Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock Embraces Novarc's Welding Automation Technology to Revolutionize Manufacturing Processes

Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock is strategically located on the West Coast of North America, just north of the Canada-US border. The yard provides a full range of quality repair services and understands the importance of delivering vessels on time and on budget. Facilities include two Lloyds registered floating dry-docks and alongside pier space, a heavy machine shop with two 40 tonne overhead traveling cranes and lathes, capable of handling shafts up to 18 metres (50 feet).

The need to be more efficient, deliver projects quickly and at a lower cost, is especially important in the shipbuilding industry. As well, new regulations mandated by the International Marine Organization (IMO) have resulted in many new system installations that will require implementation over the next five to 10 years. Many of these systems are related to environmental concerns, with Vancouver Drydock’s most recent project, the completion of the Ballast Water Treatment System upgrade, being a prime example. Seaspan recently installed Novarc’s SWR to help complete the Ballast Water Treatment System at their Vancouver Drydock. While the work itself was a new type of refit project for Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock, according to Seaspan, the Novarc welding automation technology used in the installation process was an even more exciting and innovative first for the yard.

The Ballast Water Treatment system was installed with the assistance of Novarc’s SWR. For Vancouver Drydock, automation solutions like Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot play a key role in delivering the projects faster, and with a lower cost. While some shipyards are slow to grasp new technology, Seaspan knew that it was embracing technology that had the potential to give the company a significant leading edge in an increasingly competitive market.

The Novarc Solution

Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock was looking to find a technology that offered both productivity and quality improvements for pipe fabrication when they came across Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR). With no programming knowledge required, the collaborative Spool Welding Robot works with a human operator to weld from root to cap automatically without the need to shut off the arc, and delivers consistent high-quality welds, every time.

 “We did look at a couple of other options, but they were very minor improvements on current technologies. The Novarc product offered a complete further step,” says Paul Hebson, VP & General Manager at Vancouver Drydock. 

The company’s current water treatment system project involves welding and installing a variety of pipe spools (about 80-90) and installations on ships. With Novarc’s SWR, welders at Vancouver Drydock are able to generate pipe joints in about an average of 40 minutes; a job that used to take four and a half hours.

“We wouldn’t have been able to make the lead time on the current project we are doing without the SWR – we would have probably had to outsource some of the pipe fabrication,” says Hebson. “We have shown more than half a dozen of our customers around the machine. It’s a powerful message to our clients that we are investing in a piece of technology that’s going to make the work we do for them less expensive, higher quality, and take fewer hours. People really respect businesses that invest in their business rather than do other things with the cash they generate.”

“For the job we currently have on the drydock now, we actually walked a client around during the bidding phase when we were just finishing the installation of the SWR. We told them about how we intended to use the SWR in the ballast water treatment system that they had to install, and the cost savings we could generate for them as a result. That was a client we hadn’t seen in about five years, and I am very pleased to say that we secured that contract,” adds Hebson.

The Bottom Line

By implementing Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot, Vancouver Drydock was able to increase their productivity by over 400% using the SWR, and achieve consistent X-Ray quality welds, every single time.

Productivity Improvements

“In terms of productivity improvements, in other areas we were looking at the traditional 15-20 per cent improvement, while the Novarc solution is a several hundred per cent improvement,” says Hebson.

By implementing Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR), Vancouver Drydock has been able to shorten their project timeframes and not only decrease their production costs, but save money for their customers. “We compete for and win work in three ways: price, quality, and time. For our customers, the daily service costs are tens of thousands of dollars a day, so two to three days saved is a huge return,” says Hebson.

Quality Improvements

Quality is a major part of Vancouver Drydock’s promise to their customers.  Ad Bertens, Director of Business Development summed it up by saying, “We believe having Novarc on board with this project will guarantee us the quality our customers are expecting.”

Ease of Use

Another major advantage that Novarc’s SWR has provided the Vancouver Drydock has been the ergonomics of the machine for the operators. “It is far better than any of the solutions in the traditional methods. There has been a lot less impact on the welders’ bodies and therefore their overall health. They are able to be productive for most of the day rather than needing to take breaks frequently because they have been in difficult positions welding. They used to spend all day with their head down looking at something as they were welding, and now they are spending all day standing up with their head looking straight ahead. It’s far more comfortable. And most importantly, no more welder neck pain,” says Hebson.

Novarc’s cutting edge, robotic systems will soon be used across Seaspan’s shipyards in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, allowing the company’s pipe welding to be done dramatically more effectively, and efficiently.

About Novarc Technologies

Novarc Technologies is a Canadian-based robotics company specializing in the design and commercialization of collaborative robots for industrial applications. Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR) is the world’s first of its kind in pipe welding application. Novarc’s SWR has built a reputation for its unique form factor and advanced features for pipe welding not unlike a human’s precision and dexterity, with an operator-friendly user interface, adaptive control systems for accurate torch control, and machine learning algorithms to detect features.

As a proven pioneer in the field, Novarc has a dedicated team of engineers and scientists eager to solve challenging industrial automation problems that improve customers’ bottom line. The welding industry is looking to adopt these technologies in order to solve the shortage of qualified welders, accommodate the millennials workforce, and solve the cleantech challenges of this century.

About Seaspan Shipyards

Seaspan Shipyards, a division of Seaspan ULC, is a leader in Canada’s shipbuilding and ship repair industry. With modern facilities and a dedicated workforce of 2,700 in North Vancouver and Victoria, the company has proven itself to be a trusted partner on a range of complex projects for both government and the private sector.

Seaspan Shipyards is proud to be Canada’s chosen non-combat shipbuilder under the NSS. In this capacity, the company is building state-of-the-art ships in Canada for the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy. Through its NSS-related work, Seaspan Shipyards is creating jobs, generating economic benefits, and rebuilding Canada’s shipbuilding and marine industries.