America is currently undergoing a competitive renaissance in heavy industry. Many of the problems in the 1970's and 80's, such as product quality, supplier relations, and cost of capital no longer pose first-order competitive handicaps to American companies. However, the U.S. commercial shipbuilding industry, which went from world dominance at the end of WWII to almost non-existence today, is just beginning to revive. One key concern in the American maritime community is commercial product development, an area which has become one of the most crucial competitive factors in heavy industry. Some specific marine industry problems, such as design for production and reduced design lead time, have already been the subject of intense R&D by auto, aerospace, and other heavy industry. This paper summarizes results of a one-year benchmarking study of early stage design processes in heavy manufacturing industries. Its purpose was to document attributes of successful "design infrastructure" − design strategies, management structures, and integration of design tools and methods − of potential interest to the American maritime community to set the stage for technology transfer between industries. Major findings of this study cover "production-like" approaches to design processes, the transition and retention of design knowledge throughout product development projects, and design-stage partnerships between owners, builders, and suppliers. As a comparative study, the findings should be of interest to design/manufacturing participants in other heavy industries as well as shipbuilding.