WHAT CAN FLOW LEARN FROM OTHER INDUSTRIES TO HELP BALANCE INNOVATION WITH COSTS, RESOURCES AND TIMESCALES?
The floating offshore wind industry is still in it’s infancy, yet The Crown Estate (TCE) has announced 4x 1GW leases for floating wind developments in the Celtic Sea, with build out time set for between 2030 à 2035. Getting ready for developments at scale for 2030 (300MW minimum steps) is a challenge for all stakeholders, especially those involved in the manufacture and commissioning phases. Standardization surely has a part to play in the successful exploitation of the Celtic Sea wind resource.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY STANDARDIZATION?
STANDARDISING & COMMONISING
Of course our industry already utilizes Standards & Guidelines, what I want to promote is a discussion about the adoption of common or standard parts for FLOW. When an industry is relatively new, technological advancement is rapid & competitive advantage can be critical to the success or failure of a business. It can be difficult to think about working with your competitors for the benefit of all, but I would argue it is a major contributory factor in the medium to long term success of the industry, and has societal and environmental benefits (LCOE reduction, reduction of carbon emissions – an imperative for all industries, particularly FLOW). A highly competitive sector, Automotive, has long embraced standardizing Specifications and utilizing common parts & systems.
LESSONS FROM ANOTHER INDUSTRY
THE AUTOMOTIVE WORLD
The VDA group, (Verband der Automobilindustrie) the Association of German Automobile Manufacturers, has long collaborated on standards and standard parts. A VW Golf, Mercedes C Class, BMW 3 Series and Ferrari F550 will share many common, standard parts, but they are not parts that give a competitive advantage or that the user gives much thought to. Competitive advantage & innovation is vital to vehicle OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), it can contribute to the Brand identity and should not be diluted. Equally these OEMs need to make a profit, so collaborating and setting a common standard for parts that ‘just need to work’ allows the Tier 1 suppliers to develop their parts & systems to a specification which they know will likely have whole industry demand. A/C compressors, washer pumps, terminal connections, starter motors, generators and many more parts fall into this category. The VDA standard has become so ubiquitous that non VDA group members will utilize those parts as the costs are so competitive and they have a known performance level.
To achieve this, the Automotive industry works very closely and very early with it’s supply chain. OEM’s engage with potential and preferred suppliers early in the research phase to generate interest and also to gain valuable feedback on areas such as manufacturability, new materials or processes, capacity limitations etc.
With the rapid acceleration in build out requirements of FLOW in the Celtic Sea, collaboration to define standard parts could ease the pain and make it actually feasible for the regional supply chain to deliver for a 2030 – 2035 build out of FLOW at scale.
THE GENERAL BENEFITS OF STANDARDIZING AND COMMONIZING
- Improved & consistent quality -> creating many of the same thing keeps quality high (batch production techniques).
- Increased reliability -> a factor of the consistent quality.
- Easier & common compliance -> for both safety & performance.
- Reduced piece part costs -> reduced cycle times with standard tooling.
- Simplified supply chain -> the possibility of only needing a few tier 1 suppliers. Instead of controlling each supplier as direct supply (in effect, many tier 1’s) you can chose a few primary suppliers as your tier 1’s who can manage sub assembly of parts and the related suppliers (tier 2, 3 etc.).
- Interoperability -> the horizontal roll out of parts across developments increases supply chain interest & engagement.
- Increased flexibility -> reduced costs and times for parts.
- Minimized investment -> shared tooling, owned by the supplier rather than the OEM (follow the VDA model, only paying the piece part cost).
- Carbon emissions reduction -> less duplication of works & tool manufacture contributes to reduced emissions.
IMPLICATIONS FOR FLOW
WHAT TECHNICAL AREAS ARE INITIAL CANDIDATES FOR FLOW?
It is always a fine balance when deciding what to standardize and when, & what to leave for continued competitive innovation. It may be prudent to prioritize select components & systems to be standardized that the industry will require in large quantities. This suggests cable related parts and systems could be the initial candidates (buoyancy modules, bend stiffeners, array cable quick connectors etc.). Industry collaboration to jointly develop standardized components can allow optimum solutions to be derived faster than individual endeavor. It also frees up resources in each company to work on the competitive innovation (fewer employees from each company working on the same problem). Fixing standards and common parts for the 2030 – 2035 phased period for the Celtic Sea commercial scale leasing round could be the way forward, with learnings taken forward to revise those standards and introduce new ones.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
HOW DO WE START? WHAT IS ALREADY BEING DONE? -> OUR INDUSTRY CAN DECIDE, WE CONTROL WHAT WE DO.
A common Automotive way is to propose:-
MUST -> can be the ‘low hanging fruit’, or the candidate parts with the biggest benefit, or the parts that can be done for 2030
SHOULD -> when time or company relationships allow, these are the next candidate parts to target after the MUST items
MUST NOT -> these parts are the competitive advantage parts, the parts that make your company stand out in the crowd.
I‘d welcome your thoughts and feedback. Let’s start a conversation!
Nigel Jones is the Technical Manager for the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Project which is part of a Pembroke Marine Project, funded by Swansea Bay City Deal and European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh European Funding Office.
Contact Nigel Jones on:
Email: [email protected]
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- Concrete Position Paper 2023
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- The Crown Estate July 2023 Update on Celtic Sea FLOW Leasing Round – Implications for development of a local supply chain