Having begun full operational services 18 months ago, MAN Energy Solutions’ industrial data sharing initiative has won its second OEM founder member, marine engine manufacturer Rolls Royce Power Systems. Next steps see that joined by a much larger representation of the supply chain, as well as customers and service providers too. The scheme recognises the growing supply chain complexity of large-scale plant operations.
Modern engineered systems, whether pumping gas in the North Sea, providing propulsion on the sea or manufactured goods on land, consist of any number of component parts, assets. These days they are connected to data networks, so have the capability to provide constant performance data and the possibility to optimise efficiencies.
Such information can help tell when the device itself is not operating properly, and perhaps, with additional analysis, how much longer it might last. But arguably its greatest usefulness is when combined with the data from all of the assets surrounding it in the process; then the whole chain of inputs and outputs reveals itself, step by step, in real time. Achieving that would provide users with a kind of remote virtual control room.
“We’ve shown how we can call for data not only from MAN assets, but also related equipment – oil and pressure temperatures from pumps upstream, and exhaust fume gases downstream. That’s been shown to be pulled together with common time stamps. At this second, this is the oil pressure, the exhaust gases are doing this,” says Alan Atkins, chief executive officer of the initiative, named mýa Connection.
The stopper is not so much the complexity of the plant, but of its procurement, he adds. “The user is faced with 5-20 different operational reports and on line services relating to the maintenance and performance of specific elements of the system. You receive a report for example from MAN related to how the engine is operating. There’s a report from the upstream oil pumps operation, and from a manufacturer of oil filters or exhaust gas scrubbers downstream. All of these are separate and uncorrelated. You log in to each system from various different OEM systems/platforms.” In other words, even if the whole system consists of smart connected devices that data ends up hidden in a protected supplier data silo. Assembling the entire picture is laborious, complicated and confusing.
Facilitating access to this information is the intention of mýa, the digital expression of data-sharing agreements between customers, OEMs and service providers. “Mýa is based on contracts and permissions. The data is owned by the asset owner in law today. It can give permission to others to process and share that data, for example if it has a maintenance agreement with a certain manufacturer. The same permission can be given to one or more OEMs to share data, for modelling and collaboration,” states Atkins.
The advantage is universal data access, he continues. “If a customer has an MAN engine and a Rolls Royce engine on the same vessel, it will see their applications, and then can drill down into those. Normally it would have to log out and log in to switch between systems, seeing different views, but mýa is a gateway to all platforms, opening up endless opportunities not only towards standardisation but also optimisation.”
Running through all of the different assets’ data streams is a single golden thread: time. As long as each element produces time-series data, (and their device clocks are synchronised), all of the information can be run side by side. Different sampling frequencies doesn’t matter, provided there is a time stamp.
mya’s job is to call up the data from the different silos; it doesn’t hold the data, but serves it up from multiple locations to software in a common application layer by using aligned data models.
“Some people call it a switchboard; mýa pulls everything together in a common language, to move the industry toward standardisation. We are looking at various industries, not only marine, but also energy, oil and gas and even food processing,” continues the CEO.
There are no popular data standards that apply all the way across industry, Atkins comments. For example, although ISO 19848:2018 applies to marine systems, it has not been widely adopted. “Different companies have different ways of putting data and manipulating data to expose it to applications. There is no standardisation out there.”
OTHER DATA SHARING
And current industrial data-sharing initiatives that do exist are for-profit ventures. That might make some people suspicious of the motivations behind their actions, says Atkins. “People believe that if you build a for-profit services platform, there is always a story in the background about why you are really doing the things that you do, and is it with the asset owner’s best interest in mind.”
Instead, the founders of mýa plan to hand over the total operation to a foundation, so that it becomes independent and run by its members. Atkins admits that its evolving direction would be influenced by founder members, but not by desire for direct commercial gain, since it will be non-profit.
The organisation is now looking for up to five more founder members, probably equipment OEMs. Founder members not only pay a share of development costs, but also technical support, if necessary. “They will be able to have a seat at the table, see and influence the roadmap, see how the features and benefits are growing and listen to what is needed by the asset owners.”
Then come regular members. Atkins claims that he has a list of 70 OEMs that want to join, to whom he was sending out business plans at time of writing in mid-September. As members, they, as well as asset owners and service providers, would pay an up-front fee to cover essential initial data modelling, plus an annual fee to cover infrastructure costs on the order of a few tens of thousands of Euro, he says. “The cost of joining Mya is so little because it’s not a huge platform.” The intention would be to be as low-cost as possible.
Even so, the platform does raise an operational risk for the OEMs, Atkins admits; all of this openness will inevitably lead to greater contact between competitors – and the possible loss of maintenance business to third parties. In his view, that is a necessary sacrifice in our complex world. “I’m certain that MAN and other OEMs would want to offer maintenance services to all of their clients. Then why encourage others to be there? With the best will in the world, a single company cannot sign everyone up to their own system. The key is we want the asset owner to have the optimal performance out of the equipment and to make sure it is in touch with maintenance programmes, and if something needs to be sorted, then the correct spare parts should be purchased from the original OEM, ensuring continuation of a supported and warranted service.”
In terms of data security, mýa does not change existing data storage protocols, but rather extends asset owners’ permissions to extract information from them. So, for example, it has the same cybersecurity level that MAN does when dealing with data from its silos.
That’s because today’s assets managed on the digital platform CEON launched early last year (www.is.gd/bubaqu) are already in the mýa asset registry. MAN Energy Solutions maintenance business, PrimeServ Assist, acts via CEON.
The next step is to finalise the Rolls-Royce adoption of mýa. The two have already signed a memorandum of understanding, and the arrangement is currently going through corporate legal review, and expected to be signed off before the end of the year. As part of the agreement, it will transfer 50% of ownership of mýa Connection GmbH, currently 100% owned by MAN Energy Solutions, to Rolls-Royce Power Systems. At that point, the MAN Energy Solutions’ mýa team seconded to the project, some tens of people, will be hived off, and the company would be opened up to the wider market.
In July, when the Rolls-Royce MOU was announced, Jürgen Winterholler, vice-president of Digital IT at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said: “It is our goal to have the best fleet and asset management service for our customers based on the highest data security standards. We will focus on delivering this service through our MTU Go! platform, by cooperating with mýa to set standards across the industry. We are endeavouring to build an open, collaborative culture where asset related data can be shared easily and securely between organisations and companies. We feel the day of technology vendors and manufactures trying to lock customers into their proprietary digital platforms by holding data hostage, is over.”