Listening to the voice of the customer

According to Wärtsilä’s extensive research and customer value analysis, the most common needs to be fulfilled by propulsion monitoring service are increased scheduled availability, detection of potential failures, health preservation, and long-term predictability.

In 2010, Wärtsilä introduced its Wärtsilä Propulsion Condition Monitoring Service (PCMS) to the market. The service became a great success with more than 200 systems installed to date. In 2014, Wärtsilä expanded its offering in propulsion monitoring services and introduced two new editions – Wärtsilä PCMS Professional and Wärtsilä PCMS Starter – to address the needs of different customer segments. The development of these editions was based on an extensive analysis of customers’ needs, the changing business environment and the classification requirements that have evolved over time.

Identifying customer needs

In late 2012, Wärtsilä initiated a research project on a reliability prediction model called Dynamic Lifetime Prognosis (DLP). “We thought that if we were able to predict thruster reliability based on its actual usage that would provide several benefits to the customer,“ says Franks Velthuis, General Manager, Product Development. “At the same time, we made a thorough customer value analysis and identified the most important customer needs related to condition-based maintenance services in general.” Based on the research project and customer value analysis, four fundamental needs were identified: increased scheduled availability, detection of potential failures, health preservation, and long-term predictability.

“Condition-based maintenance services were traditionally sold mainly based on their capability to detect potential failures. This capability is definitely vital especially for vessels with a high criticality of operations like, for example, drilling, heavy lifting or cable-laying,“ says Velthuis. “However, especially long-term predictability and health preservation can bring in significant benefits to the customer,” he continues.  

Health preservation enables customers to identify what kinds of operations or conditions impact thruster life negatively. The key parameters to follow are oil contamination, water saturation, and thruster load levels. By following and analysing these parameters, Wärtsilä can predict the future performance and maintenance needs of the equipment.

Introducing long-term predictability

“The ability to predict future maintenance needs is something that really catches the customer’s attention. It is something that none of the other providers can offer," says Michael van Oostrom, Sales Support Area Manager from Wärtsilä. With Dynamic Lifetime Prognosis, it is possible to predict the reliability of the customer’s propulsion equipment based on prior and expected future usage, as well as endured conditions. The data collected from the global, installed Wärtsilä PCMS base is also analysed and used to enhance the accuracy of the system. “Dynamic Lifetime Prognosis detects potential failures and provides long-term predictability. It can be used to determine, when propulsion equipment like the thruster should be overhauled,” says Velthuis.

Depending on the usage and the condition and seals configuration of the propulsion equipment, the interval between overhauls can be extended up to 10 years. “The optimisation of maintenance intervals brings clear cost savings for the customer and maximises the overall profitability of their asset,” says van Oostrom.

“Providing this kind of long-term predictability is a new thing and many of the customers are not yet familiar with the concept. We want to work in close cooperation with them to make it more comfortable for them to use this kind of service. This is a learning journey that we want to make together,” states Velthuis.

Evolving business environment requires new solutions

During the past few years, the business environment has changed a lot. In the past, customers were used to have scheduled maintenance operations every five years, for example. Thrusters were overhauled, even when there was no actual need for that. The introduction of the first condition monitoring services made it possible to avoid unnecessary overhauls and open the thruster only if it was really necessary. However, these systems were not able to predict and give recommendations on when the next overhaul should be done. “Customers wanted to get ‘back to the good old days’ when they knew when the next scheduled overhaul would be. Dynamic lifetime prognosis was developed to provide that information,” says Velthuis.

During the past few years, condition monitoring and condition-based maintenance have become more common. “They no longer are the sole property of drilling ships and heavy lift ships.  Also less capital-intensive ships, like for example offshore supply vessels, want to use these services,” says Velthuis.

Because the needs of different customer segments differ from each other, Wärtsilä introduced two editions of Wärtsilä Propulsion Condition Monitoring Service: Wärtsilä PCMS Professional and Wärtsilä PCMS Starter. 

Covering both ends of the spectrum

Both Professional and Starter editions enable overhaul intervals to be extended and promote optimal condition of the equipment. However, the Professional edition also provides long-term predictability in maintenance planning and is superior in detecting potential failures. The Professional version also includes daily analysis of collected sensor data. “The knowledge that someone is analysing your data daily and reporting if something is not looking as it should, brings comfort to the customer,” believes van Oostrom. The Professional edition is especially suitable for vessels with a high criticality of operations. Typical applications include drilling, cable-laying, heavy lifting and seismic research operations.

The Starter edition is tailored for less capital-intensive vessels with primary focus on reliability and reduction of operational costs. Data analysis is carried out on a monthly basis. Typical applications include offshore supply, anchor handling, towing and diving support.

“When discussing with customers, it’s crucial to understand their real needs, required service level, vessel type, and the conditions in which the vessel is operating. Based on all this info, the right product can be selected. It is also possible that the customer starts with the Starter edition and when his requirements evolve, he can easily upgrade to the Professional edition,” says van Oostrom.

Recognised by tree major classification societies

Wärtsilä is currently recognised as a condition monitoring service supplier by three of the major classification societies, namely the American Bureau of Shipping, Lloyd’s Register, and DNV-GL. Wärtsilä was the first company to attain this type of recognition from the major classification societies.

“The fact that Wärtsilä’s propulsion monitoring system is recognised by the major classification societies is very important for our customers. It’s the prerequisite for them in being able to extend the time between overhauls. Without a PCMS solution that has been approved by the classification society, the customer would have to open up their thruster at a scheduled interval and do a visual inspection of the equipment. With our PCMS solution installed, they don’t have to do it,” confirms van Oostrom.

Translating data into a valuable asset

One of the cornerstones in the development of Wärtsilä’s condition monitoring service has been the extensive use of engineering and design knowledge in the different phases of product development. “We have proven that engineering and design knowledge can and should be used during the whole product lifetime, not just in the early stages of product development,” explains Velthuis.

The importance of data has also increased. Data is becoming an extremely valuable asset. “Data is becoming the oil of the future. Dynamic Lifetime Prognosis is a great example of how operational data can be translated into tangible customer benefits,” concludes Velthuis.

The new editions of Wärtsilä Propulsion Condition Monitoring Service are prime examples of how putting the customers at the centre and identifying their needs can bring in valuable insights into  product and service development. Even more importantly, these editions will help Wärtsilä in creating value for their customers – every day.