Way back in December 1890, decades before it landed its first defense contracts, Newport News Shipbuilding delivered its maiden hull, a 90-foot tugboat affectionately named for the young daughter of a former Navy Secretary. Dorothy was delivered at a loss, well over budget. Big data might have helped to curb the overrun.
Augmented reality might have helped, too.
More than a century and a quarter later, NNS is on the front lines of manufacturers implementing augmented reality into any number of processes. The nautical leader, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, started to explore AR in 2007 and introduced the burgeoning technology to its shipyard in 2011 as part of a larger digital effort, according to engineering manager Patrick Ryan.
The tipping point, Ryan said, was a large project, sustained over three months in 2012, that introduced “digital storyboarding, a kind of mobile (virtual reality) solution” that cut down on the need for the massive drawings used for reference throughout the yard: “When we bring in a new generation of shipbuilders, giving them a drawing that’s three feet wide, two feet tall and a foot thick is not how they’re going to want to go to work.” Of course, the digital storyboarding also demonstrated a 35% cost reduction in the construction of one craft over those three months, which helped spark the overall shift toward digital.