Know what you want from digitalisation

Paul Gunton

Paul Gunton · 15 July 2019


Some management teams in shipping companies “have no idea what they want to do” when they start planning to digitalise their operations, according to Mogens Mathiesen, co-founder of Arundo, a software and advanced analytics company that focuses on heavy industry.

He was speaking to ShipInsight during last month’s Nor-Shipping exhibition in Oslo when he explained that although many companies “are very advanced in their thinking and have put in a lot of strategy work,” in others it finds that “management has been given a mandate by the CEO or by the board to digitalise their fleet” and have just a basic brief. “They want to do something [and] just know that they want to get value from data.”


Arundo operates across a number of industries but ships provide specific challenges and he identified three main ones. First, the large number of equipment manufacturers and suppliers represented on board leads to a large number of data sources. This complicates collecting data from all of them in a way that allows a thorough understanding of the whole installation.

Compounding that is a second challenge: data quality can vary a great deal across the various sources. Finally, communications bandwidth and intermittent connectivity must be taken into account when planning how to get data off the ship.

Faced with both management and technical difficulties, “we can go in and help them to find out what really would provide value to them from analytics and data.” But that could involve a low-tech approach: “We sit in a room and talk with the subject matter experts. There are lots of post-it notes everywhere.”

Mr Mathiesen said that Arundo’s approach for maritime companies targets “thee Cs: cost, carbon and crew.” To minimise cost involves “understanding how your equipment operates [and] how can you extend maintenance intervals.” It also embraces the broader target of detecting any changes in the ship and its equipment “that would potentially prevent you from … having a ship that is able to carry passengers or cargo.”

Reducing carbon requires a ship to be more efficient and he mentioned one frequent area of waste: running more auxiliary engines than is necessary. This often happens, he said, if the ship’s engineer wants “to be extra safe and extra secure” and puts another genset online. Instead, sensor data can be used to “to operate the vessels in the right way” and avoid running machinery when it is not necessary.

Crew also play a vital role, he suggested. Captains and chief engineers receive the information they need on board but the crew are also responsible for “giving the people onshore the same data [who may have] a different way of visualising it.” That can help identify best practice and thus improve operations across a whole fleet, he said.

Data can also be used in a predictive way, he said. As an example, he mentioned a project it is working on with MacGregor, exploring how it can move from a preventive maintenance regime to a predictive one. At the outset, the team from both companies used the Post-it notes he had mentioned to define what information they wanted the eventual user-interface (UI) to display, “before we look at the data, before we even see how the … information will be transferred.”

Once that has been done and a demonstration version of the UI has been produced, “then you can move back and fix all of the technology and the plumbing. It’s an extremely good way of working because everyone gets so excited,” he said.

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