Digitalisation may be the buzzword, but levels of adoption remain relatively low. How are OEMs taking it to the mainstream?
Shipping has repeatedly been told that digitisation of vessels and equipment will be the main driver of innovation and business for the forseeable future, with ever-greater levels of remote internet connectivity and developments in data analytics to come.
Given such predictions, then, end users might be forgiven for asking how far this revolution has progressed in the propulsion market. Clearly, enginebuilders and OEMs have been prioritising this aspect of their businesses in recent years, seeing it as a valuable tool and a very useful potential income stream.
Perhaps earliest to this market was ABB, which now has six ‘Collaborative Operation Centers’ worldwide. The latest of these facilities is the ABB Ability Collaborative Operations Center in Miramar, Florida. This will remotely monitor hundreds of ships globally, and will work in conjunction with similar facilities in Asia and Europe. ABB is opening an additional such centre in Genoa, Italy, which will have an emphasis on automation systems, in addition to its regular duties to customers.
These six centres currently monitor more than 700 ships, a figure ABB hopes to increase to 3,000 by 2020. But as Juha Koskela, managing director of ABB’s marine and ports business, pointed out: “Let’s not forget there are still 90,000 ships operating without this technology, so things aren’t yet changing that fast.”
On the levels of adoption of digitisation, Mr Koskela told Marine Propulsion: “It varies from sector to sector and shipowner to shipowner how fast adoption is taking place. Cruise ships are the early adopters, and we’re lucky that we have very close connections to all the cruise operators. They are very advanced in this area.”
Mr Koskela sees ABB as ideally positioned to exploit the new technology – not least because of its experience in the field. He explained: “We started early, so we have had four years since starting to realise the digital side of our business. That has given us time to show our potential customers the benefits of what we are doing.”
So what can be done to increase the levels of adoption? Mr Koskela does not believe cost is a major obstacle: “Only those who don’t realise the benefits really object to the costs. The problem is how you prove it. So our approach is to say we will try it. We put our software aboard at minimal cost and then they see the benefits.”
Another key area where he believes progress is necessary is in the levels of collaboration among OEMs in ensuring compatibility among their systems and the monitoring and reporting platforms. ABB is "working with a couple of other technology companies to come up with a joint ecosystem because at the moment it’s just too expensive for the shipowner to add all these various platforms one by one rather than have one cloud-based platform that allows different OEMs’ products to be used," Mr Koskela explained.
Mr Koskela said that he thinks there will be developments on that front this year, and envisions "a platform where various OEMs can combine and bring together their respective digital services."
ABB senior vice president for vessel information and control Mikko Lepistö expanded on this theme. “One of the things we need to look into is how we are working together in the industry,” he said. “Some of the data is common to us all: ship speed or motion, for instance. It doesn’t make any sense for us all to transfer that information generally 20 times from the same ship. Some of this data can be shared, so we need to look at that as an industry,” he said.
But the issue of intellectual property remains a stumbling block. As Mr Lepistö put it: “We all need to understand what is core and what is context. The core is that everyone has their own IP, and that cannot be shared. But there are also a lot of things that are not so meaningful, such as speed or location. These can be shared.”
Wärtsilä is a company with which ABB previously collaborated broadly. But Mr Koskela says the Finnish enginebuilder became ABB's “head-to-head competitor when it acquired Eniram.”
This acquisition, which took place in June 2016, was shortly followed by the launch of Eniram’s ‘Skylight,’ a performance monitoring service delivered to the customer on subscription without any costly integration on board. It offers charter-party monitoring and delivers the vessel's speed profile on a per-voyage basis, and provides the vessel's normalised speed fuel curve.
More recently, Wärtsilä introduced its Skylight 2.0 update, which includes nautical maps, weather layers, and route importation to make predictive analysis and proactive planning more available.
Skylight’s great selling point was as an entry-level package charging a monthly subscription fee, which includes everything from the shipment of the transponder to the vessel, the data traffic, reporting, and the software interface.
Eniram vice president for commercial operations Captain Jan Wilhelmsson said the Skylight business model is designed to reflect the realities of the industry and increase levels of digitalisation. “That 97 percent of the world fleet that isn’t connected and digitalised is driven by the fact that there is a separation between owners and operators,” he asserted. “In other words, the entity that gets the benefit from reduced fuel consumption is not the same as the entity that has to make investment in the vessels. This means that whatever solution we will succeed with will have to be installable and have a rapid payback. So we’ve created a subscription-based service that matches the industry’s way of working.”
Eniram’s activity is explicitly part of an attempt by Wärtsilä to position itself as the market leader for digitalisation in the shipping industry. Wärtsilä chief digital officer and executive vice president Marco Ryan explained: "Digital disruption is already affecting the energy and marine sectors, and will do so increasingly in the future. We are building on decades of expertise in digital development and accelerating the pace at which we build new digital solutions, services and opportunities for our customers. Wärtsilä's recent acquisitions of Eniram and Greensmith demonstrate Wärtsilä's ambitions and active role in helping its customers benefit from smart technology initiatives."
Speaking at Nor-Shipping in Oslo, Mr Ryan referred to the digital transformation as being “the transitional and acceleration force creating Wärtsilä 4.0, a data-led, insight-driven agile company that leverages the most extensive product portfolio in the marine industry, while developing it at an unprecedented pace into a range of exciting new solutions, services and partnerships.”
In order to develop digital services and products, Wärtsilä is launching ‘digital acceleration centres’ globally. The idea of these is to take promising ideas and transform them into service concepts and products in co-operation with customers and partners. The first digital acceleration centre is in operation in Helsinki, where five projects are underway. A second centre is scheduled to be opened in Singapore later this year. Two more will be opened during 2018. Additionally, Wärtsilä is creating a technology incubator to focus on accelerating its technical projects around core systems and platforms.
Mr Ryan emphasised that Wärtsilä is working closely with its customers and partners to co-create greater value for shipping owners and operators. Central to this thinking is the fact that Wärtsilä does not seperate digital development from other functions, but rather integrates it into all its business activities, culture and future opportunities.
“Our vision is of Wärtsilä as a service company. We are not going to create a separate digital business with a separate P&L. Digital is very much part of our core business,” Mr Ryan told Marine Propulsion.
While Wärtsilä has loudly proclaimed its move toward a digitised future, its former stablemate WinGD has taken somewhat more discreet – although no less decisive – steps down this path. At the end of 2016, the two-stroke engine developer announced its joint development with ship performance monitoring specialist Propulsion Analytics with a view to developing an advanced diagnostics system for all WinGD engines.
The system will acquire and analyse data on the performance and condition of the engine and its subcomponents in real-time and so provide live troubleshooting and diagnostic advice to the crew. In addition, as required, the system will be capable of connecting to shore-based stakeholders. In this way, this system completes and enhances ship digitisation by providing a two-stroke engine performance optimiser and diagnostic system.
Andrew Stump, vice president operations WinGD says of this aspect of the business: “We are focusing a lot – like everyone else – on digital. We’re focusing on the internet of things and all that. The good thing about the industry embracing this technology as late as it has is that there are a lot of mature technologies in other industries that we can adopt pretty easily.”
WinGD worked with a Polish company called Enamor to develop the necessary hardware, which, according to Mr Stump “will now become standard technology on our engines in the future”.
However, as Mr Stump says: “Getting the data is one thing, but using it is another. When you’ve got 500 data signals coming in every second or the one terabyte of information that is the operating data of the ship for the whole year... That’s where Propulsion Analytics come in. These are the guys with the big brains who develop the algorithms that tell you what’s really going on.”
As with many OEMs, WinGD is focusing on collaboration with other manufacturers to offer some sort of common platform. Here, Mr Stump suggests, WinGD, in being owned by Chinese state-owned company CSSC, may have an advantage. “Because we don’t have the same corporate structure as a lot of other players, we can co-operate with others more easily,” he says. “This is really important: the corporates don’t really like to co-operate too much. They’re competing with each other all the time. By contrast, we’re not predatorial in any way.”
With that in mind, Mr Stump says WinGD is actively seeking integration partners for its remote monitoring and analytics services. He says: “We’re happy to co-operate with anyone else. If we can arrive at a common platform and share the information somehow then you’ve got the complete picture, haven’t you? We concentrate on the main engine because that’s our business, but if someone else wants to tack their equipment onto our system, we’re open to that. It’s a bonus from our point of view.”
In terms of the business model, Mr Stump says that WinGD will be offering an off-the-shelf data analytics package within this year, which the customer can sign-up to operating full-time.
However, Mr Stump does acknowledge that on new engines under warranty, there is a business advantage to his company in offering data analytics as a complimentary service. “This complementary service will allow us to address our customer needs as well offering advantages to us during the warranty period. Having this data allows us to offer the owner a more reliable product, avoiding any breakages and failures.”
Once that warranty expires, however, WinGD offers what Mr Stump calls “a flexible approach”. “The data belongs to the customer and is available for them to use to their benefit. Traditionally our automation systems have a limited digital history. If you have a year’s worth of data you can identify when things started going wrong. That helps a lot with root cause analysis which is typically and frustratingly a slow process today. So, if the operator wants to go back into the history and see more than a list of alarms he can and will find some causal reason. So even if the system is not being actively used for performance optimisation or predictive maintenance, the option is still there to have a service technician dig deeper into the data.”