Digital performance, standards and Internet of things (IoT) connectivity is becoming increasingly important in shipping. Ships will have more automation with higher levels of technology and will have more real-time monitoring, diagnostics, software and analytics for decision support. In addition, predictive maintenance is a key capability and will play an important role to reduce costs.
Predictive maintenance is one of the most important topics in IoT right now, not only in the aviation industry, but also in many other sectors. Data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make maintenance processes more efficient and significantly reduce operating costs.
For instance, it is possible to identify that a component needs to be repaired before the component fails. This makes it possible to arrange the aircraft’s schedule to reach a maintenance base as part of its operating roster. With a large fleet, this sort of process will deliver a higher utilization rate and greater efficiency. This has been the goal of a project that Lufthansa Industry Solutions has been undertaking with Airbus, the DLR (the German Aerospace research center) and the DFKI (the German center for machine learning). The plan was to take all the data from the aircraft and, as a first step, use analytics methods to deliver maintenance predictions that respect route and fuel efficiency.
Ships and aircrafts share many issues and challenges: It is important to have a real-time health status, i. e. “to know what is going on right now” and not afterwards, when an engineer is signing a report. It is also important to have multi-target optimization in terms of fuel, direction, speed, weather. Third, it is important to have pattern recognition, because you do not just want to rely on other people’s conflated experience. You also want to identify further data and insights you had not even thought about. Finally, both sectors need dashboards for reports to visualize the current status and predictions in order inform staff what they should do next to optimize the operation of the whole fleet.
Here are three specific ways to simplify ship maintenance and facilitate smooth operations using new technologies:
- Predictive maintenance with the Internet of Things
IoT and data analytics affect not only production, but also maintenance processes. This means that components can be exchanged before visible defects appear or put back into the reconditioning cycle at the optimal point in time. The condition of components can always be reviewed in real time. Predictions and optimization go hand-in-hand.
Predictive maintenance extends the life cycles of ships and establishes efficient maintenance cycles. As part of a maintenance concept, it becomes possible to keep effective maintenance history records. The reliability of individual components and component groups can thus be analyzed easily.
- Optimizing the maintenance cycle with RFID
The use of radio frequency identification (RFID) also simplifies maintenance operating processes. With the help of this technology, it becomes easier to monitor the remaining lifespan of components that have been installed. If components equipped with RFID are used in oily, humid environments, for example, time-consuming inspections can be avoided. Moreover, there is no longer any need to decipher barely legible bar codes. By tagging parts involved in complex material pools with additional information about life and maintenance cycles, workloads in many areas can be reduced by up to 90 percent. Modern AI technology is even able to recognize parts by their visual appearance and match them against catalogues.
- Mobile solutions simplify technical documentation
Mobile solutions compile all of the documents necessary for maintenance – including data sheets, reports and operating instructions – and support a range of different formats and industry standards. This means that maintenance technicians can always receive the most up-to-date information about their assignments at a glance and can edit and document them directly while on the go using a tablet or smartphone on site. This mobile solution also significantly streamlines documentation for inspections, increasing process quality.
Solutions like this for technical documentation have already been tested in aviation. In aviation, the content management system EFOM (Electronic Flight Operations Manuals) by Lufthansa Industry Solutions collates a range of different documents and information for staff, who can use the app to edit them right away. Flight crews, ground staff and MRO operations (maintenance, repair and overhaul) that use the mobile solution DocSurf have the right information available on their smartphones or tablets around the clock.
Dr. Lars Schwabe is Director Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence & Blockchain Technologies of Lufthansa Industry Solutions