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Reaping the benefits of digitalisation

Digitalisation transformation delivers tangible benefits over time

DATA and digitalisation are both words that are liberally sprinkled in just about every shipping related report, article or opinion these days. The words themselves are easy to define but making them relevant to the business of shipping can be more difficult to realise. Wärtsilä explores some of the ways this can be achieved in its white paper Driving profitable business in the marine industry.

First and foremost, the white paper proposes that digitalisation should permit an organisation to adopt a new mindset and rethink its business model, introducing long term changes as necessary and desirable. Making better use of data is the starting point in this journey.

Ship operators have collected data from some equipment and systems for many years. Engine logbooks, for example, contain huge amounts of data regarding things such as running parameters of the engine, engine load and fuel consumption. Once, all of this information would have been collected manually but today it is almost certain to be recorded electronically.

But it is not what or how data is recorded that matters. Of itself, this is just a task that produces no tangible benefits unless some analysis of the data is done in a timely fashion. Anything missed by the engineer onboard might not be picked up until weeks later when the company’s superintendents saw the data and possibly not even then.

Arguably, it is the OEM’s (original equipment manufacturer) experts who can best analyse data as they will be familiar with the equipment and be routinely involved in assessing performance and making upgrades as required. Wärtsilä was a pioneer in equipping engines with the ability to record data and offering analysis services of the data collected. With more effective marine communications today than was the case a decade ago, the benefits that can now be achieved have increased exponentially.

Tage Klockars, General Manager — Performance Management Services, Wärtsilä Marine, says those benefits include ensuring availability and improved reliability and efficiency of the equipment, a guarantee that it is operating within parameters that ensure compliance with regulations such as Marpol and optimised maintenance planning. “Every ship operator will understand how that translates into profitability by way of dramatically reducing or eliminating downtime and avoiding the risk of penalties and detentions,” says Mr Klockars.

With its Lifecycle Solutions, Wärtsilä has advanced beyond data collection and trend analysis to the point where it can offer guaranteed performance levels agreed in advance with customers. This can be as early as the design stage of the vessel.

Once the equipment is in operation and ideally from day one, data collection begins immediately and after a few months the baseline performance can be established, and adjustments made as necessary to meet the desired performance. Thereafter the data is regularly interpreted by experts at Wärtsilä’s network of Expertise Centres. Although it can be helpful to draw on data from other similar pieces of equipment, each installation should be considered as unique, particularly as operational profiles can vary tremendously even between identical sister vessels.

Earlier intervention cuts costs

Mr Klockars highlights the fact that with the latest machine learning techniques it will be possible to detect anomalies in the earliest stages. An anomaly could be caused by a problem with the equipment but could equally be the result of different voyage conditions or navigation decisions. Immediately an anomaly is picked up, Wärtsilä experts will begin to determine the cause and take any appropriate rectifying action.

These new services do require more data streaming than usual, but with daily notification if something is deviating from the baseline or an anomaly is detected, the benefits are enhanced accordingly. “This is a leap forward in predictive maintenance and we can intercede much earlier to assist our customers in avoiding problems and increasing profitability,” says Mr Klockars.

Ships are long-term assets for their owners, and it is in the maintenance aspect where profitability can be most favourably impacted. Wärtsilä can cite a case study involving LNG carriers in which — over a three-year period — time between overhauls was extended by more than 33%, an average of nine days’ reduction in overhaul times for each engine was experienced resulting in an overall total of €9.3m ($11m) costs savings for the ships involved. Importantly for both the owners’ cash flow and reputation, the support given saved an additional €4.4m in avoided offhire earnings.

The benefits do not just relate to engine performance, as Wärtsilä supplies many other types of equipment which also benefit from operating at peak efficiency. A good example of this is exhaust gas cleaning systems in which any defect could result in a ship being fined for contraventions of Marpol regulations, detained for repairs or obliged to operate on more costly fuel.

Click here to read the white paper Driving profitable business in the marine industry.

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