There’s a lot more to shipbuilding than what normally meets the eye. It isn’t simply all brawn, strips of metal, huge engines, and giant propellers. There are complex systems and intricate machinery that goes into building a modern ship. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of parts that have to work in perfect harmony for a vessel to sail safely on the high seas.
A ship’s exhaust system is one such vital unit. Featuring components including piping, bellows, silencers, deck and bulkhead penetrations, structural supports, anti-vibration mounts, condensate drains and spark arresters, it allows for the waste generated by ship’s engine to be released into the atmosphere for a smooth running of the ship. A complex system, exhaust systems can adversely impact machinery performance if not done right.
Designing exhaust systems is a highly specialised task – requiring time and a thorough understanding of the discipline – with clear implications for the overall layout of the ship’s underbelly and contractual agreements between shipbuilders and their clients. What compounds the challenge of designing and implementing exhaust systems further is that exhaust systems are normally finalized much later (in fact, only after) the main engines and internal layouts of the ship have been finalized.
Until recently L&T Shipbuilding designed and deployed exhaust systems using external expertise. Apart from the standard pipe sections and elbows, everything else was purchased from external vendors specialising in the discipline. In fact, in certain cases it would purchase complete exhaust systems on turnkey basis.
As common as it is for shipbuilders to rely on external vendors for exhaust systems, it is often risky – particularly in case of larger systems – from a cost and delivery standpoint.
In 2015 when L&T Shipbuilding was awarded the contract for designing and building seven Offshore Patrol Vessels by the Ministry of Defence, it was heralded as the beginning of a new era in the area of defence manufacturing given how it was for the first time that such a vessel was going to be built by a private sector yard in the country. The stakes were high and the timelines clearly defined. The order stipulated delivery of the lead OPV within 36 months from signing of the contract, i.e., by Mar -2018 and subsequent vessels at intervals of 6 months. There was no margin for erring on the schedule.
As design engineers looked to minimise dependencies on external parties so as to have greater control on the project timelines, it was decided to leverage the design and manufacturing capabilities of the shipyard to develop the exhaust system in-house. Since there were no ready-to-use prescriptions or guides on designing such systems, the project team responsible for it has to learn design calculation methodologies for optimizing design parameters such as back pressure and thermal insulation and develop its own literature for the task. It held discussions with experts, vendor agencies and validated its learnings by comparing with whatever data it could find from past projects.
This was followed by configuring the piping system in 2D & 3D and iteratively calculating design parameters and further refining of the layout. Subsequently, development of production drawings, nesting plan and expansion drawings was undertaken using innovative methods especially in case of large pipes of over one meter diameter in addition to other production drawings for piping. The team also ensured that anti-vibration mounts and structural supports were suitably integrated in the layout drawings.
In all, the work included 110 drawings, 160 meters of pipes and a total system weighing over 33 tons. Apart from mounting of the exhaust pipes which tend to vibrate (at times rather strongly) as the waste gases are discharged in the external environment, the team did everything in-house. Arresting the vibration requires special mounting equipment for which external help was sought.
A massive effort, in-house design and manufacturing of exhaust system for the OPV resulted in cost savings of about Rs. 8 crore for L&T Shipbuilding. Besides proving advantageous from a cost standpoint, the new-found ability to design and manufacture exhaust systems internally has now afforded the team greater flexibility in terms of overall design and production and greater quality control.
Besides it also gives L&T Shipbuilding an edge over the competition when bidding for future projects.
Business today is all about speed. If it’s not fast enough, it’s not good enough. Customers today care little for companies that don’t acknowledge this truth.
Agility and keeping pace with market trends and customer needs have long been the defining features of L&T Construction and Mining Machinery Business (CMB). As the country’s leading firm in the construction and mining machinery sector, it manufactures, distributes, and offers after-sales support for a wide range of construction and mining equipment deployed in diverse industries and applications.
One of CMB’s main pillars of success is its penchant for technology. Always wanting to stay ahead of the curve, the business has long relied on Information Technology (IT) systems to make its presence felt across a vast spread and maintain a ‘connect’ with its customers.
An early adopter of IT, CMB has been running an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system since early 2000. Additionally, it has been running instances of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Business Intelligence (BI), and Dealer Management System (DeManS) for providing its 1048 users from different business disciplines spread across different locations a firm handle on various aspects of its operations. The infrastructure housed centrally at L&T’s Chennai campus is supported by a dedicated team from L&T’s Corporate IT function. Reliable as it had been, by 2017 CMB’s IT set-up thanks largely to its years of business growth, continued expansion across geographies and product categories had begun showing signs of wear, its hardware in particular. Last refreshed somewhere around 2010, the systems while it continued to work, had begun slowing down. Since the ERP first went live in 2000, CMB’s data volume had grown roughly six times the original size and the number of SAP users had grown a whopping 22 times. The system generated 12 times more notifications and six times more purchase orders (POs) and Goods Receipt Notes (GRNs). Not to mention the additional computational load put on by the growing application landscape comprising sophisticated CRM, DW, BI and DeManS systems which were brought in for greater operational efficiency and insight in the later years.
Users had begun complaining of the time it would take to perform key tasks such as material requirement planning at plants, generating sale orders and service notifications or fetching service orders from the system for looking into customer incident resolutions. Supplies to customers had begun stalling since the system took “too long” to dynamically allocate parts to sale orders. Further, in the Dealer Management System, users were unable to execute cross dealer reports and individual reports had to be executed separately for each of the 60 dealer locations.
In short, the much vaunted agility that CMB prided itself on, had begun to sputter.
It was then that the business, with a view to speed up the systems and bring it up-to-date with user requirements, greenlit the project to overhaul the entire hardware landscape. But while a hardware refresh might have brought back some of that desired speed in the operations, the the CMB IT and Corporate IT teams felt that an additional investment in a new database system could deliver even better results. Since CMB, with the exception of its Oracle database, was entirely an SAP shop, the teams felt that HANA, SAP’s in-memory database platform would be an ideal match for their requirement. Capable of processing high volumes of data in real time, HANA’s in-memory computing feature means that one doesn’t need to load or write back data in order to query or analyze it.
Kicking off sometime in February 2017, the team roped in the services of LTI to work on the project. Given the overall scope of work, the team had roughly six months to work with an August deadline for the go-live.
It was able to achieve its target of migrating the entire system from the old, dated hardware to the new one and switch from Oracle DB to HANA in the said time. Corporate IT moved CMB’s entire application landscape to HANA including the core ECC, DeManS, CRM, Business Warehouse, Enterprise Portal, Gateway, DMS and BO Analytics package.
The swiftness with which the team was able to migrate to HANA was nothing short of remarkable. In what has to be one of the bigger enterprise-wide HANA deployments in the country, the team installed five HANA Appliances, a 10G Network Switch in Chennai and two appliances in Powai. It installed 32 Application Servers, tested 2542 cases – Unit, Integration & Regression, deployed interim ECC System/Parallel (N+1) as well as integrated ECC with peripheral systems including BPM and Standard Charted Bank. Ever since going live with HANA on August 20, 2017, users have felt a significant difference in their interaction with system. Operationally the systems has become far more responsive than it ever was. It now offers: faster extraction of data from ECC to CRM, BI & DeManS; 4x MRP run speed across plants; Single view of available stocks at plants in one place; Sale order fulfilment time; and greater visibility leading to informed business decisions with online reports.
Whereas before migrating to HANA, MRP had to be executed individually for each plant, the same can now be done for all the plants together, all at once. In terms of transaction time users have experienced significant improvement. For example vendor-wise outstanding reports now take only 18 seconds as opposed to the earlier when it took nearly 12 minutes and material list now takes only 6 seconds to produce against the earlier six minutes. Other advantages include much quicker turnaround time for G/L wise outstanding report, stock on posting date, display equipment, inventory list, and customer address report.
What’s more the HANA implementation has helped compress the database by approximately 70%. It has also made taking the weekly offline data backup redundant, saving 8 hours per week i.e. 16 days a year for Corporate IT.
Christened Project SUHANA, the HANA deployment has set CMB on a journey of operational excellence and prosperity. In other words, a suHANA safar!
Bots, they’re sprouting up all around us. Invading our lives without us even realising that they’re there, slowly becoming part of our daily existence. From our banking transactions to online shopping to finding a fix for a broken household appliance, we have chat bots on our mobile and computer screens helping us with common chores through the day. We have “talking” assistants like Alexa and Google Home that can do our bidding 24/7. Cars can now speak to us, telling us about the health of the engine, whether there’s enough gas in the tank and the kind of traffic we can expect on any road at a given hour of the day. You want your air conditioner turned on and set to a temperature of your liking and music system playing your favorite music before you set foot into the house? Let Alexa have a word with your smart AC and the music system!
It’s all happening right in front of our eyes. Machines and electronic devices talking to us and each other via that ubiquitous presence called Internet. All so that our lives become easier. And with ideas like Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) becoming more and more mainstream, we can expect this trend to gather even more pace in time to come. The day isn’t far when the gadgets and machines that surround us won’t even need us to feed them instructions. They will simply do things on their own accord.
How did this come to be? Strange as it may sound, all this focus on making machines do our work isn’t new. The origins of this are as old as when we first built a mechanised system and used fuel or electrochemical energy to power it so that it could perform a task. Only now that fuel has been replaced by Internet and highly complex software programmes that can inject “life” into inanimate objects like refrigerators and washing machines.
These smart machines no longer need buttons to be pushed to perform a task but they can be talked to directly, like how one human talks to another. Machines are being infused with the technology to accept voice commands and interpret them into their own language to initiate responses. That’s essentially the whole premise of bots. A bot is nothing but a program that acts as an interface between multiple devices. Bots by themselves aren’t of much value without IoT – the network of physical devices, embedded with electronics, software, and sensors with network connectivity to interoperate and exchange information. First gaining steam in the aughts, IoT has exploded in the recent times with new revelations and use cases emerging virtually every day. Today, some of the most popular real-world applications of IoT include Smart Homes, Wearables, Connected Cars, Industrial IoT and Smart Cities. Potentially each of these use cases (and many more that are yet to be discovered) could revolutionise our experiences in a way few could have imagined 10 years ago.
IoT is the latest buzzword in the industrial sector that is slated to not just change the shape of how industries function but also economies that become early adopters. Industrial Internet of Things or (IIoT) is empowering industrial engineering with sensors, software and big data analytics to create brilliant machines. The driving philosophy behind IIoT is that, smart machines are more accurate and consistent than humans in communicating through data. And, this data can help companies weed out inefficiencies and problems sooner and more accurately.
Then there’s the case for Smart Cities, a powerful application of IoT that’s generating quite a bit of hype across the globe. Smart surveillance, automated transportation, smarter energy management systems, water distribution, urban security and environmental monitoring all are examples of IoT for smart cities. Its application is expected to solve major problems like pollution, traffic congestion and energy shortage for urban populations.
As promising as this “connected” world appears, bots can go rogue and any of the network enabled devices can be hacked. After all, they too run on an operating system and a software stack. Security remains a concern even in case of IoT and a number of challenges continue to hinder its forward march.
Outdated Firmware: Given that the idea of networked appliances and home automation is relatively new, security isn’t always given the due consideration in product design. IoT products are often sold with old and unpatched embedded operating systems and software for the sake of fast and easy access. The manufacturers often leave it to the users to regularly update their devices with security patches, firmware updates etc.
Weak Passwords: Another fatal flaw in IoT security. Most consumers never change their device’s Default username and password. Default Credentials are usually common across manufacturers and malicious actors often use the end user apathy to their advantage and hack in. Changing Default credentials and setting a complex password makes it that much difficult for hackers to intrude.
Encryption: Most IoT Devices do not encrypt communication with the cloud out-of-the box. Hence it is essential that this is done so at the time of initial configuration. Ensuring the device use Transport Layer Security (TLS) instead of Clear Text Communication is one of the most basic security precautions that can be taken.
Secure Web, Mobile & Cloud Apps: Web, mobile, and cloud apps and services are used to manage, access, and process IoT devices and data, so they must also be secured as part of a multi-layered approach to IoT security. Just like devices, apps should also support secure authentication, both for the apps themselves and the users of the applications, by providing options such as 2FA and secure password recovery options.
High Availability: As we come to rely more on IoT in our daily lives, IoT developers must consider the availability of IoT data and the web and mobile apps that rely on as well as our access to the physical things managed by IoT systems. The potential for disruption because of connectivity outages or device failures, or arising because of attacks like denial of service attacks, is more than just inconvenience.
In some applications, the impact of the lack of availability could mean loss of revenue, damage to equipment, or even loss of life. For example, in connected cities, IoT infrastructure could be responsible for essential services such traffic control and healthcare services. To ensure high availability, IoT devices must be protected against cyber-attacks as well as physical tampering. IoT systems must include redundancy to eliminate single points of failure, and should also be designed to be resilient and fault tolerant, so that they can adapt and recover quickly when problems do arise.
Bots and IoT are part of an irreversible trend, one that’s only likely to gain pace in the time to come. Whether we can secure these effectively as the technology develops remains the million dollar question. It’s a question that may end up defining our experiences in the “connected world” of tomorrow.