22 Nov '17 If you don’t measure it you can’t improve it
Operating a ship can be a simple action or a complex action depending on your perspective. Moving a big object relatively slowly across the sea may not seem to be complicated to the untrained eye, but as you dig deeper, more and more moving parts are exposed.
In shipping, as in all other industries, the demand for continuous improvement is high. Tight margins in a challenging market and environmental responsibility drive the campaign, although low bunker prices may dampen enthusiasm.
The first step towards improving a ship’s operation involves establishing a clear overview of its current state of performance. Knowing the actual performance figures is an obvious benefit, but knowing exactly where improvements can be made is clearly very valuable.
Numerous methods are available to evaluate a ship’s performance. Most depend on a limited quantity of information collected at low frequency intervals. What all methods have in common is that the results are affected by multiple aspects, both internal and external: weather, sea state, side currents, condition of equipment, behaviour of the crew and potentially most importantly, the extent and integrity of the information upon which the evaluation is based.
The impact of external factors on performance can be minimized only to limited degree. However, the impact on the integrity of the data can more easily be reduced using modern methods.
The conventional approach is to focus primarily on dominant factors such as propulsion performance. The potential for improvement reaches far beyond those limited factors; the only way to fully exploit the potential is take measurements, then make the measured information available for all stakeholders.
Buzzwords like big data dominate conferences, industry papers and daily discussions amongst people within shipping companies, but action is clearly lacking. Despite all the talk, vast segments of the worlds fleet are out there operating in the dark.
Data-driven methods to improve the performance of a ship’s operation have proven to be successful – and that success can be measured accurately.
The technology is available and the know-how needed to apply it is at hand. The next step is to take advantage of this huge opportunity and modernize shipping operations to reduce operational costs and lower the impact on the environment.
Decision support during the execution of voyages along with trim optimization are common strategies, but many additional opportunities exist outside the conventional scope which can deliver a clear benefit and quick return on required investment. The key is always the same – measure, ensure integrity of available data, process the information then make the results available to act upon.