Industrials are among the oldest class of ships in New Eden. Among the top requirements of any truly space-based society is a method of hauling valuable goods in large quantities from one star system to the next. In the early days of interplanetary travel this function was filled by the same ships used for combat, exploration, and scientific studies. However, as the empires grew more stable and space travel became safer and affordable to more than governmental entities, specialized ships became the norm. The basic industrial design has remained unchanged for centuries, with the essential concepts dating back to the earliest, sea-faring years of all empires on their home planets.
Industrials, or their early ancestors, rose out of the need for the hauling of supplies from the homeworld to new colonies. As more and more supplies were needed with greater frequency, it became quickly apparent that multipurpose ships were ill-suited to the task. Not only did mixed crews reduce efficiency and increase idle time, but valuable cargo space was taken up by scientific and military equipment.
The earliest cargo vessels were little more than stripped-down versions of their multipurpose cousins, with extra equipment torn out for additional space. Improvements in layout and automation soon followed, allowing smaller crews to handle more cargo with less effort. As the safety of spacelanes improved, weaponry, shielding, and armor were all reduced, lowering ship tonnage and further increasing available cargo space.
It wasn't until the advent of space-based manufacturing that industrials were truly born in the modern sense. Free of the necessity to launch a ship from the ground or ever have it capable of landing on a planet, builders were able to increase size to previously unseen levels. Originally, this simply meant increasing the dimensions of old designs.
However, as had occurred before, technology was quickly applied to these new designs, turning them from little more than massive flying vaults into intricate, dedicated cargo haulers that made efficient use of every available centimeter.
Industrials may appear simplistic to outsiders, but their design is quite complicated. The ship class has numerous internal compartments, extensive conveyors connecting different parts of the ship, advanced automation to pack cargo in the most efficient manner possible, and robotic assistants to do lifting that a human could not manage.
While the exact layout differs between builders, the standard industrial has dozens of different compartments, each designed to specific standards for various types of cargo. As many as a thousand individual compartments may exist on a single ship. Depending on the level of safety anticipated in a journey, volatile goods may be stored in outer compartments to minimize catastrophic ship damage in the event of an accident, or kept deep in the center of the hull in order to reduce the chance of an explosion caused by weapons fire.
Individual compartments are connected to each other, the loading/unloading bays, and jet can launchers by conveyor belt. There may be tens of kilometers of belts and passageways crisscrossing the ship, ready to carry cargo from internal compartments to the outer bays.
These belts are normally fed by robotic arms and lifts which can handle much larger weights and sizes than humans. In some cases these lifts are human operated, especially in slave-crewed Amarr vessels, but for cargo that requires delicacy and precision, AIs ensure no mistakes are made. For smaller items, human crew is preferred for the speed with which they can operate.
When it comes to getting the most out of an industrial's capacity, a good set of automated procedures is of paramount importance, along with familiarity with spacial dynamics on those ships flown by capsuleers. The best can make use of every last centimeter of internal space, cramming in far more cargo than an untrained captain with an outdated packing routine.
Because much of the internal running of an industrial can be safely automated, they require far less crew than other ships of similar sizes. Additionally, the functions on board an industrial are much less skill-intensive than in others, meaning most of an industrial's crew are little more than laborers who load and unload cargo.
Industrials are often the first ship a rookie crew is assigned to, as the staff are much less likely to cause a catastrophic failure through inexperience. While the ships' functions are not difficult, they provide valuable education and help crews get used to life on board a ship. The ships are also favored for their perceived safety, as new recruits typically believe cargo vessels will stick to high security spacelanes, even if this is not entirely accurate.