SAG_Twitter_MEME_Keep-it-shipshape880x440_Jan19Imagine you are departing on a dream Caribbean cruise. What happens if your ship breaks down? If you’re lucky, you’ll be immobilized in port. If not, your ship could be adrift at sea, running out of power, food and water while sewage systems back up. Either way, it’s not exactly the holiday of a lifetime!

Whether transporting cargo or people, serious mechanical breakdowns are the stuff of nightmares for ship operators and they happen more often than you might imagine – from engine failures causing ships to run aground, ineffective hull maintenance resulting in capsizing to sensor failures leading to oil spills or unauthorized emissions. However they happen, mechanical breakdowns are a huge risk to human life and the financial & reputation health of a shipping company.

How can a shipping company reduce the occurrence of these serious mechanical failures? Can they achieve this goal in a cost effective manner? By shifting from a preventative maintenance (PM) regime, to a regime based around reliability centered maintenance (RCM), it’s very likely the answer to both questions is “yes.”

Preventative maintenance (PM) is the way the majority of maintenance has historically been done. It is based on the assumption that components are more likely to fail as they get older so something should be done as often as possible. Unfortunately, this assumption is almost entirely wrong. Studies have shown that failures in the majority of components are most likely to be seen at an early stage, the so-called “infant mortality” phenomena. The net effect is that PM programs are not only excessively onerous and costly, but they actually reduce the reliability of systems they trying to improve. RCM was developed to address these flaws.

Enter RCM

RCM is a holistic approach to maintenance that solely focuses on maximizing a system’s reliability and function. In RCM, maintenance is not regarded as inherently beneficial - like exercise - but a necessary evil like surgery. Maintenance is only applied to components which are critical to safety and system function.

Continuous condition-based monitoring of critical components, rather than scheduled overhaul, is preferred - leaving non-critical components to fail. RCM can achieve immense costs savings by focusing on doing only appropriate maintenance, reducing the number of scheduled overhauls and structural inspections by up to 98%.

While other safety-critical industries like the nuclear power industry quickly adopted RCM, the commercial shipping industry has been very slow to follow. This is something of a missed opportunity, as the benefits achievable from RCM are significant. After mandating RCM in the marine domain, UK’s Royal Navy achieved 40% reduction in maintenance, material and downtime. The Royal Australian Navy achieved up to 72% reductions in PM hours and up to 75% reductions in through life support costs

So why has RCM not been significantly adopted by marine shipping industry? One reason is that RCM requires a significant degree of cultural change. It can be hard for organizations accustomed to PM to accept “no scheduled maintenance” as an acceptable strategy. It also requires significant investment into the planning and processes required to implement a successful RCM program. Finally, a coherent suite of software technologies that can accelerate and efficiently support an RCM program - such as process modelling, IoT device management and advanced analytic - have been difficult or expensive to acquire.

However, commercially viable software platforms with the requisite functionality now exist, and it is increasingly advisable for commercial shipping companies to consider the benefits of adopting RCM as an effective vehicle for maintaining competitive advantage.

Interested in RCM? We would love to talk to you more about how we can help with an IoT device management, process analysis & modeling, and advanced predictive analytics. Please click the link below for more information.

Transportation in the Age of Disruption

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