Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Full steam ahead! Ship builder upgrades its control-system-with-minimal-downtime

September 21, 2005
By Al Collins and Andrew Guskov

Marinette Marine Corporation is a full-service shipyard located on the banks of the Menominee River in Marinette, Wis., just upstream from Lake Michigan. The company was founded in 1942 to meet the United States’ growing need for naval construction. Since then, Marinette Marine has built more than 1,300 vessels and is a leader in designing and building technologically advanced vessels. Its facility and team of workers build both freshwater and seawater vessels for commercial and military applications.

Every Marinette Marine vessel is constructed and outfitted in a modern, 300,000-square-foot indoor production facility. To assure high quality, skilled craftsmen design and hand-build all of the vessels in-house. Marinette Marine is a premier supplier for the U.S. Navy.


For quality and reliability reasons, Marinette Marine incorporates motor starters and automation components capable of performing under the toughest conditions and environments. If Marinette Marine engineers need to modify the design of the vessel during the building process, its motor control products also must be modified, and often delivered on short notice. In the deadline-driven, ship-building business, the accurate and fast delivery of specialty parts is essential.


“We work on a very strict schedule,” says Gary Liewen, electrical engineer, Marinette Marine. “Our engineering team designs vessels and provides drawings to the craftsmen in the production area. When we adjust our designs, we often need to wait for new products and documentation to be delivered by our supplier. During that time, the production process can grind to a halt, meaning we won’t be able to meet our deadlines.”

Marinette Marine needed automation products that came with easy access to local service and support. The company contacted Werner Electric Supply, an Allen-Bradley distributor, to review available options.

“We surveyed our engineering and manufacturing department to determine individual product preferences, and all of the electrical foremen and engineers placed Allen-Bradley either first or second among automation products,” says Al Pomeroy, electrical buyer, Marinette Marine. “We know we can rely on Werner Electric to do [its] best with on-time delivery of Allen-Bradley products, documents, technical support and replacement parts.”

Rockwell Automation specialists worked with Werner Electric to design a complete automation system specifically for Marinette Marine vessels. Rockwell Automation offered Marinette Marine its complete NEMA components portfolio, including power control solutions, complete panel solutions and On-Machine solutions.

Allen-Bradley Bulletin 512 NEMA Combination Starters are certified for use in marine applications, and the MCCs integrate Bulletin 500 NEMA contactors, starters and control in one centralized package. High-performance AC drives provide precise motor speed and torque control that Marinette needs to handle such demanding applications as moving large components into a ship.


“We are very happy with motor control centres because they are simple to control and operate,” Pomeroy says. “More importantly, they provide great flexibility for future upgrades.”

Marinette Marine looks for efficiencies in production and constructs its vessels in a systematic series of panels, modules and blocks. This technique allows the modules and blocks to be pre-outfitted to a very high degree, while internal compartments are still very accessible. Similarly, Rockwell Automation fits each MCC to Marinette Marine’s exact specifications, and tests it before installation creating additional efficiencies.

Where applicable, Marinette Marine applies Rockwell Automation On-Machine solutions, which place automation components directly on the machines they control. For its high-tech refueling system, Marinette Marine placed a combination starter, push buttons, and an Allen-Bradley PanelView 550 directly on the machine to reduce wiring errors, enhance control system reliability and reduce installation and maintenance time.

By installing industrial controls and hardware directly on the machines rather than in centralized cabinets, installation time and associated costs are reduced by up to 30 percent less.

Al Collins and Andrew Guskov both work in the Industrial Components Business at Rockwell Automation. You can reach Andrew at

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