Desperate to cut costs any way they can, shipowners adopt the "stitch in time" attitude
By Ryan Skinner (email)
For those who work with it, Condition-Based Maintenance, or CBM, is a philosophy. To the rest of us, it's just "fix it before it breaks". Sounds simple, but to an industry that traditionally believes in corrective maintenance or "if it ain't broke don't fix it", it's a leap.
I'm not the first to think CBM will change shipping. It was actually suggested by someone in a discussion I started precisely about technologies to change shipping (and featured as technology to change shipping #7). Said Vijaygopal Rengarajan:
I've been around for a couple of years in the maritime technology space and I find transition from REACTIVE to PREDICTIVE Maintenance i.e. Condition Based Monitoring System. In my opinion marine engineers need a companion who can measure continuously and help them get to solution rather than worrying about problem identification.
Now CBM has been described as maintenance (a discipline), monitoring (a task) and a philosophy. But what makes it a bigger deal these days is technology. With fatter and more frequent Internet access on ships, the immediate access to information powers more and better CBM. Smart ship components with sensors talking together and talking to shore enable this whole thing.
CBM has unambiguous links with what the oil industry calls Integrated Operations, or smartfields, or e-fields, or what-have-you. You connect your physical assets at sea with expertise onshore, even distributed in many places. This at least the remote diagnostics part of CBM. Perhaps this will provide a cure to the technology bafflement raised by Clay Maitland's blog. No matter how mind-boggling the technology onboard, there is some expert, somewhere, who can help.
What's driving this philosophy, discipline, task, practice and technology? Simply enough, it costs less to address problems before they're problems. Further, it may mean less insurance. Both DNV and Lloyd's Register have made clear that shipowners with approved CBM programmes will pay less hull and machinery insurance.
I got that last piece of information from Harry Lijzenga, who is the Royal Dutch Navy's expert on the topic. Navies have traditionally been quicker to pick up CBM. Lijzenga described for me how many different components can fall under CBM. Typically, we're talking the engine, pumps, boilers - anything you can measure (temperature or vibration, for example).
Earlier this week, I talked about Wartsila's new mission control. This centre will allow Wartsila's engineers to keep track of the performance of their systems, optimize this performance and help maintain products before they fail. It may be that other suppliers choose to link up with companies who have this access, in order to support CBM in their products as well.