(Image: Rolls-Royce)

Ship Intelligence 101

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The Rolls-Royce portfolio of equipment and services extends well beyond the engine room, leveraging decades of experience in myriad business sectors.

The words 'Rolls-Royce' can roll right off your tongue, and when they do, the average person in the maritime space probably thinks first of big, powerful, and environmentally-correct marine engines. That might have rung true just two decades ago, but today, that visual doesn't give justice to what the firm has evolved to become. That's also where Jay McFadyen, Rolls-Royce Senior Vice President for Ship Intelligence, comes in. In a candid interview given at this year's SMM Exposition in Hamburg, Germany, McFadyen laid out for Marine News not only what Rolls-Royce is up to today, but also where it is headed tomorrow.
This isn't your grandfather's marine equipment producer. McFadyen, an engineer by training, brings 27 years of aerospace and marine industry experience to the table in his current position. "We are taking products that use the power of digitalization into marine for Rolls Royce. We set ourselves up into three product families: one around health management, one around optimization and decision support, and one around remote and autonomous operations," he explains. And, if that doesn't sound like the engine business, it's because today's Rolls-Royce aims to be so much more.
Ship Intelligence
Rolls-Royce defines Ship Intelligence as the practice of harnessing the power of big data to deliver customer solutions in the areas of health management solutions, optimization and decision support, and remote and autonomous operation. Increasingly sophisticated ships will harness data to drive safer, more efficient and more cost effective operations. Operating across five business sectors - Civil Aerospace, Defense Aerospace, Marine, Nuclear and Power Systems - Rolls-Royce arguably has as much business acumen and experience as anyone, to make that happen. "This is about asset and business management," says McFadyen, adding, "We currently offer an energy management solution that provides real time guidance on how a vessel could be operated more fuel efficiently, and as we develop that capability further, we'll be extend it to the total business operation for a customer and provide decision support software to help them make decisions that maximize their returns."
It's why the typical 2016 Rolls-Royce press release isn't always about engines. Often, it talks about integration of equipment and making sure that all pieces of the vessel are talking to each other. It is this turnkey solution that McFadyen and Rolls-Royce hope will set them apart from other folks that are trying to jump in to the digital space. It starts, insists McFadyen, with the domain knowledge across the breadth of the Rolls-Royce portfolio.
"We start right from the design principles of the ship, and then go into systems and components, and within those, we have a deep knowledge of how the mechanics of those elements work. In addition to running the smart analytics, we then also can compare it to what we expect in terms of our failure modes and effect analysis, and actually know what to do about what the data is telling us. In addition, we have 1,000 field service engineers around the world, so not only can we tell you what to do, but we can also turn up with the parts and the people to fix the problem. And so, I think that's what really sets us apart from some of the other folks that are doing the digital work."
As fascinating and useful as the concept may be, there are still clients who are worried that 'big brother' is watching and ready to void an equipment warranty. The first step is to define from the outset what data is going to be accessed and why it is going to be used. McFadyen says the key is to approach this in a collaborative way with the customer and work with them around solutions that are tailor-made for what they're interested in doing. In return, he says, an appropriate level of trust is achieved. "Through the delivery of the reports and the advice and the result in cost savings, we've built up that trust that allows them to expand from a pilot scenario to more of a fleet agreement."
So What?
In a world where big data means many things to different stakeholders, Rolls-Royce wants the data that is mined to be packaged and then delivered to the client in a meaningful and useful format. After all, someone sitting in a room with a bank of video monitors and computers can be bombarded with 100,000 bits of information every minute. It can be overwhelming. In the port security world, they call it the 'so what [?]' factor. "Early in the days of equipment health management and monitoring around engines, the data input overwhelmed both the transmission capability and the analysis capability. So we've worked to develop algorithms that sort through the data on board, and then deliver only the key things to transmit," explains McFadyen, continuing, "That allows us to be able to comprehend them in real time and to pass along the advice in a way that is actionable for the customer. All that data is still collected and is available to go back in after the fact to look for things that can be improved, and product enhancements, and the like. But the key, in terms of managing it in real time, is distilling it down to the critical packet that fits within the bandwidth and that the person who's receiving it is able to comprehend it and act on it."
A growing number of operators are beginning to take advantage of 'big data.' In practice, that's a function of bandwidth capability or reliable communications. As that infrastructure becomes better and more reliable, more data will be used and customers will be more reliant on that information. But, cost is still an issue. Still, McFadyen thinks the day is coming when customers will view the process as something more than a cost center. "There is an element of that. Where we're doing things that enhance the safety and facilitate remote and autonomous operation in critical areas, it then becomes a question of the benefit far outweighing the cost." For example, one of the products that Rolls-Royce is working to develop involves improved situational awareness - taking all of the sensors individually and fusing them together into a picture that provides the operator - whether it's local on the bridge or remote ashore, an enhanced view of what's happening. McFadyen adds, "That kind of safety level is something that customers appear to be willing to pay for."

Technology and the Human Element
There are, says McFadyen, other ways to bring lessons learned from the aero side of the business onto the waterfront. "We're not that far behind in terms of the technology. In terms of the acceptance of operators, we are quite a bit further behind." That hasn't stopped rolls-Royce from bringing industry along for the ride. In their Norway-based simulators, they can model the operation of a PSV or an OSV, simulating the operation of a crane, with multiple participants on deck, in the engine room, etc. "We have customers that view that as critical to their ability to maintain a trained and certified workforce."
The Rolls-Royce approach, as part of the energy manager solution, also allows the customer to identify that there are some crews and vessels that have best practice. A particular operator might want to share that knowledge across their fleet. And, says McFadyen, "By giving them the data and pointing them in the direction of which of their vessels is operating best, it allows them to facilitate that kind of best practice sharing."
Offshore Energy: Making Lemonade out of Lemons
In a tough global maritime market, it is the offshore side that arguably has been hardest hit. When this happens, operators typically cut costs, often in areas like the bells and whistles which Rolls-Royce brings to market. And, while McFadyen admits that they've seen a downturn in terms of revenues, that's been driven by the usage of the vessels in the offshore industry. On the other hand, the climate has provided an opportunity to develop a different business model.
"Since the beginning of the maritime industry, maintenance has been traditionally done on a time and material basis. We're looking to flip that into a condition-based monitoring where the OEM takes the responsibility for delivering the life cycle maintenance costs for the equipment, at a fixed price to the customer, or at a price based on the number of operating hours," explains McFadyen. Effectively, this aligns the interests of the equipment manufacturer with the operator. When the vessel's working, the equipment manufacturer is getting paid, and when the vessel is not working, the equipment manufacturer is not getting paid.
McFadyen adds, "So this bit of a downturn - while it has hit our short-term revenues and profits - is providing us an opportunity to enter into those discussions that we think will really form up a more collaborative view of how we approach maintenance going forward." The plan involves transferring the risk from the customer onto the OEM, over the life of the vessel, amortizing those costs over the same timeframe. The proliferation of sensors and data in real time will allow understanding of the way the equipment is being operated and the way that it's performing. In turn, decisions around maintenance - whether it's doing maintenance early to prevent a failure, or to delay maintenance because the equipment hasn't been used as aggressively as it was designed for. Once the overall cost of the maintenance has been brought down, Rolls-Royce would share that savings with the customer.

Rolls-Royce Intelligence: Already on the Water
The Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence Team has only been in place for a couple of months, but McFadyen has been working on Ship Intelligence for the last two years. And, he has specific goals that he wants to accomplish in the near term. In the area of health management solutions, the firm wants to foster fixed price maintenance as the preferred solution with customers. Around the optimization effort, Rolls-Royce will introduce a next level of energy management solution, one which allows real-time customer access via a portal that measures the energy performance of their equipment, with a real time advisory service. Last but certainly not least, the effort to advance remote and autonomous vessels involves a Finland-based project where Rolls-Royce will actually demonstrate that the remote control of a vessel in a local operating environment is feasible. Eventually, that will lead to work on the commercial aspects of such a vessel.
Separately, a Rolls-Royce design has been chosen for the UK's future polar research ship which eventually will be one of the most advanced scientific maritime vessels ever constructed. Rolls-Royce will, of course, also supply machinery and equipment for the vessel in a deal worth $43.6 million. Jørn Heltne, Rolls-Royce Senior Vice President for Sales in Ship Design & Systems, said, "A key part of our extensive delivery for Cammell Laird included in this vessel will be the automation and control systems, including our Dynamic Positioning system and the award winning Unified Bridge. This will provide the crew with the most advanced and innovative working conditions and operator tools on a vessel bridge today."
The latest vision of Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence - a futuristic ship's bridge concept - could become a reality as early as 2025. Rolls-Royce VP of Innovation Oskar Levander told Marine News last year, "We are system integrators." That said; a first glance at their oX Bridge concept reveals that they have already accomplished so much more than that. Rolls-Royce worked together with VTT's researchers and Aalto University to develop the new bridge, known as the Future Operator Experience Concept or 'oX'. It features smart workstations, which automatically recognize individuals when they walk into the bridge, and adjust to their own preferences. Beyond this, the windows of the bridge serve as augmented reality displays of the vessel's surroundings, including visualization of potential hazards that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye.
The real change, according to Levander involves how the system brings up data for the user. He explains, "We provide the right information, for the right user at the right time," adding, "It's a more interactive experience between the anchor handling tug and the rig itself. Using 'augmented reality,' where everyone shares the same information, the goal is to not to overwhelm the user, but instead give them the data that they need and can handle."
And, while the oX bridge might not be ready for a few more years, many of the features of this control system are already in use. For example, the platform supply vessel "Stril Luna" in 2014 became the first vessel to enter service using Rolls-Royce's Unified Bridge. That vessel has begun a long-term contract with Statoil and other operators have ordered the system for their fleets.
Building for Tomorrow, Investing in Technology Today
Today, Rolls-Royce predicts that Ship Intelligence will be the next major transition for the shipping industry as ships become ever more complex. As that happens, managing high levels of data in order to operate on-board systems will be a big part of that reality. At first, says Roll-Royce, this will better manage propulsion and navigation systems. Later, it could potentially lead to autonomous vessels.
The firm has put its money where its mouth is. In 2013 alone, Rolls-Royce invested £1.1 billion on research and development while at the same time supporting a global network of 31 University Technology Centers, which position Rolls-Royce engineers at the forefront of scientific research.
On show at the SMM 2016 show in Hamburg was the company's propulsion technology, including the new permanent magnet thruster, the latest green, high tech engines and newest Unified Bridge applications. The company also demonstrated how it is applying experience from the oil and gas sector to specialist ship design in other areas and how Ship Intelligence is creating smarter ships and helping customers cut costs and improve reliability. And, yes, they continue to make a pretty good line of engines, too.
(As published in the November 2016 edition of Marine News)