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Modern factories and cruise ships: A comparison

What do modern factories and cruise ships have in common? More than one might think. Cruise ships operate in an autonomous, closed-loop system, just like modern factories. This makes it completely plausible to compare a smart factory and a cruise ship with its self-sufficient system – and to discover how an industrial park resembles a harbor, with a little creativity.

“The higher-ranking design and planning objectives for modern factories also especially include criteria related to ecology and sustainability. Factories should therefore result in a minimal environmental impact and ideally cover their own energy requirements. The same applies for cruise ships, as it should become apparent through a comparison of the two concepts,” explains Jörg Halbauer, Project Manager at Ingenics.

1. Campus concept

More and more, the campus concept is gaining popularity in factory settings. As they compete for the best talent, companies need to offer an attractive work environment. This means, for example, creating a growing number of spaces for employees to meet and spend time, green areas, canteens, cafeterias, fitness and recreational areas, and much more. Just like a cruise ship, there is little reason to leave this well-equipped factory campus.

2. Wastewater reuse systems

The trend continues toward developing factories that produce minimal industrial wastewater. These systems mainly center around the collection and central disposal of industrial wastewater. Evaporators, as they are known, provide an alternative. They use a suction line to collect the entire wastewater for a factory and then evaporate it. This results in a distillate that can be used to clean the floor, for example, and water that can be reused in other applications. All that remains is slag for disposal – similar to ash on a cruise ship.

3. Energy cycle

Many cruise ships and factories no longer need heating energy thanks to exhaust heat from machines. There are already many ways to collect exhaust heat and introduce it back into the energy cycle. Moreover, a stand-alone power system can be employed using fuel cells, for instance. A more critical view should be taken with regard to thermal power stations, however, since they require a certain base load. They can quickly become uneconomical, especially at night when production is low or in the absence of three-shift operation.

4. Savings potential

No matter whether for a factory or a cruise ship, generating potential savings is a goal wherever you look. For both settings, in addition to LED lighting, there are also savings to be had in the area of compressed air. Compressed air is frequently a sensible option in factories to generate energy through waste heat recovery. The objective is to identify and seal off any leaks. Research is also leaning toward leakage detection and searching for options to improve the leak tightness of compressed air sources – on CNC machines, to name just one.

5. Other aspects

Especially in the present era of Industry 4.0, there also needs to be a stand-alone system for internal factory data, since the aspect of data privacy in the modern factory is quickly gaining relevance. According to estimates, data volumes in factories are set to triple in the next five years – that’s why it’s important to establish a stand-alone data system that permits an exchange with external sources but still remains protected from external attacks.

One last aspect that is important to consider in wrapping up this comparison: the lifeboats on a cruise ship can basically be equated with redundancy in a factory. Both should always be kept to a minimum. Individual processes must continue to operate even when there is a temporary outage of specific elements such as water, power, or compressed air.


Comparing modern factories with cruise ships shows that “out-of-the-box” thinking can definitely pay off – even when comparisons might appear unlikely at first glance. Technology never fails to create new opportunities. And this not only applies to the area of factory planning, but to virtually every sector and industry. 

“As a future-oriented, progressive consulting firm, Ingenics constantly considers visions of the future and is therefore the ideal partner for customers that value the concept of a green factory and optimal energy-efficient design. For customers, working with Ingenics means receiving excellent consulting at all times – always while keeping in mind the latest trends in ecological and sustainable factory planning,” Jörg Halbauer sums up.

Jörg Halbauer


Project Manager
Phone: +49 731 93680 226