How maritime companies can create an infinite data feedback loop that decreases their operational cost and ecological footprint while they increase the availability of their vessels and profit
How would you respond if you learn that your biggest competitor has found a way to utilize every sailed minute of its vessels to increase its market position? This means that every minute of the day that he does its job, he gets more information which he uses to outrun your operation.
In this article, I will share some insights we have gained over the last months that, specifically for those operating multiple vessels, can mean big savings in Capex and improvements on safety, ecological footprint and profit. As technology is evolving at lightspeed this drives opportunity in and around the maritime market segment. This article is written to make a statement and open up communications with the first big adopters and unlock the possibilities it withholds. We believe that this is the ‘lowest hanging fruit’ towards big optimizations of the current maritime operation and it will (on the long run) evolve to digital twins and autonomous systems.
The solution we promote is to work from a benchmarking principle. By comparing the performance of similar vessels, assets or operations the anomalies tell you exactly which of the vessels, assets or operations are performing in the best way and which are performing poorly. This states that the more vessels, assets or operations you monitor the faster you learn from your top and bottom performers. It is at those two categories that you want to focus your attention because they can make the biggest impact on your overall fleet performance. Let us state that if you monitor ten relatively similar vessels, assets or operations you can by default improve nine. If you would find a way to formulate and monitor similar Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) you will be able to benchmark their performance against each other over time and act upon the ones that need attention. This can even be done using predictive models to prevent specific events upfront
Before we dive into this let me start with explaining the term Gray Data: Gray data is data that is being produced (whether or not stored somewhere) that could be turned into information (KPI performance). This information could contribute to insights that significantly support a (or more) part(s) of your business. We state ‘could’ because it is currently not utilized to do anything for you. This is where the ‘Gray’ comes from. The one main point of this article: Your vessels are full of grey data. Most of this information is around for ages but has not found its way to the ones that can actually act upon it. Only with minor changes on your vessels, you could start to collect these important data sources and present that to any person that can act upon it. I state minor because technically there are not many hurdles to take. There are other factors that often take a bit more energy/guidance. In 2018 I have written this blog about the biggest challenges companies face when they start their so-called digital journey.
Let’s give an easy to understand example. During one of the many maritime networking events we attend, I spoke to a guy who is managing a firm that delivers and maintains generator sets for vessels. He told me that a generator runs at best on a specific point. Any generator that runs on 30% or less of its load shows heavy wear and is likely to catch fire after three weeks. When they visit a customer the first thing they do is have a look at the log files. One of the logs shares the load deviation over time. Practically always when something is wrong the loads were not at an ideal point for a longer period of time. These logs would be Grey data to the vessel operator. If only he could get that information of all his generators in his fleet and monitor the load deviation. He could even get an alarm when specific thresholds (load <30% and time) are reached. These log files (and much more information) is often retrievable and can be shared with anyone that can act on them. Even really old or closed systems can be monitored to some extent. Your dashboard will look something like this picture where the load deviation of 3 generators each with a capacity of 900 kW over time is monitored. It is up to you to decide where you could improve on performance.
This article came online last week stating that the biggest impact we could make on ecological performance (and fuel cost), is matching the vessels performance to its designed profile. Well, now we can monitor any vessels day to day behaviour and match that to its designed profile. One of the indicators used to design vessels is its designed speed. If we monitor speed over time we could get a good idea which vessels of our fleet are meeting their designed profile and which are not. And for that are using more fuel, oil and are likely to wear faster. This data is very easy to come by as you can just use the data that is already available to the captain every minute.
The trick is to bring similar KPI’s from multiple vessels together at one place and make a person responsible to keep track of the anomalies. As assets and equipment are getting smarter this exercise can be done on all your most critical vessel equipment throughout your whole fleet. Think of your energy distribution, main engines, BWMS, pumps, cranes, cooling systems etc. It is, however, vital to get a consistent, reliable source of data. As assets are often communicating in different protocols, are not wired to the bridge or are too far away to establish an affordable connection, it could be a challenge to translate that into reliable information.
But there are others that have overcome these issues in more or less similar industries. Let’s take the process industry as an example. Their machines have a wide variety of vendors and different communication protocols as well and operate in remote locations. Though they are able to have a very accurate view of their machine and production line performance. A major KPI is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) this means something like: use as much time possible from the installation to do what delivers profit with as little input and interruptions as possible. They keep track of specific trends that can indicate failure to keep their OEE at the highest level. Let’s state that a vessel is a floating machine with similar assets. It is the most cost-intensive asset any vessel owner has in its possession. Though, it is striking how many vessel owners can’t tell right away which of their vessels have a high or low utilisation rate. We have actually seen examples where the utilisation rate of the fleet is lower than 50% over a year. This would mean (in theory) that the revenue could be doubled without the need for a bigger fleet. The pessimist would say that 100% utilization is impossible and he is right. The optimist would say what if I could increase my current utilization rate with 20%?
There are many more examples to give where improvements on efficiency, availability and safety could be significantly impacted simply by creating more information and empower your personnel to act upon it. This can even be embedded in a continuous improvement cycle that pays for itself.
This continuous improvement principle to unlock your Grey data looks as follow: Step 1: Design, think of an area that impacts your operation significantly and formulate a KPI. Step 2: Connect, to those data sources that give you the required information Step 3: Collect a minimum needed amount of data that makes your information reliable Step 4: Visualise overtime performance of your KPI and use benchmarking to learn what is average, good and bad Step 5: Act. Take your best and worst performers learn what makes them good or bad and improve on all your underperformers.
The main question is often: Is this expensive? Well yes, it is very expensive but it is worth even more. You will need to invest in rather heavy industrial software licences and suitable industrial hardware. You might need to change the way you work here and there as well, which could feel a bit uncomfortable. But let’s state that you could start doing this for roughly €1150,- a month per vessel……WOW!!!
Now ask yourself what your monthly cost price is per vessel and compare that to the €1150,-. Not so bad hey? Even a small optimization would mean the system is paying itself. With a bit more savings you are improving your profit.
Installing will be made very easy for you. From there you can use part of your savings to unlock more Grey data and translate that to areas where you can make the biggest impact. This way you create an infinite information feedback loop that improves on your full maritime operations looking something like this:
The promise? Depending on the will to go for this way of working, the ability to change internal procedures, the time you take and the exact operation you are in. I believe that: – Vessels could be build 30% cheaper and deliver higher uptime in operations. – Fuel savings can run up to 20% – The utilization rate of your vessels can be optimized with 20% – Unplanned downtime could be decreased with 40% – First-time right support could be increased with 40% – Ecological footprint could be minimized with 20% – Profit could be upgraded with 50% This is looking at already sailing vessels if you take your learnings to any newbuild vessel you are going to purchase the upcoming year’s numbers will be much higher.
About Smart Vessel Optimizer (SVO). TechBinder launched Smart Vessel Optimizer by the end of 2019. After both founders did a pilot with one of the biggest Dutch shipbuilders. By implementing industrial technology from Schneider Electric & AVEVA to unlock Grey data they believed they could improve their support organisation. The goal was to get a better idea of the performance of the vessels they serviced. This way they were able to perform a more accurate troubleshoot before sending an engineer across the world. They could increase first-time-right support and make sure their customers reached higher uptime. The outcome of this pilot was above expectations and proved to deliver value to many other departments as well. Schneider Electric & AVEVA encouraged both the initiative takers to start up their own company using this technology. TechBinder has improved the value proposition and technological set-up since then and brought Smart Vessel Optimizer to market. It is designed to start small and easy with standardised KPI’s. From there the owner can use the savings Smart Vessel Optimizer creates to expand the value for its operations. Smart Vessel Optimizer is built together with an ecoculture of strong partners. This results in a strong development roadmap that ensures customers of more easy to adopt functionalities over time. Look for more information on smartvesseloptimizer.com.
We can imagine that there are a lot of questions after reading this article. Please contact us for a demo and more information specifically for your type of maritime operation.