Location Western Australia
Austal Limited is a publicly listed, billion-dollar Western Australian shipbuilder, defence prime contractor and maritime technology business.
For thirty years Austal has been designing, constructing and supporting revolutionary defence and commercial vessels for the world’s leading operators, including the United States Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Border Force and international ferry operators such as Fred Olsen, Molslinjen, Condor Ferries and SNC Aremiti.
Austal has designed and delivered more than 300 vessels to more than 100 clients in at least 54 countries from its modern shipyards in Australia, USA, Vietnam, Philippines and from its joint-venture shipyard Aulong in China.
Austal’s aluminium vessels are highly optimised for space and weight, as a result pipework often is routed through compromised service voids, with pipe spools utilising non-standard obtuse angles regularly as pipework shadows the hull profile or interlaces with other services residing within tight working spaces.
Using traditional flat-bed fabrication tables, Austal’s pipe spools were being dissected into smaller sections in order to manage dimensional control during assembly; set-up and tacking activities. Site-checking and site-welding on vessel were common-place, as was to-and-fro movement between the vessel and workshop and a high level of effort to manage the variables preventing consistent one-time installation of fit-for-purpose spools.
On award of a 109m Vehicle Passenger Ferry for Danish operator Molslinjen, Austal re-structured it’s Henderson Shipyard Operations (HSO), in so doing relocating the Pipe and Mechanical spool shop to a new facility and centre of operations for the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Program, 10kms to the south of HSO at Hope Valley Road (HVR).
Recognising both cultural and process changes were required to operate effectively from a remote location; Austal introduced a superordinate goal for the Pipe and Mechanical team focussed on communicating the value stream that defines an efficient spool manufacturing process.
“‘Measure Accurately > Build Accurately > Install Once’ – that’s the objective.” explains Mark House, Head of Programs – Austal Australia. “We established a clear vision on what ‘good’ looks like, and then we plotted our path towards that goal.”
Austal recognised 3D modular fixing tables were a key enabler to manage variables hindering achievement of the ‘Build Accurately’ objective for the spool shop, and weighted the initial selection of a manufacturer, towards those established manufacturers with a proven system.
After review of the full catalogue downloaded from the parent website, contact was made with Leussink Engineering, the exclusive Australian & New Zealand distributor of welding table parts and accessories from innovative German company Demmeler Maschinenbau. Negotiating a 'rent before you buy' agreement with Leussink, provided Austal the opportunity to initiate development of new processes and data supporting the basis of estimate for cost and efficiency savings - without making the capital expenditure purchase of equipment up-front.
“Ultimately it was the initial commercial agreement negotiated between Austal and Leussink, that was the catalyst for this relationship to form” explains House, “There is no substitute for actual data obtained by utilising a new tool or piece of equipment within an organisation’s existing people and processes - to make a business case for capital expenditure. After working with Russell Brinkworth, Demmeler Account Manager - Leussink Engineering, we enabled our P&M team with a selection of tables, two generous kits of clamps and fixtures, the ability to swap out pieces if they desired. We empowered our team to develop the processes needed to demonstrate value in purchasing the Demmeler system outright” House continued.
Reaping the benefits
“We said, ‘let’s try this table and see what it does’,” explains Gareth Constantine, Piping and Mechanical Coordinator in Austal’s operating at the HVR spool shop. “We thought it was a really good product they were providing, and a good service.”
The Austal team immediately saw that the Demmeler tables were delivering vastly improved accuracy control over what had been a cumbersome, time-consuming process using traditional flatbed fabrication tables.
“The [Demmeler] table makes it a lot easier to put pipe spools together accurately,” Constantine says. “But it also makes it a lot more efficient.”
Austal now has five Demmeler 3D modular fixturing tables in use. With a suite of and accessories at its disposal. Constantine praised Leussink for their flexibility and customer service, offering a wide variety of accessories for metrology and clamping.
He thanked Leussink for their role in helping Austal:
- Reduce errors
- Save time and labour
- Improve quality and consistency
- Work safely
- Gain competitive advantage
Positioned for growth
Since purchasing five Demmeler modular fixturing tables from Leussink, Austal has seen a dramatic improvement in efficiency and accuracy; advancements that continue to support Austal gaining a competitive advantage.
“We shall continue to work with Leussink and Demmeler to explore further opportunities.” House concluded, “With Demmeler, Austal didn’t invest just in a tool; we invested in a system; where the products we have today, will integrate with those we purchase tomorrow.”