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Customer Story

Caterpillar: steering the marine industry with asset intelligence from the PI System

Ship sailing the ocean carrying shipping containers
  • Challenge
    Help customers use technology to reduce costs, fuel usage, and risk.
  • Solutions
    Apply automated analytics using the PI System and CAT Asset Intelligence software to provide actionable advisory services.
  • Benefits
    $200K - $1.5M+ in value from analytics and expert advisory services through avoided failures, less downtime, and reduced fuel burn.

Caterpillar may lead the marine space in the supply of large, medium-speed diesel engines, but it realizes that there are other onboard assets just as likely to take a vessel out of operation. A wire failure can take down a shipboard crane; oil leakage can disrupt the steering system; a fatigued propulsion system can stall out. Any of these might take a vessel offline and send technicians flying all around the world to fix the problem. Because there is such a diversity of original equipment manufacturers in the marine industry, Caterpillar needed to provide asset intelligence services beyond the scope of CAT equipment. Which is why, today, Caterpillar provides asset intelligence services for its customers’ fleets—and not just the CAT equipment aboard those fleets. “We want to take that partnership with our customers to the next level,” says Rob Bradenham, global sales & business development manager at Caterpillar Marine Asset Intelligence, “and allow them to get more value out of the investments that they've already made.”

Our customers have fleets that are mixed. They don't want six different tech platforms and services.
Rob Bradenham
Global Sales & Business Development Manager, Caterpillar Marine Asset Intelligence

Welcome to the age of smart iron

The marine space has been slow to embrace the digital age, but that’s changing. Yes, there is digital equipment aboard all vessels, says Bradenham, “but often that data is sitting in silos. It’s occurring and vanishing.” Vessel owners and operators can discover tremendous opportunities for operational improvement and savings within their untapped data. Caterpillar is helping customers capitalize on the new era of smart iron with CAT Asset Intelligence, powered by the PI System, which puts every critical onboard asset into one whole-vessel conversation. A vessel is more than just an engine, and the success of one onboard asset often depends on the success of many others. Caterpillar calls its approach, “whole-ship monitoring.” In other words, thanks to the PI System and CAT Asset Intelligence, vessel owners and operators can now see asset data in context. That means no more useless data stuck in silos.

From a sea of data to actionable information

A major challenge of asset intelligence in the marine space, according to Bradenham, is filtering out operations data “noise.” Unlike Caterpillar’s land-based operations, marine operations come with a stunning variability of conditions. “You need more power and less power,” says Bradenham. “You go to port, you go back out. You need to accelerate for navigational purposes, and so forth.” Then there are the water conditions: the seas vary; the winds vary; the currents vary. How does Caterpillar turn the wealth of raw data from assets in the field into actionable information that customers can actually use? This is where the PI System and CAT Asset Intelligence come in. Caterpillar employs PI Servers on board, and on shore, along with PI connectors to connect data sources with unprecedented efficiency. This setup enables Caterpillar to help customers predict and avoid problems before they cause downtime.

Take, for instance, the RORO Operators: gigantic shipping vessels, powered by Caterpillar diesel engines, which ferry cars, tractors, and other wheeled cargo from one end of the world to the other. Fuel makes up nearly 70% of the RORO’s lifetime cost. One of the greatest obstacles to the fuel efficiency of these maritime behemoths is the humble barnacle—marine growth on the vessel’s hull. This isn’t, in other words, a CAT-engine problem. But Caterpillar is prepared to help solve it all the same with its expanded marine telematics offerings. Using qualified data, Caterpillar identifies the “Goldilocks” moment to scrape a given vessel’s hull and propellor clean. Not too early, not too late. And what happens when those barnacles and mussels are removed at just the right moment? About $450K in savings per vessel, per year.


Optimizing maintenance and efficiency

“Every time you touch a piece of equipment,” says Bradenham, “you're introducing risk into that equation. So if it's not broken, don't touch it. But how do you know it's not broken?” PI Servers aboard CAT-powered and affiliated fleets provide Caterpillar with the information it needs to optimize maintenance, reduce cost, and avoid failures. Instead of fixing an asset once it breaks, or performing scheduled, potentially unnecessary maintenance, Caterpillar is moving toward predictive and condition-based maintenance, empowering engineers to identify emerging problems and the likely causes of those problems before they require costly downtime.

In 2018, for instance, a cruise liner, powered by Caterpillar’s large, medium-speed diesel engines, seemed to have one cylinder increasing in temperature at a greater rate than the other cylinders. Using the PI System and Caterpillar’s asset intelligence software, fleet advisors identified the abnormality, addressed the problem in a preventative manner, and saved about $10,000. “We didn't have technicians flying around the world,” says Bradenham. “We avoided all the headaches, the firefighters, the overtime heroes, the night and weekend rates, the just-go-to-the-airport-and-get-a-ticket-I-don’t-care-how-much-it-costs-type things.”

In addition to reducing operating costs, and optimizing efficiency, CAT Asset Intelligence services also help customers reduce safety and compliance risk, which is no easy task. A vessel may be in operation for fifty years and retrofitting an old vessel to meet new regulations is a significant investment. Using the PI System and CAT Asset Intelligence software allows Caterpillar to untangle the complex interrelations of variables at work on the overall vessel, whether that vessel is a new, integrated and data-rich cruise ship, or forty-year-old tugboat.

Applying analytics to data sourced from the many different parts of a vessel allows Caterpillar to bring its customers a vessel-tailored suite of solutions to meet new regulations, optimize performance and efficiency, and maximize revenue from customer assets. Caterpillar is embracing the age of smart iron with a single guiding question in mind: “How do we add value not just on the scope of supply that we sold the customer,” says Bradenham, “but on everything else that's critical to the customer?”

Watch the full presentation for more about Caterpillar and the PI System.

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