50 years of FORAN in continuous reinvention - December 2014 - No. 48 /Article

50 years of FORAN in continuous reinvention

ALHD Canberra vessel launching. Courtesy of Navantia.

ALHD Canberra vessel launching. Courtesy of Navantia.

The FORAN system celebrates its fiftieth year in 2015, half a century since José Manuel de Sendagorta conceived it as a support tool for marine projects at SENER. That initial idea to improve SENER’s efficiency has become, 50 years on, a complete CAD software for the design, construction and engineering of all kinds of ships and marine units. FORAN is considered the technological leader in its sector and is completely international. The system is installed in shipyards and technical offices across 30 countries and is used in world renowned programs.

By and for marine engineers

Many CAD programs exist in marine construction, but few bring together CAD, CAM and CAE functionalities: Computer Aid (CA) in the processes of Design (D), Manufacturing (M) and Engineering (E). FORAN allows for the efficient creation of a complete and detail 3D virtual model of the vessel, from which it is possible to automatically obtain all the information needed for its manufacture and assembly. In addition, this 3D model can be reused as a data source for other tools, such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), procurement management or planning applications.

FORAN is the only software designed by naval architects for naval architects to solve the problems they themselves face. To this end, it has always pursued the same goal: to maximize automation of the production process in order to build better ships at lower cost and in less time.

For this reason, it was envisaged from the very beginning as a modular and perfectly integrated system with great versatility. As such, FORAN is used for all types of vessels: from sailing ships to tugs, ferries, RORO, fishing vessels and large cargo vessels, as well as offshore platforms. Although it is notably marine, it can also be applied to other sectors in which SENER is active thanks to the synergies within the organization itself. One example is the 150,000 m3 third storage tank at the BBG regasification plant in Biscay, Spain, which was designed and built using FORAN.

Also worthy of note is its involvement in naval construction, with two industry giants designing with FORAN: BAE Systems, in the UK, and Navantia, in Spain. Their programs, which are very long term and with highly restrictive demands, benefit from FORAN’s integration with PLM and the concurrent work capacity, which enables clients to operate from different production centers on the same projects lasting for years, and guarantees total control over the modifications and updates throughout the lifecycle.

In next few months, FORAN will launch version 80 with state-of-the-art developments and significant functionalities for the offshore sector, which is set to be a niche for growth in coming years.

Living in a permanent future

This versatility is achieved thanks to the exhaustive work of the FORAN team, which is made up of IT specialists, mathematicians, naval architects and marine engineers. They all work together to configure the system and implement improvements under two criteria.

First and foremost is the company’s vision of FORAN, both in the short term and the long term. In this sense, it is vital that FORAN stay ahead of the times and foresee the state of technology in the next decade. Only in this way will it be able to offer an immediate response to new demands from the market in the moment they arise. For this it is necessary to evolve in step with technological evolutions, and FORAN has the advantage of a long pioneering history that commends it as a technology leader: it was the first software to implement a database in the product model, and the first to release a version for Windows, an Oracle database and integration with lifecycle management applications such as PLM. It is currently working on collaborative and distributed engineering applications with advanced visualization, virtual reality and augmented reality, and on concepts such as digital shipyards and robotization. In fact, two virtual reality rooms with FORAN have been delivered by SENER in a turnkey project for Navantia.

The second path of evolution for FORAN consists of detecting and attending to demands that arise externally, which come from clients and users of the system. In this respect, SENER’s Ships Section is a key ally; as a privileged user of the software it test drives every improvement and is quick to provide first-hand knowledge of the reality in the sector. The combination of these viewpoints –the more strategic company vision and the more immediate market vision– come together in FORAN to make it the most complete CAD software available in shipbuilding.

In its forecasts, FORAN is looking towards solutions that are increasingly global, such as turnkey projects, to meet the future demands of large construction companies. Other turnkey projects include the Floating Storage and Regasification Units (FSRU) designed by SENER. These offshore terminals connect SENER’s ample marine experience with its knowledge of regasification plants, civil marine construction and combined cycles.

Excellence in service

In a field where excellence in the product is expected, excellence in associate services marks the difference. The FORAN customer service team – which includes training, technical visits and service support – is primarily composed of naval architects and marine engineers. It is vital that customers talk to someone who speaks their language, is familiar with the problems areas in shipbuilding and understands their needs. Furthermore, these engineers are all experts in FORAN and are capable of transmitting their knowledge and teaching customers about FORAN. This position requires very high qualifications, years of training and specialization, and the capacity to provide great quality service that is appreciated by customers. This service starts with the software sales process, which includes trial periods and pilot projects and continues after the signing of the contract. In many cases, SENER provides intensive support in the first job the shipyard performs with FORAN, which involves sending its personnel to the shipyard’s facilities. Moreover, SENER tries to make sure that these professionals come from the surrounding area and are therefore capable of understanding local culture, given that European, American, Australian and Asian customers are all different. At present, FORAN has clients in many different time zones, from Japan to Vancouver, and offers 24/7 service every day of the year.

The longest standing software on the market

The creation of FORAN was, to a certain extent, fated by the innovative spirit of SENER’s founders, brothers Enrique and José Manuel de Sendagorta. It was the 1960s and the dawn of the computer age, but SENER –purely a ship design office at the time– could not find computing tools to boost the efficiency of its projects. And so they decided to make them.

FORAN started out as an endeavor almost solely driven by José Manuel de Sendagorta, a Doctor in Aeronautical Engineering who had studied Combustion Aerodynamics at the Spanish National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA). Applying this knowledge to the marine sector, he developed an interest in using mathematical formulas to represent the underwater hull in a system based on coordinated modules. In 1965, the first version was launched (for internal use only) under the name FORAN, an acronym of FORmas ANalíticas (ANalytic FORms).It was soon realized that this system could eventually be marketed and exported to other technical offices.

With 50 years of active service, FORAN is the longest standing software on the market. It is also a technological asset for SENER, which has placed its trust in this project throughout its history as a hallmark of its identity.

A benchmark in innovation

Since its creation, FORAN has been one of the cornerstones of R&D at SENER. Currently, 75% of the FORAN team’s work centers around the development of the system itself. This is self-financed thanks to sales of the product’s licenses and maintenance services. This investment is strategic in maintaining its position as a leader in technology, and has been recognized both inside and outside of SENER. Specifically, from 2003-2004 FORAN was given the Innovation Award, a prize from SENER to recognize state-of-the-art solutions. Externally, SENER has received many awards thanks to FORAN, including the 2008 Prince Felipe Award for Business Excellence in the ‘Technological innovation for large companies’ category, which described FORAN as “an important product of technological innovation, the success of which is noted both at home and abroad.”

Pioneer in becoming international

The first external client was secured in 1969, with version 4. This was the former Bazán, now part of the Navantia group. The British shipyard Vickers followed suit in 1973 and FORAN soon spread across Spain, Europe and the Soviet Union. At the end of the 1970s, it reached Argentina, and later on, in the 1990s, Brazil.

Currently, FORAN is used in 30 countries around the world. Among the most significant clients are Navantia (Spain), BAE (UK), Sanoyas (Japan), UDIN (South Korea) and Severnoye DB (Russia). In Spain, it is the standard tool, being employed in almost all technical offices. It is also a benchmark system in Europe and is installed in shipyards in Latin America and in the United States and Canada. In recent years, FORAN has determinedly set foot in Asia, where SENER has opened offices in China, Japan and South Korea. Almost 90% of the world’s commercial shipbuilding is concentrated in these countries, which will be the main market for FORAN in the short term.

Some recent outstanding works involving FORAN:

1996: The Texaco Captain Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO) for Navantia, with a storage capacity of 550,000 barrels. This was a milestone in that it was the first vessel in which FORAN’s integration was successfully tested.

2008: Dredger Leiv Eiriksson for Construcciones Navales del Norte, the largest in the world, with 46,000 m3 capacity.

2010: The British Navy’s new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, built by BAE Systems. This contract has made FORAN an actor at the highest level of the naval sector.

2011: The Spring Aeloian vessel for Sanoyas, the largest PANAMAX class (dimensions adapted to cross the Panama Canal) bulk carrier in the world.

2014: The British nuclear submarine series Successor, also of BAE Systems, which is the largest engineering project in Europe in the last decade.

The aformentioned projects of BAE Systems credit FORAN as one of the most significant software programs for naval shipbuilding in the world.


ALHD Canberra vessel launching. Courtesy of Navantia  Spring Aeloian vessel the largest PANAMAX class bulk carrier in the world  Photomontage of a vessel developed with FORAN. Courtesy of ASMAR  Simon Stevin fall pipe & rock dumping vessel the largest tonnage of its kind in the world. Courtesy of La Naval Platform supply vessel. Courtesy of STX Volstad Princess vessel. Courtesy of Aker Yards As Barttvaag. General view of the construction of a vessel. Cuauthemoc sailing cruise.

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