dar Middle East Information Technology (Dar.ME) is the system Integrator, and IFS' local golden partner in Saudi Arabia has been instrumental in the implementation and support of the IFS at IMI. IMI continues in partnership with Dar.ME as prime contractor for the implementation, integration and support of IFS and third party applications. 

“We recently signed a long-term agreement with the Cambridge-based industrial technology company Aveva to help implement ship and rig building core processes and digitalise core operations to enable the establishment of the IMI Smart Yard by 2023,” he adds. “Furthermore, since IMI and SATEC share the same long-term vision and inspiring ambition, we have signed an agreement with them to collaborate together to develop a state-of-the art, competitive, safe, and sustainable shipyard that will highlight IMI as a leader in the shipbuilding and MRO businesses. The agreement also include collaboration with Saudi universities for attracting and hiring fresh graduates and development of local talent for IT, cybersecurity and digitalisation.

"By investing in a central, integrated platform, we have enhanced business insights through complete process visibility," says Al Humam. "We consider the ERP as the foundation for our digital strategy. We are now integrating IFS with some best of the breed third party solutions which are specific to the maritime industry. An integrated application portfolio gives us an end-to end solution for automated processes which are key for execution of our digitalisation strategy. Some of key features are personalised dashboards which gives us instant insight into the status of any situation making it easier for management to reach decisions. Actionable notifications via email allows the management to review, and provide approval decision on the go with just one click." 

The HR module is automated from recruitment and onboarding to employee benefits and rights, training, performance and travel management. "This is reducing overheads significantly. Our employees are our number one asset and we care about them all. 

"We know that whenever we deploy any technology, it will require training. We have professional and technical development programmes and an apprentice scheme where we put high school graduates into a two-year training and development programme, and so far around 1,200 young men and women have taken part and next year alone we'll take on a further 1,100. As well as that we put them into on-the-job training with our partners, sending some to Korea or Dubai to give them experience in ship and rig building."

All of IMI's strategy relies on long-term relationships with vendors, customers and partner companies. Good examples are found in Aveva, IFS and the private cloud provider Detasad and others. "It's not a matter of just deploying technology but also of the value it adds, its efficiency, the ROI it promises, customer satisfaction and sustainability. From our technical partners we are insisting on having a co-innovation approach that will not only benefit us, but our partners and the entire market."

Sustainability in the sector

The recent UN COP26 summit has concentrated minds on environmental matters and sustainability. "We have an advanced environmental strategy to align us with the COP26 mandate and help our customers to do the same. We are fully compliant with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) 2030 regulations on the environment. This is really crucial in our industry and we are pushing for a truly green environment and green yard."

A further pressure on the shipbuilders, and particularly on IMI since so many of its stakeholders are working in the O&G sector, is the focus the Glasgow summit, COP26, placed on reducing global fossil fuel dependency. "We were set up with Aramco and Bahri with a ten-year agreement to build 20 jack-up rigs and 52 vessels so this demand is not going to go away in the short term. Demand for oil and gas from the global market will continue for some time. But when market conditions no longer allow customers to commission new ships and rigs, we do have another big revenue stream. This is MRO – when owners can't buy new assets then this segment will become ever more important for them and they will need us to help them make the best use and get longer life out of their existing ones and retrofit solutions for dual and alternate fuels.”

Smart Yard and Smart Products

IMI intends to build more than just the biggest in the world, but the smartest and most highly digitalised shipyard. "All of the 60 digitalisation initiatives I mentioned are designed with this objective in mind. We made sure that all the operations and assets are connected in a single network whether it's operations, via machines or robotics. In addition, we have the concept of the 'Digital Worker' through smart PPE and wearables that can track and monitor employees' health, safety and performance. The digital worker solution is also aimed at improving attendance and project time recording when workers move from one project to another. All of this data is collected and subjected to data analytics and AI to help us optimise our processes and helping our people to be efficient and competitive in the market. 

"The Smart Product concept is equally important. IMI is heavily investing in new ship design and establishing R&D capabilities with partners to design and construct digital ships. The digital ship will be built using latest technologies and will be fully equipped with technologies to efficiently operate and maintain the ship.  Production lifecycle of Engineering & design, procurement & construction will be fully integrated with operations & maintenance lifecycle through the Digital Twin to help optimise the design for future orders as well as the performance of existing vessels.

IMI Smart Products design and development brings additional value for customers. The smart products result in reduced delivery schedules, improved quality and safer operations of the vessels. In addition, access to IMI digital solutions will reduce customer costs, as they'll need smaller project management teams on-site during production lifecycle. And digital twins will support customers' digital asset requirements and help to improve design and performance of the ship.”

By creating an accurate and consistent Smart Ship in the project phase IMI can handover a high-quality Smart Ship to their customers, allowing faster commissioning and start up times, earlier crew training and a more comprehensive data set as a foundation for digital operations. Data from sensors installed on the fully connected ship is transmitted to onshore data warehouse via 5G and Satellite connectivity. All the systems onboard and onshore are fully secured and protected with robust solutions of IT/OT cybersecurity. 

Ship Lifecycle Management is achieved by adopting digital solutions that provide fleet management, fleet optimisation, and optimal route planning for the operation of the fleet. In addition, while the vessels are in operation, it will provide machinery and structural insights, near real-time altering for fuel consumption, idling, emissions and environmental aspects. “In partnership with our customers, the operational data will be used for product lifecycle optimisation and future design improvements. The digital ship is developed on robust and state-of-the-art technology components. Using the latest engineering solutions, the digital design holds the data from the production lifecycle starting from basic design until handover of the vessel. This digital design also consume the data from operations lifecycle of the vessel and function as a digital twin of the vessel. The digital twin is used to run simulations and what-if analysis to optimise the design of future products and the performance of the existing products. "

All this can be achieved through the smart yard and the smart project vision. By designing this into its huge, brand new digitised yard IMI will set a benchmark for the future of shipbuilding and marine asset maintenance for decades to come. This vision is already here in fact – in October 2021 Bahri took delivery from IMI of a 'gas-ready', fuel-efficient very large crude carrier (VLCC) built by IMI – a big boost to Saudi Arabia's 2030 vision to maximise local content.


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