Saturday, 19 September 2015

An Interview with Dr. Jan Emblemsvåg

Jan Emblemsvag
(Image Courtesy:
"The dichotomy of theory versus practice is an artificial one – all practice is based on theory whereas not all theory is based on practice, which is why this dichotomy arose. The difference between modern approaches to leadership and management and other approaches lies in their relation to reality. Modern approaches are fact-based and driven by reality, and so am I." says a note on his website

Jan Emblemsvåg is the SVP of Ship Design and Systems at Rolls-Royce Marine. The acclaimed corporation which has delivered the most ship designs over the years for the world offshore market, major designs in fishing vessel technology and merchant vessels. The corporation has also ventured into special purpose vessels and ship conversion projects.

In this interview with Learn Ship Design, we get to know about Rolls Royce Marine and it's operations. He speaks about Managerial challenges, his work on the Life Cycle Costing Approach, keeping pace with changing trends and what makes Rolls Royce Marine a leader in it's game.

Rolls Royce Marine seems to provide top notch solutions, be it with regard to pure raw power of drill-ships or the demanding precision of research vessels. But, it also amazes to witness the prowess in mainstream application of alternate fuels and the proposed mass automation (drone ships) in ship design. What drives this immense initiative? Please tell us about your experience.

Rolls-Royce Marine (RRM) has a large network in the market so we quickly hear about new ideas, new needs or new trends in general.  This, in combination with highly skilled employees, we have a very good breeding ground for innovation.  Why there are so many, is a good question. It is probably a mix of a willingness to try out new things and the fact that RRM indeed has very wide product portfolio so that there is a large opportunity for innovation.

Would you like to comment on how your work at Rolls Royce Marine and the unique challenges faced in the shipbuilding industry is honing your managerial skills in its own unique way?

The shipbuilding industry, for which we deliver ship design and equipment, is a volatile industry with focus on personal relations (due to the risk level – do you trust your business partner to deliver?) and complex projects with significant risks. RRM is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rolls-Royce plc which is traded at the Financial Times index in London. Stock markets typically want steady growth etc. This creates a unique mixture of apparent contradictions, which I personally believe is a great opportunity of innovations.  As a manager I must therefore try to handle a very large variety of issues – something I find very challenging, interesting and stimulating personally.  My level of performance must someone else talk about. 

Can you give our readers a brief jest about the Life-cycle costing approach and the Monte Carlo method and how we can use them in the maritime industry?

Activity-Based Life-Cycle Costing builds on Activity-Based Costing (ABC) and Life-Cycle Costing (LCC) and it uses Monte Carlo methods to power the approach, so to speak.  From ABC we get the focus on process, correct cost assignment, correct handling of overhead costs and more, from LCC we get the life-cycle perspective and the importance of handling risk and uncertainty and the Monte Carlo methods allow us to make huge models and realistically model risk and uncertainty as well as tracing key success factors.  The approach can be used for all kind of applications to calculate costs, profitability and so on.  Concrete examples can be to calculate the profitability of a contract for a ship owner, use the model and tie it to design changes so that design can be improved before they are built.  This can concern ships, oil rigs and any asset expensive enough for the cost of creating such a model.  The most important aspect of what it can be used for, however, is the availability of data.  This said, the Monte Carlo methods reduce the need for accurate data as long as the data is somewhat consistent. 

What are the main aspects one should keep in mind while evaluating the profitability of a ship/offshore design?

The single most important element in this industry is risk due to its volatility, and therefore flexibility/robustness is critical in the design particularly for offshore- and special purpose vessels.  The risk element is the reason why personal relations are so important – ship owners must feel they can trust the shipyard, the designer and the equipment maker.  There is too much at stake – this is critical the more expensive the assets. 

Given a possibility in the future, how would Rolls Royce Marine respond to providing solutions for a cruise industry linking India, knowing its untapped potential and exciting challenges?

We have had projects in India for several decades so it is a very interesting market.  With my experience with the maritime sector in India, however, cruise vessels do not seem to be a wise place to start.  We are developing designs that are medium spec’ed and easier to build while maintaining many of the quality hallmarks.  We are happy to assist Indian shipyards building UT- and NVC designs. 

While Rolls Royce Marine has been doing reasonably well like we said earlier, there is still a lot of potential remaining to be tapped. Will it be able to match the prowess of the aerospace division in the coming years?

The two markets are fundamentally different.  Aerospace is an industry with very high entry costs so that once you are established you are among very few.  This makes the industry easier to be big in, then in the marine industry where entry costs are much lower and margins are under heavy pressure these days due to the low oil price.  However, we have a lot of untapped potential but matching aerospace will probably be hard.  

Ship design is still transitioning from a rule based design methodology to risk based design methods. How far has your organization been able to adopt the factors of risk assessment into the process of ship design?

We use it to some extent, but the adoption rate varies considerably except where it is mandated by class for which we fully comply, of course. Class notations are vital in our business. 

On a different note, please tell us about your time with students of Management Science. Especially about the skills you deem are vital among management personnel in the field of ship design.

Irrespective of industry, I think an important trait of a good manager is the willingness to always learn something new, constantly reading and updating himself so that he does not become outdated and falls behind. Another important trait is the ability to use facts to solve problems instead if going with the guts all the time. Sure, gut feeling will be an element in many cases, but it has to be aided by facts.  However, what must never be underestimated is the ability to handle people.  Brilliance in subject-matter, but lack of people skills, will imply that this person is suitable for technical work and not management.  Therefore, I look for students that are fact-based and willing to question things and learn new things.  Good humour at own expense and humility are also important traits. Leadership potential is severely restricted in people that constantly have to prove how smart they are because I know from experience that such people will fail as leaders. 

Last question to you, the questions for this interview have been framed by eager students and budding engineers in the field of Naval Architecture, who have looked forward to interacting with you through this interview. What message do you have for them?

I hope you all find something useful in my answers, but more importantly; keep on learning the rest of your lives about management, philosophy and other topics NOT related to engineering or naval architecture– then you can contribute more widely as well and build your career.  

To know more about Dr. Emblemsvåg and his work, you can visit his website:

The picture used above does not belong to LSD, and full credit for the same goes to the respective owners. 


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