Mr. Lim Soon Heng is the author of a ShiPark - a concept that involves the clustering of shipyards. He is now, in the exclusive article that appeared in Shipyard Technology News (April/May issue), discussing why the time has come for the British shipbuilding industry to take stock of its past and confront its future.For more than 30 years, the industry has fought to remain relevant, with diminishing success. Faced with global competition, an ageing workforce and impatient shareholders means that it now is time to rethink and reformulate a completely new strategy, which is not shackled by conventional wisdom.
The incremental improvements, which the industry has implemented, have not adequately addressed the challenge of global surplus capacity, which has worsened with the entry into the market of China. China has become the third largest shipbuilder, the fourth largest merchant fleet operator as well as the largest steel producer on this planet. With low production costs in its favour, it will undoubtedly replace Korea, already a threat to AWES countries, as the most destabilising factor in the market.
In a previous article for Shipyard Technology News, Mr. Lim advocated relocation abroad, clustering for efficiency and capitalising on IT, (RCI) as the key success factors. In this article, he goes on to persuade why the RCI Plan should form the backbone for the reinvention of British shipbuilding. There are several good reasons to relocate. Lowering operating cost is one, especially in the face of an impending restraint on Government intervention. The need to rejuvenate with fresh new blood and incorporate the latest in digital technology is also compelling. Furthermore, as the industry contracts, it becomes more vulnerable, politically as well as commercially. But more urgent is the need to resurrect the industry while it is still possible before the current crop of managers, engineers and technicians are past their prime and no longer able to regenerate the economic life of the industry. To do nothing in the next five years is to losethat opportunity forever. Currently approaching their fifties, their productive, innovative and creative drive may soon be terminally exhausted with no succession in sight.