The cost of reactive maintenance

The cost of reactive maintenance
Image courtesy of P&O Maritime

For shipping line P&O Maritime, a catastrophic incident in 2018 accelerated the company’s use of maritime IoT to drive its maintenance model from reactive to predictive. In a webinar held by Digital Ship this week, Kris Vedat, head of IT for P&O Maritime Logistics explained how the company has been tackling its digital management strategy.

In 2018, one of P&O’s vessels operating in Saudi Arabia experienced a significant financial loss when a connecting road broke though the engine block. According to Mr Vedat, undetected water contamination was the root cause of the incident. While manual lube oil sampling had occurred throughout this period, between the time taken to extract the samples and transfer them to the lab for analysing, no issues were identified. As a result, the company faced significant losses, including:

  • $400k to purchase a new engine
  • $150k to expedite shipment of the new engine
  • 10-20 days of lost charter

Mr Vedat explained that following the incident, a new engine had to be flown to the ship. The engine had to be taken apart to install the components into the vessel, before reassembly of the engine piece by piece once inside the vessel.

The result of this led to P&O being tasked with “Finding a solution to avoid this in the future,” by deploying maritime IoT to transition from reactive maintenance to predictive maintenance, Mr Vedat explained.

The company’s previous maintenance strategy involved taking lube oil samples every 6-8 weeks. The samples were sent onshore and tested in a lab while the vessel waited for the results. The problem with this strategy, according to Mr Vedat is, “During this time it is very possible to miss the critical point where you are in the ‘exposure zone.’ Something can be missed between sampling and the results being received.”

P&O decided to move to automatic sampling to prevent reoccurrence of such an event. “This way we could be more predictive and decrease our risk exposure. Our goal was to identify a breakdown before it happens and to mitigate the risk before that.”

P&O’s IoT journey was led by a catastrophic contamination issue that was the result of reactive rather than predictive maintenance. Mr Vedat explained that the ‘realisation point’ can be advanced and critical incidents onboard vessels can be avoided by using digital solutions as part of a predictive maintenance strategy. 

Today, P&O uses an IoT solution called VitalyX to enable an entire overview of the fleet. It is an alarm-based system that identifies and reports failures on ship and on shore. “The system can predict failures and avoid downtimes. We also use a condition-based maintenance model to model multiple parameters on a real-time basis.”

According to Mr Vedat VitalyX enables the company to ensure that, “the lube oil operates within its lifecycle sweet spot, to avoid changing it before it is optimal and before it is necessary and becomes a risk to the asset.” In addition, the IoT solution can help to predict changes in all areas of a vessel’s operation such as water dilution, soot, glycol contamination, fuel dilution, saltwater dilution, lube oil viscosity, temperature and much more.

VitalyX means that P&O can, “get into real time monitoring, but also ensure greater accuracy. The crew and the shore side teams also have access to the same information.”

Moreover, the IoT solution for predictive maintenance is helping P&O to only change the lube oil when necessary, based on real time data rather than OEM guidelines, which Mr Vedat said often reports a much earlier change date than is needed, exacerbating unnecessary costs. “We’re able to increase lifecycle of oil over 6-7 times than manufacturers’ guidelines, saving 22,000 USD per vessel,” Mr Vedat confirmed.

P&O’s IoT journey

Prior to the 2018 incident, P&O had been rolling out maritime IoT solutions and advanced analytics as part of its digital transformation journey. One of the reasons P&O was able to swiftly move from reactive to proactive maintenance following the 2018 incident was because it already had in place some prerequisites. The company had established its key business values, which Mr Vedat notes as critical in a successful digital transformation, and established good digital connectivity onboard.

“Before we embarked on our digital strategy, we made sure these things were in place. This included a standardised fleet management system to capture key data and good connectivity to transfer data from ship to shore so that it could be analysed properly. We installed an integrated data management system. We thought it was key to capture certain data points on the vessel to get the information that we wanted,” Mr Vedat confirmed.

For P&O, a connected future involved bringing together AIS data, customer data, vessel data, and sensor technology. Image courtesy of P&O Maritime

Kris Vedat gave a presentation during Digital Ship’s webinar on January 12 alongside Patrick Boles, senior consultant with Deloitte. Read our article from Mr Boles’ presentation about building or buying your way to digital maturity here and watch the webinar online.