Decision support model for evaluating the use of small scale automation in shipbuilding
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- Institutt for marin teknikk 
Exposure to high labour costs made most Norwegian OSV shipyards outsource the labour intensive parts of production, focusing mainly on the outfitting phases. However, improvements in robotics have enabled the shipbuilding industry to leverage upon these increasingly cost-effectiveness technologies for automation. This has created new market opportunities for the Norwegian shipyards. Their manufacturing strategies have been based on achieving high quality, flexibility and to deliver on time at a reasonable cost. Using this setting a decision support model for small-scale automation has been developed. The decision process is built up around two main entities, preferences and information. The preferences are rooted in the decision makers' values and past experiences. Decision makers with various backgrounds will have different preferences. Hence, the weight of their opinions will depend on the objectives set. Information about the inputs, the process and consequences is evaluated on the basis of these preferences. There are three phases in a decision process. First, during the structuring phase, a decision question is formulated and posed. The business situation, encompassing market, strategy and industry competition are analysed. Objectives and alternatives are then created. Secondly, the automation technology is evaluated. This is done by quantifying the risks and expected returns using different risk-assessment tools. The operational uncertainties related to the automation are also evaluated. The information from these quantitative metrics together with the operational uncertainties are then analysed according to the objectives set in the first phase. Lastly, during the appraisal phase, the volatility of the decision is assessed based on various market scenarios. Afterwards, a verification on whether the objectives are met, then decide on a course of action. Two separate cases was analysed by using the model. The first case stopped after the first phase since it was concluded that new automation investments did not favour the business situation. The second case, where an investment in a large pipe prefabrication facility is considered, has a business situation and a values set that makes the investment attractive. During the evaluation phase, it showed promising returns and little risks on the overall impact on operations. In the last appraisal phase, the case was exposed to different market scenarios, providing the company with various course of action should market conditions changes. In order to monitor the situation over time, key uncertainties are mapped. The values-focused thinking play an important role throughout the decision process. The established objectives are used as guidelines that are weighted according to the stakeholders preferences. Moreover, by focusing on the core values of the objectives set forth, biased decisions can be eliminated. It should be stressed that when it comes to the automation decision, having a long term perspective can be favorable, due to the complexity of such projects.