Wärtsilä in the digital age

Digitalisation has been on a forward march for years now, changing the way business is conducted and how people connect. We asked Ari-Pekka Saarikangas, Director of Asset Performance Optimisation, what the future holds for Wärtsilä and its customers in the digital age.

For Wärtsilä, digitalisation has led to new ways of delivering services, reducing lead times and optimising efficiency, reliability and availability.

“Wärtsilä has been providing digital services for quite some time, but what’s changing now is the maturity of digital technologies, as well as the human behaviour surrounding them,” says Ari-Pekka Saarikangas, Director of Asset Performance Optimisation. “It’s becoming natural for us to do everything online and always to be connected to the internet via one of our many devices.

“In the years to come, I believe we’ll be able to use these developments to bring service business to a whole new level,” adds Saarikangas.

Connected society

The information society of a few years ago has evolved into the networked – or connected – society. This has resulted in greater productivity through the development of automated, simplified processes and real-time information sharing, alongside increased data speeds and penetration.

Wärtsilä’s digital journey began in the early 2000s, when the company started using connectivity to enhance its service and maintenance offering to power plants and ships, through condition-based monitoring (CBM). It also created a solution for ordering spare parts online, as well as its first digital documentation service for customers.

“Our system continuously collects data for evaluation by our experts,” explains Saarikangas. “It monitors engine, propulsion or thruster conditions, enabling us to plan and advise customers of any necessary maintenance before it becomes a problem or postpone unnecessary maintenance if everything is fine. This optimises the availability, reliability and performance of installed equipment.”

Next-generation analytics and web-based services

However, for Saarikangas, the real game changer for Wärtsilä and its customers will be the next generation of analytics.

“Analytical tools are becoming more precise and picking up signals earlier. In future, this will enable us to become even more proactive than we are today,” he says.

“For example, when something critical is about to happen on a ship, our advisory tools will detect it and advise the operator what to do. Meanwhile, the same issue will be registered by one of our remote centres and we’ll get in touch to say that a service engineer will be waiting at its next port to carry out the maintenance,” he continues.

Saarikangas foresees many as yet unexplored opportunities for Wärtsilä to add value to its customers’ businesses. For example, he asks, why not use the data produced by the equipment on board a vessel to calculate the optimum speed it needs to maintain to arrive at the next port on time, while maximising fuel efficiency?

Another major change is the transition of services and support to the internet. Wärtsilä Services’ aim is to take digital advantages even further to improve customers’ businesses to establish a true partnership for growing together. Last November, Wärtsilä launched its web-based Online Services, through which customers can contact technical experts and order parts through state-of-the-art directories, as well as access documentation and service letters relating to their specific equipment and installation. In 2015, the Online Services will include CBM reports, as well as relevant information for fleet managers, allowing them to trend and compare the performance of their vessels.

Remote communication is key

In 2015, Wärtsilä plans to extend its service capability and strengthen its remote service network. Further, as remote communication develops, more and more work will be done electronically and remotely.

“We’ll be able to provide more on-the-spot support for customers and even carry out the adjustments from a remote location,” says Saarikangas. “In future, we’ll also have more intelligent components and virtual concepts, enabled by technologies such as holograms and augmented reality.”

“For example, Wärtsilä is developing a new tool that will allow field service or customer personnel on board a ship or at a power plant to contact technical support online and share the same view.

“This is just one example of how the entire service process is becoming increasingly transparent and collaborative. Digital tools will also make it possible for customers to follow the progress of any work carried out at their site online and in real time.”

Reporting on the go

“These days, reporting is done on the go using smart devices so customers don’t need to wait for the technician to get home to receive a full report,” says Saarikangas.

But what has digitalisation meant for Saarikangas personally?

“For me, connectivity is the thing that has changed everything,” he admits. “When you work for a global company, the ability to stay connected whenever and wherever makes a huge a difference – to both your personal and professional life.”