How OceanGate Revolutionizes Deep-Sea Exploration Using Smartsheet
OceanGate needed management tools that could help the company turn its business strategy into reality, launching submersible products that would explore the depths of the ocean. Smartsheet took it to new levels.
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While space is touted as the final frontier, fewer people have actually visited the depths of the ocean. OceanGate, a deep-sea exploration organization that builds, owns and operates manned and unmanned submersibles, is determined to change that by turning their vehicle prototypes into market-ready reality.
Stockton Rush, OceanGate Co-Founder and CEO, has spent years working with his team to revolutionize deep-sea exploration and research. According to Rush, their prototypes are more powerful than any submersible currently in existence.
“They are multi-person, multi-purpose vehicles that can take up to five people 3,000 meters deep, for up to three straight days,” he says. Researchers and passengers will be able to explore 50% of the ocean, unlocking a world that up until now has existed outside of our reach.
Bringing a Concept to Life
With the business strategy firmly in place, Rush needed management tools to turn it into reality, but he was hesitant to use traditional project management software.
“In the past, managing projects with Microsoft Project and Excel seemed to cause more problems than they solved,” he says. “And I only ended up using them for about 10% of my project. I needed a tool that could keep up with the speed that my teams work.”
Rush found that Smartsheet met his top requirements. The familiar spreadsheet feel, coupled with the ability to access the information and collaborate with others - whether they were on a different coast or down at the dock - simplified and streamlined the design management process.
Less time managing the tool and training others how to use it meant more time to actually do the work.
A Partnership Forms
With designs in hand, Rush approached the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab (APL) to form a partnership that would help transform his innovative ideas into reality. Through collaboration with the APL, a $200 million grant was secured for Rush’s submersible project, the largest federal grant that has been awarded to date.
Rush approached the APL with his submersible design at an opportune time. APL had recently established a new department known as the Collaboratorium, which serves as a shared resource for independent researchers. Its role is to help researchers, like Rush, put technology and marketing behind their concepts to help launch products, sustain momentum and secure the necessary funding to bring it all to market.
“Rush came in with the dream and we’re helping him turn it into a reality,” says Dave Dyer, Senior Engineer at the APL. “When he insisted we use Smartsheet for managing and collaborating on the project, I was skeptical that one product could really do what he said it could. ”
Building the Submersibles
Once Dyer tried Smartsheet, it didn’t take long before the tool was embraced by the APL team to manage not only the OceanGate project, but many other Collaboratorium projects as well. Smartsheet fits the needs of the APL team.
Ease of Access
To create the submersibles over the course of the next 18 months, the lab will be working with hundreds of contributors, including vendors and departments in the University of Washington. “Many of our contributors – multiple vendors and departments – to the projects aren’t in this building… or even in this state. Having access wherever we are helps us communicate more efficiently,” says Dyer.
Smartsheet enables the large team to communicate schedules, track major milestones, and set automated reminders about deadlines during every step of this project. Some clients need marketing resources, others need help accessing funding, and others need APL to construct and test models and prototypes. Smartsheet can help all those scenarios.
Organized File Sharing
“We view Smartsheet as a vault that lets us keep all of our documents and our entire team up to date,” says Dyer. For instance, when working on the pressure vessel design or the weight/balance testing, the team attaches documents to specific tasks, such as design specs, buoyancy tables and images from analysis. “It’s extremely convenient. Everything we need is right there.”
As a result of these features and more, communication within the Lab is happening 25-50% faster than ever before.
Dyer adds, “Overall, Smartsheet offers unique capabilities beyond tools I have tried before – and I’ve tried almost every project tool out there. I love having automatic updates and the ability to see if Rush has logged in and updated anything. I don’t need to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes.”
There are many eager to see the submersibles get to market. “Giving consumers the opportunity to do these deepwater exploratory and educational dives is a big priority,” says Rush. “Additionally, researchers eyes’ light up when they learn the visibility and depth clearance they’ll have in the vessels. The oil and gas industry is also interested in replacing ROVs with manned submersibles for repair and research efforts.
“Relying on tools like Smartsheet, along with the expertise of the university’s APL team, we’re opening up a whole new world. And that’s beyond exciting.”