DISCOVER Magazine #7

Damen team wins Allianz ‘Hackathon‘

Published in category: Innovation

A three-person team comprised of Solon Pavlioglou and Ewoud Huiskamp, respectively development and research engineers at Damen R&D, and Priyanka Raikar, a UX designer at Blue Carpet, recently won a Hackathon organised by Allianz Insurance at their office in Rotterdam. A hackathon is an event, often lasting several days, in which people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. In the Allianz event, ten teams competed for a top prize of € 3,000.

The challenge was to take the same dataset of anonymised car insurance records; covering details such as claims, dates, car types etc. and to visualise the beauty of the data in such a way that it revealed the information patterns and structures hidden within it. The time limit for the competition was 36 hours, with beds provided for those for whom the endless cups of coffee couldn’t keep awake.


The dream machine

Solon and Ewoud entered the competition confident that they would at least do well. Their experiences with ‘big data’ in Damen’s R&D department proved to be good preparation for this kind of challenge. Analysing big datasets is, as in many other industries, a big part of building and operating sea-going vessels given the wealth of information that their systems produce and its importance for ensuring efficient and safe operations.

For anyone with imagination and an inquisitive mind, Damen R&D is a great place to work. As well as the surprising variety of work it offers, Damen encourages its researchers and analysts to come up with, and work on, their own projects. Through a system known as ‘Genius Hours’, staff regularly get the opportunity to present proposals regarding topics and technologies that they would like to investigate independently. Those that make it through the filter process are allocated budgets that allow the individuals concerned to take time out to work on them. This encourages innovation and taps into the skills and enthusiasm of the R&D staff, to the benefit of all concerned.

Solon has been with Damen for three and a half years, of which the last six months have been with the R&D department. He started at Damen as an assistant project manager in the tugs division after qualifying in Greece with a Bachelor’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, and then gaining a Master’s in marine technology at TU Delft. “However, I found myself becoming more involved in business analysis, looking at the processes involved in the decision-making and helping the project managers make more informed decisions,” he says.

With the experience I gained with the Damen operations team for tugs I decided to join Damen’s R&D department with its younger, more international and highly dynamic team.

Ewoud has been a member of the R&D team for two and a half years, having previously qualified with a BSc in mechanical engineering and an MSc in offshore engineering. He is currently focusing on structures, where amongst other projects he has been part of the team that produced the world’s first class-approved, 3D printed propeller, in bronze. Given the scale of the component, the stresses that it undergoes in operation and the material used, this is regarded throughout the industry as a major breakthrough in the application of 3D printing. It demonstrates its increasing ability to manufacture large scale, highly durable components for the maritime and other industries.

What shall we investigate next?

There are plenty of other projects underway in the department in which the guys can get involved. Some of these involve emerging technologies; assessing them for their applicability to the systems that Damen designs and builds. Optical recognition is one such technology, another is known as ‘hardware in the loop’. The latter applies advanced simulation techniques to digitally optimise a ship’s development and design process with the goal of improving system integration and controls design before construction even begins. For systems such as propulsion, deck cranes and gangways, addressing these issues at such an early stage can deliver significant savings in time and money.

Looking ahead, Ewoud and Solon expect to have the opportunity to participate in other innovative technologies. Digital technologies and the applications of ‘big data’ will continue to be key areas, and the development of artificial intelligence will dramatically enhance the ability to automate many of the systems found on today’s vessels. “And the department is about much more than creating new products,” continues Solon. “We are also looking at every aspect of our vessels and seeking new ways to optimise processes by taking the best technology in the market and adapting it to our needs. Clients are ever more focused on maximising the performance and availability of their assets and are looking to us to work with them to deliver that on a continuous basis. So the collection, analysis and application of data regarding every aspect of a vessel and its operations is already a key part of what we do and will only become ever more important.”

A fantastic result!

Their experience in managing and analysing data served Ewoud, Solon and Priyanka well in the Hackathon as they quickly realised that the complexity of the Allianz datasets made a thorough quantitative analysis impossible in the time available. Instead they opted to represent the data in a qualitative format; animating the data to create a moving representation of the cars in motion. These in turn together created a silhouette of the Netherlands with clusters of good and bad drivers emerging from the aggregated journeys. Focusing in on these clusters then revealed that specific companies had concentrations of bad drivers; important information for an insurance company. In addition to the graphs, the team also created a painting!


All that effort was well worthwhile. Solon, Ewoud and Priyanka were declared the winners by the Allianz judging panel and took home the €3,000 prize. Working at Damen R&D will undoubtedly provide plenty more opportunities for excitement ahead for Ewoud, Solon and their colleagues. No-one can know quite what the future will hold, but the men and women in Damen R&D will undoubtedly be playing a leading role in developing and introducing the technologies that will transform the design, build and operation of vessels of all types, as well as no doubt many other industrial sectors.


Solon Pavlioglou

Development Engineer

Contact via LinkedIn

Ewoud Huiskamp

Research Engineer Team 3

Contact via LinkedIn
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