Condition based maintenance (CBM) undertaken through the use of data analytics has arrived and is moving forward. Indeed, if the activity of many leading manufacturers in the shipping sphere is anything to go by, the use of data for more efficient operation may have reached an important tipping point.
The principle of CBM is that through the use of real-time data analysis it becomes possible to perform maintenance when it is needed, rather than at regular intervals when it may not be necessary and might even be detrimental to the effective running of a vessel and its equipment. CBM is only made possible by the immediate feedback of data from a piece of onboard equipment to its manufacturer, who is able to spot any possible problem before it becomes critical.
Names like ABB, Wärtsilä, Rolls-Royce and GE Transportation are all offering maintenance and optimisation services based on data analytics, suggesting that this is a technology whose time has come.
This is certainly the view held by Stefan Nygård, Wärtsilä’s general manager for asset performance optimisation. “The Internet of Things is happening,” he says. “There are times for every technology and now is the time for this one.”
Launched in November last year, Wärtsilä Genius services is a new service portfolio designed to help the company’s customers seize the opportunities offered by digitalisation. The three Wärtsilä Genius product families – Optimise, Predict and Solve – enable the optimisation of customers’ assets in real-time, improve predictability and help to solve problems by deploying digital solutions.
Using real-time and historical equipment data Wärtsilä Genius services are designed to optimise everything from a single installation’s energy efficiency right up to the management of an entire fleet. The latter is achieved by integrating advanced dynamic voyage planning, ship efficiency advisory services and energy analysis, as well as extensive condition monitoring of the main equipment, into one consolidated solution.
Solutions and services within Optimise are tailored to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of a customer’s operations. Optimise solutions will enable, for example, the following of fuel consumption in real-time, adjusting the ship’s position to optimal with the help of trim advice.
Predict will improve the customer’s asset and business availability and predictability through lifecycle maintenance. For the customer this means a clearer picture of the coming maintenance need, which in turn means that maintenance can be performed based on actual condition and not according to a predefined schedule. More efficient usage of assets throughout their lifetime helps to increase the owner’s revenue.
Solve by Wärtsilä Genius services will ensure the safety of the customer’s operations and allow them to get instant support whenever and wherever they need it. As part of Solve services, the customer can share their computer screen with Wärtsilä experts on shore.
While the Wärtsilä Genius name may be new, the technology that underpins it is not. Mr Nygård says: “Genius is essentially a new, all-encompassing brand for pre-existing services. We have been doing condition based maintenance since 2002. However, we are now at a point where the user interface and usability have reached a stage that makes it much more feasible.”
At the heart of all this, of course, is the effective use of data. The retrieval of data from equipment is not new – shipowners and operators have been collecting it for years. But what is new is the availability of analysis tools. These can make use of the data that is collected to give operators an accurate insight into whether their equipment is operating at its optimum level.
Mr Nygård says: “There are new analytics tools that allow you to drag the value out of the inert data that is already being collected and turn it into invaluable information.”
ABB is another company that is offering extensive data services to its customers. It, too, believes that the shipping industry is about to see a major shift in its use of data to ensure efficient operation. The company is already monitoring 100 vessels where it is able to analyse propulsion systems, and more than 500 vessels in total are connected to ABB’s Integrated Operations set-up.
Richard Windischhofer, ABB’s vice president of Integrated Operations, says: “Ten years ago shipping was 20 years behind land based industry, but today it is almost as advanced as land based automation systems. The marine industry is waking up. The future is already here – it just is not evenly distributed. We have been working with the leaders for years, and now others are following.”
Mr Windischhofer makes it clear that there is no doubt in his mind that remote monitoring and data analytics is the future for the industry. “If you look at the IMO standards for CBM, they demand this level of monitoring. So there is no doubt that this is simply the way things will be.”
This faith is embodied in ABB’s recently-opened Integrated Operations Center, which allows shipowners to take greater control of their fleet from shore. From the site, situated in Billingstad in Norway, its expert engineers can connect to any vessel anywhere in the world that is fitted with ABB technology. Sensors and software on board the ship send equipment and performance data via satellite link, which allows shipowners, in collaboration with ABB’s experts, to perform remote troubleshooting and make informed judgements about the ship’s performance and maintenance plan.
ABB’s Integrated Operations concept utilises what the company calls the Internet of Things Services and People (IoTSP) to connect ships, their owner’s technical headquarters and ABB’s support departments. Through the IoTSP, ABB is able to monitor many of the ship’s critical equipment installations and their key parameters – for example, power production and Azipod propulsion.
ABB believes that the Integrated Operations Center’s present application is as exciting as its future potential for more efficient fleet operations and increased autonomy for ships. With Integrated Operations, shipowners can implement a way of working that saves up to 50 per cent on drydocking costs for ABB equipment, if monitoring, pre-survey, and project execution are managed with close co-operation between ABB and the shipowner. Data is collected from systems and used as input for maintenance work during drydockings.
“We are monitoring the key parameters which will have a direct impact on the critical equipment and could lead either to down-time or to a significant loss in efficiency,” says Mr Windischhofer. “We are proactive in our relationship with our customers, and with the new Integrated Operations Center we proactively monitor the critical alarms and inform the crew about issues – sometimes even before they notice them themselves.”
What this can achieve in terms of operational efficiency is remarkable. According to the company, monitoring saves 5 per cent on fuel with power management. Savings can be made of up to 20 per cent on planned maintenance, and up to 70 per cent on on-call and repair costs. Monitoring and drydocking in combination can lead to savings of 50 per cent in maintenance costs.
This trend is only going to become more widespread, believes Mr Windischhofer. He says: “We have never seen vessel specifications of the kind that we have in the last year. Requirements such as 10-year drydocking intervals are now becoming part of specifications. This can only be achieved through this type of technology.”
GE Marine is another company that is making great strides in this area. Its SeaStream Insight offering uses GE’s SmartSignal analytics platform to predict the future condition of a vessel’s assets. It allows companies to monitor vessels in real-time, record and analyse their histories and search for anomalies. It can give early warnings when an asset is exhibiting off-standard behaviour, identifying potential problems before they occur. This means that ship operators can take action weeks, or even months, before a potential failure. This enables them to switch from planned maintenance to CBM, reducing down-time and creating potentially large cost savings.
This access to real-time insight from the vessels enables onshore experts, no matter where they are in the world, to diagnose problems remotely and advise on the next steps immediately. GE Marine expects that the use of SeaStream Insight will help to reduce third-party costs associated with repairs, which will bring major value –- especially for the offshore industry, as vessels are often operating in very remote areas. This approach can not only provide vessel owners with instant access to the knowledge of hundreds of experts globally, but also enable faster recourse analysis. The SeaStream Insight monitoring systems all run on GE’s Predix software platform and are equipment-agnostic, which means that they can run on machinery installations of different makes.
Andy McKeran, global offshore business leader for GE Power Conversion, says: “I think people in the marine industry are starting to understand that, in order to get the next industrial revolution – that is to say, the digital revolution – they are going to have to link big iron [large, sophisticated computers] with big data.
Mr McKeran believes that the rapid change in computational power that enables the analysis of as much as 12-18 months’ worth of historical data, in addition to the rise in connectivity that offers real-time analytics, means that the shift to CBM is inexorable.
“Every time you crack open a bearing to perform maintenance you introduce the possibility of more problems – more than you probably would have had if you had left it alone. Nobody is going to do that if they do not have to. You have got to protect the bottom line, and the way to do that at the moment is by challenging certain long-held orthodoxies and discovering more efficiencies. The industry is young, but the changes are happening now.”
Mr McKeran believes that the analysis of operating data is going to fundamentally change the way in which vessels are operated and built. He says: “On one system for which we had two to three years’ worth of data, we discovered that that system had been operating within just 0-20 per cent of its optimum operating window, for all that time. Those are the kinds of inefficencies this technology can eliminate.”
Another factor that Mr McKeran feels will drive adoption of this technology is regulation and legislation. “If you look at the outcome of COP21 [the 2015 Paris Climate Change conference], IMO now has responsibility for regulating emissions and there is no doubt that that is going to require a great deal more transparency from ship operators in terms of their emissions performance. That means that data connectivity is going to have to happen anyway.”
Of course, CBM and data analysis is not new. Indeed, as Mr McKeran is keen to point out, it is a tried and tested solution outside the marine industry. “We maintain 960 gas turbines globally by this method. CBM is simply the norm on shore, and the fact is that any equipment we have built in the last 10 years is ready for this type of connectivity.”
If there is one company that does not need to be told that real-time data analytics is a tried and tested technology, it is Rolls-Royce. Its aerospace division has been conducting this type of monitoring on its aero engines since 1999. David Selway, vice president of business development at Rolls-Royce Controls & Data Services, says: “We have been doing this since before the terms ‘big data’ and ‘predictive analytics’ were even coined.”
Jay McFadyen, Rolls-Royce’s senior vice president engineering and product management, believes that what Rolls-Royce calls Ship Intelligence offers major opportunities in terms of minimising maintenance, reducing downtime and cutting emissions, particularly since the company’s remote monitoring and CBM technology has been tried and tested over decades in the aerospace industry.
Mr McFadyen is keen to make it clear that the logistics of moving over to this kind of monitoring is relatively simple. He says: “In terms of a newbuild, the process is straightforward. We have a mature understanding of what sensors are required, and then it is a question of how to keep connectivity and communications with the vessel. On a vessel that is already in service, of course, things are more complex, but certainly not insurmountably so.”
At the root of all these technologies, however, is the need to share and transmit highly sensitive data about a vessel’s core systems. This means that concerns about cyber security go hand in hand with the digital revolution. As one of the most experienced companies in this market, Rolls-Royce is able to offer some degree of reassurance. “When it comes to data and access, we have been undertaking data collection for years in the aerospace market. In that area, cyber security is absolutely crucial and we are confident about the security of our systems.”