COVID-19 – Driving Changing Attitudes to Digital Asset Management
Maritime defense has always been a place for innovation. It’s not a sector that is afraid of change – although at times it is slower to embrace it.
But Covid-19 has created a catalyst for change that has impacted not just traditional timescales but traditional ways of operating, forcing the move to greater digital adoption in asset monitoring and maintenance.
ABS - one of the World’s leading providers of classification and technical advisory services to the marine and offshore industries – is helping the United States Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC) to reap the benefits of a transition to Condition-Based Class for five vessels in the fleet.
Patrick Ryan, ABS Senior Vice President, Global Engineering and Technology and Joshua Divin, ABS Director Government Programs, examine how Covid-19 has driven that change and what the benefits have been.
HAS COVID-19 IMPACTED THE WAY THAT DEFENSE HAS HAD TO LOOK AT ASSET MONITORING AND MAINTENANCE?
Absolutely. What we are now seeing is greater numbers of early adopters happy to explore new technology solutions. The attitude to change has evolved! We are seeing an attitude shift – a much greater openness towards the benefits of being able to fail forward. As a result, digital developments are now being integrated into the industry quicker and the practical benefits getting absorbed on a wider scale.
CAN YOU PROVIDE EXAMPLES OF SOME OF THE WAYS COVID-19 HAS ALTERED TRADITIONAL APPROACHES AND SOME OF THE DIGITAL-LED DEVELOPMENTS THAT HAVE EMERGED?
Traditionally in class operations, we send surveyors to vessels in different locations globally. Covid has clearly created barriers to international travel. We also have to factor in the safety and well being of personnel across all aspects of our operations. This has dictated change. At the same time, the pandemic means access to vessels can be challenging and dependent on revised policies for exposure management.
Human interaction will always be critical but we have had to adapt to these restrictions. So, we have moved to using rich data sources on vessels in the absence of physical attendance, which in the right settings can sometimes provide greater insight than a pair of eyes.
The reality is that many vessels are already data rich. What we are doing is leveraging that to create data driven insights.
We use this data - harvesting, processing and analyzing it – to offer fact-based results that will greatly benefit the operator in terms of time, focus, efficiency and cost.
Some examples are the use of laser scanning and 360 degree imagery. These technologies have enabled us to fill the void where attendance-led surveys have simply not been possible.
And we are using this approach from both a machinery and hull standpoint.
Through machinery sensor data we are able to see if a piece of equipment is operating within its specified design parameters. When combined with machinery test data and preventative maintenance records, our Surveyors are presented with a comprehensive data set to make Classrelated decisions without attending the vessel.
On the structural side we have been using a combination of drone footage and AI image recognition to assess the condition of hull coatings to identify areas of corrosion. Traditionally this process has been manually intensive, and subjective.
Now, Artificial Intelligence (AI) toolsets allow us to filter through masses of data very quickly, identify possible action areas and drive decisions on where we can make best use of our people and their expertise. We can focus our attention on vessel areas that we know need the attention.
This approach is saving time and money, helping control dry dock time and enhancing safety.
We are pushing the envelope of what we can do remotely and seeing real benefits as a result
WHAT OPERATIONAL OUTCOMES ARE YOU SEEING OF THIS APPROACH?
We are seeing some good outcomes and recording lessons learned for improvement.
The tool sets are accurate, repeatable and highly consistent. We are not replacing the surveyor but rather supplementing their workflow with objective quality evidence for an effective decision making process.
ARE THESE APPROACHES PROVEN?
Yes – though sometimes in other industries. We are talking about using proven technology rather than creating brand new solutions. A lot of these technologies have been designed and utilized in other environments. What we are doing is implementing them in new ways in a maritime context. And, that development tail has long preceded COVID. COVID didn’t accelerate technology development, it accelerated technology adoption.
WHAT ROLE DOES A DIGITAL TWIN PLAY AND WHAT DOES THIS ACTUALLY MEAN?
At the center of the digital asset framework is the digital twin, which is the virtual representation of the physical asset as well as its associated processes, systems and information.
The digital twin is continuously updated throughout the asset lifecycle through a combination of the collected data, engineering models, and data analytics, allowing deeper insight throughout an asset’s lifecycle. The digital twin provides a platform for information management and collaboration, where subject matter experts, managers, and all other decision makers share a common understanding of the asset’s current condition to support the decision-making process.
Once the single source of truth has been established for the asset, you can use it to better forecast the evolution of future risks. This supports the ultimate goal of shifting from the calendar-based, prescriptive inspection regime to a data-informed, condition-based inspection model.
What we will see is an expansive use of digital technology to help build on the developments that have already been made to create a clearer understanding of the health of an asset
These developments will likely include Augmented VR, integration of CAD Models for survey, more sophisticated analysis through new machine learning algorithms, and certainly more.
ABS is already developing these technologies and others with leading partners across the world and will be looking to bring cutting edge techniques to bear for the benefit of naval as well as commercial clients wherever possible.