Condition monitoring has a key role to play in every maintenance programme and can be a valuable tool for optimising safety standards, maximising operational efficiency, and enhancing profitability.
Despite proven gains resulting from employing effective condition monitoring and reliability-centred maintenance practices, all too often its implementation is haphazard rather than strategic, further stretching already scarce resources and having little positive effect on productivity – or the bottom line.
When we consider the lifecycle of an asset – from the design, installation, operation and decommissioning – our expectations are that it will perform its required function efficiently for as long as it’s required. Indeed in a laboratory setting this isn’t an unreasonable assumption. However, in the less forgiving marine environment, with large variations in weather, crew and aptitude, it is vital to take into consideration how these variables can affect the operational life of critical assets, and proactively monitor these systems to ensure that operations are not compromised by unexpected breakdowns.
Condition monitoring has one goal: to ensure that an asset can effectively function to meet the demands of the operation, whenever it’s required. To do that, the necessary people, processes and resources must be available to maintain the asset in a fit-for-service condition. This can be done reliably, safely and cost-effectively through employing a combination of condition monitoring tools, both on and offline. All that’s required is a consistent, top-to-bottom appreciation of the compound benefits that accrue to organisations that prioritise asset integrity.
A number of innovations have influenced condition monitoring in recent years that today allow engineers to enjoy the benefits of a combination of online, onsite and laboratory testing
Digitalisation is fundamentally changing the way marine maintenance services are conducted. Advanced data analysis is helping companies optimise the efficiency of their operations and improve the performance of their assets. One of the most prominent advocates in this area is original equipment manufacturer, Wärtsilä.
It employs asset performance optimisation concepts extensively and uses interactive and real-time data to help predict maintenance needs well in advance, thus enabling better planning and support services. A number of innovations have influenced condition monitoring in recent years that today allow engineers to enjoy the benefits of a combination of online, onsite and laboratory testing. Through more detailed but potentially delayed sample results from a laboratory, supplemented by the real-time information delivered by onsite testing, operators have the most accurate picture of the condition of the systems and equipment onboard.
“Condition monitoring has one goal: to ensure that an asset can effectively function to meet the demands of the operation”
The skills shortage and difficulty finding fully-trained personnel in the marine industry has been well documented over recent years, which is why condition monitoring experts have continued to develop technology that is simple to use and doesn’t require extensive training or re-education, whilst still providing accurate and detailed information. The cylinder liner, for example, is a crucial part of a ship’s engine.
Monitoring wear not only extends operational life but also prevents unexpected and costly repair bills and unscheduled downtime that ship owners can ill afford, with the average cost for a replacement liner at over $150,000. Global carrier Matson has installed Parker Kittiwake’s LinerSCAN, an online sensor which instantly reports changes in the cylinder caused by abrasive wear, onto several of its vessels as part of a range of condition monitoring tools. Payback proved immediate, as on the first voyage after installation, the LinerSCAN system indicated increased wear on the cylinder liners. Upon investigation, Matson detected damaging levels of cat fines in the system on one of its vessels, identified the cause of the issue and addressed the problem before damage occurred.
Tools such as online sensors and onboard test kits can empower engineers to make fast and informed decisions with confidence. By monitoring wear levels in real time through online sensors such as LinerSCAN, engineers are alerted to escalating cylinder liner wear and are able to react quickly to changes, enabling preventative maintenance during the ship’s passage to the next port and insuring against expensive downtime. Today’s oil analysis follows a new triangular paradigm. Real-time, online oil analysis via sensors is the most straightforward and efficient tools for monitoring critical machinery onboard vessels in remote locations.
Coupled with effective portable onboard test kits, many existing and potential problems can be detected and addressed within minutes rather than days. This is still fundamentally supported by offsite, laboratory analysis to provide more detailed analysis, plug information gaps and validate decisions. The advent of slow steaming brought with it the challenge of cold corrosion, due to optimum engine operating temperatures not being attained. Cold corrosion is when sulphuric acid forms on the engine cylinder liner walls and corrodes the liner surface. The Parker Kittiwake Cold Corrosion Test Kit (CCTK) is an onboard tool that gives a clear indication of whether there is a serious problem without the time delay and cost incurred with sending samples for laboratory analysis.
“Kittiwake’s condition monitoring equipment provides information rather than subjective data that can be acted upon immediately, preventing premature wear and subsequent damage”
When used alongside ferro-magnetic analysers, such as the new Kittiwake Ferrous Wear Meter (FWM), operators can identify levels of both abrasive iron and corrosive iron compounds in minutes. It is through employing a combination of online and offline tools that encompass a comprehensive range of processes within the system that operators can best arm themselves with the information they need to manage maintenance, prevent damage and maximise uptime. Kittiwake’s condition monitoring equipment provides information rather than subjective data that can be acted upon immediately, preventing premature wear and subsequent damage. Condition monitoring onboard is a maintenance tool rather than a scientific research tool. Downtime costs money and impacts profitability, which must be steadfastly avoided, especially in today’s financial climate. So with the spectre of downtime ever present, condition monitoring systems and oil analysis programmes are the first line of defence for diagnosing problems with critical plant machinery and equipment.
The impact of successful troubleshooting using a combination of the state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment available can equate to millions of dollars in savings across a fleet. Critical asset failure takes a vessel out of service immediately, affecting profitability, reputation viability as a line operator and invites downstream complications that interfere with successful strategic planning.
The benefits of prevention are often overlooked and sacrificed, as Magnus Miemois, Director of Field Services at Wärtsilä has said, “For ship owners, uptime is the most crucial factor affecting quality and profitability.” Even though it might not be instinctual, the present downturn presents a valuable opportunity to revisit the existing asset integrity and reliability processes. Shortcutting safety and performance could become apparent in the future with incidents and accidents costing more than the required investment for assurance.
For many this will be a step-change policy - investing in onboard condition monitoring and embracing 21st century marine engineering rather than relying on intuition or the strict period-based maintenance of old.