Looking after ships in 2030 and beyond

Kenneth Nakken

What started as an ABB corporate research project, has now become the backbone of our service strategy with ABB Ability Collaborative Operations for marine.

ABB’s Remote Diagnostic System for Marine (RDS) was launched in 2008 to monitor drives in the offshore Oil & Gas segment. Today, it is installed on all newbuilds as part of ABB Marine & Ports scope, enabling operators to tap into the Global Network of Centers.

RDS isn’t just for drives anymore either. Motors and generators of all sizes, Azipod® propulsion units, switchboards and even automation systems can connect to the onboard RDS, which enables secure support anytime, anywhere and across any shipping segment.

With an overwhelming flow of digital information from various stakeholders, technical management teams may often find themselves at a loss when it comes to getting an overview of the digital universe. Choosing the right direction for digitalizing vessel management could prove to be even more challenging.

ABB Ability Collaborative Operations Center in Billingstad, Norway.

Juggling maintenance strategies

In today’s marine industry, there are players that have already been manually collecting performance data for many years. Alongside them are those that only started doing this a few years ago, as well as some that are only now finding the templates to use in today’s data jungle.

Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) are already a common solution to structure factory recommended maintenance plans and clearly are a part of the digitalization of the maintenance strategy. This is mainly due to the fact that these CMMS’s contain statistics on spare parts and historical maintenance. However, it is difficult to get a complete insight into asset reliability from this data alone. The Fleet Intelligence Module, based on ABB Ability™ Ellipse Asset Performance Management (APM), is already integrated into typical ABB Marine & Ports digital solutions, such as:

  • ABB Ability™ System 800xA
  • ABB Ability™ Marine Remote Diagnostic System
  • ABB Ability™ Marine Advisory System – OCTOPUS

By using information that has already been collected into existing databases, then adding other pieces of data such as condition monitoring, environmental data or the operational parameters of the ship, new technologies such as machine learning can empower teams ashore to make strategic decisions based on real world data.

The digital solution connects to the CMMS to automatically generate work orders and utilize the feedback from the maintenance management system in its analytical models. What is even more useful is that commonly applied maintenance strategies, such as RCM or CBM, don’t necessarily rely on advanced systems alone.  Crew and third party maintenance reports are also part of the maintenance puzzle, meaning that an APM needs to accept input from these sources easily.

Shipowners that have started collecting data several years ago are likely to be the first ones to realize the benefits of having this information in place. They may also be at an advantage when it comes to collecting additional data automatically, which could help to ensure that their fleets keep increasing their business advantages in challenging markets.

Owners that are not yet actively collecting equipment and operational data will be getting a stronger push for joining the digital era as new environmental regulations come into force.

Regulatory pressures are driving digital investment to comply with emission abatement technologies both ashore and at sea.  Unlike in shoreside industries, ships tend to have the entire energy chain of power generation, distribution and consumption.  By looking at the entire process, there is a real opportunity now to review the broad spectrum of digital tools that may increase ROI values in terms of managing vessels in the future.

Managing performance

Asset performance management gives users a new array of possibilities as it isn’t restricting the analytics to be done by ABB as an application supplier. It is possible for users to create their own analytics and even connect data with an external equipment model by other vendors, returning the result of analytics into a digital solution and creating a holistic overview of the vessel asset risks issues and action plan.

So where does ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations for Marine fit into this? The secure solution developed in ABB software development center in Poland specifically for the marine domain means that while onboard analytics and integration is deployed natively, the ability to capture this data and upload into a database (either cloud based or physical) allows for ABB personnel and customer shore side personnel to have access to the database without comprising on the integrity of the onboard systems.

It is our belief that technical functions will tend to be centralized far more than it is today, with onboard staff tending towards an operational focus.  Accessing data in a reliable, timely yet secure manner will be key to optimizing this shift of responsibilities.  Whereas the Chief Engineer was the technical guru on the majority of ships as late as the 1990s, increased connectivity and reduced IS costs mean that the guru may be located elsewhere.  To be able to do this in an efficient way, ABB supports by enabling the customer to take the ownership of the analytics. The system has intelligent functionality that enables only the important data related to a critical event or predictive analytic to be immediately send to the onshore operator. Within minutes, the customer has all relevant data available in their operation center to start the discussion with the onboard crew and an OEM based on the same information – without language barriers, need to send screenshots, etc.

ABB Ability Collaborative Operations Center in Singapore.

Future classing

In many cases, the different classification societies allow reduced inspections if some of these solutions are approved and well documented. OEMs can adjust the maintenance schedule based on operating conditions and equipped monitoring systems. This is, in many ways, the standard solution while new technology such as machine learning and cloud-based analytics have not yet been taken into consideration in rules and regulations.

Today, it is still a challenge to envision how digital solutions and platforms from different vendors can be brought together to function seamlessly. What seems likely is that different OEMs, service providers, classification societies and vessel owners will communicate in an intercloud, combining data from multiple cloud solutions through a set of standard or specific application programming interfaces (APIs). This will enable an owner to create a digital world by connecting to the data services needed for their operations from various parties, such as condition monitoring, performance analytics, remote surveys, etc.

ABB strives to deliver value through ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations solutions, where embedded functionality is able to interface with available technology platforms.

For ABB, condition-based maintenance is a strategy and not simply something bought in from a service supplier. Instead, it is the technical department’s way of working, supported by tools and solutions from OEMs and service suppliers. Starting with an FMECA through RCM-analysis supports documenting the criticality of the system components, helping to choose the right maintenance strategy for different assets. Some assets will be subjected to typical inspections and preventive maintenance activities, and some will have condition monitoring systems, enabling maintenance depending on the asset condition. FMECA includes identifying various condition monitoring techniques to reduce maintenance activities through monitoring the asset failure modes.

ABB’s commitment to Collaborative Operations is demonstrated by the deployment of the marine support model now being rolled out through our other business units globally. We celebrate our first year of full 24/7 support by working with our customers, factories and service staff alike. I’m proud to say that my team globally has been responsible for keeping ships at sea and available by proactively analyzing the data, then acting on discrepancies with ship’s staff. We’ve supplied data to our account managers to discuss equipment lifecycles with our customers for CAPEX planning of up to five years in advance. Newbuild ships are now equipped with data collection tools to establish baselines from the sea trials, allowing the owner to make informed decisions. The list goes on.

All this – from a research project to a cornerstone of our business strategy in a decade and a half. Imagine what we could do during the next decade and beyond.

About the author

Kenneth Nakken

Kenneth Nakken joined ABB in 2011 and has held various technical positions within the Marine & Ports business Unit. Today he is leading Digital Service within ABB Marine, supporting customers with the digital transformation of vessel operations through a strong portfolio of solutions towards the various segments where ABB makes a difference. As responsible for Digital Service, Kenneth is responsible for development, sales and execution of the digital portfolio.
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