SCHOTTEL and the Norwegian ULSTEIN Group are using a software platform to simplify the automation of numerous vessel types, including previously neglected smaller vessels. This enables them to be optimized as overall systems and makes it possible to identify potential
Sensor technology and digitalization have experienced an enormous boost in development over the past few years. In conjunction with intelligent software, this is now opening up entirely new possibilities, also for smaller vessels and special vessels, which SCHOTTEL intends to utilize for the benefit of its customers. The company has embarked on a new course by founding the joint venture Blue Ctrl together with ULSTEIN. In addition to benefiting from the familiar propulsion expertise, customers will also be supported in networking the individual components of their vessels, enabling them to utilize the full potential. The basis for this is formed by the software plat- form X-Connect. With its modular structure and simple plug and play capabilities, it maps complex processes in a user-friendly manner.
The clear goal of this digital support is higher efficiency and enhanced safety for the crew on board. At the same time, it enables detailed fleet management by the owner or operator back onshore.
For this, the systems provide condition-based data about the predefined components of the vessel – with a whole range of advantages, such as optimization proposals for fuel consumption, operating behaviour or maintenance. Particularly in the area of propulsion, customers can make use of SCHOTTEL’s decades of experience, which has been expanded still further through the partnership with ULSTEIN.
The X-Connect software provides a platform for all standard hardware components and thus facilitates the configuration of Input/Output modules (I/Os), electronic controllers (PLCs) and networks, and even the graphical user interface on the display – all in a single tool. Applications with different ranges of functions can be bundled together: the Alarm and Monitoring System (AMS) is used for signal monitoring. The Integrated Automation System (IAS) enables individual components, such as valves or pumps, not only to be monitored, but also to be actively controlled and automated. For example, the IAS independently corrects any instability in the water by influencing the trim and heel of the vessel via the valve control of the ballast tanks. At the next function level, a Power Management System (PMS) can be used to increase the overall efficiency of all the machinery and to tailor energy generation to requirements. The Energy Management System (EMS), which is currently under development, goes a step further. It intelligently optimizes the operation of engines and generators for power production and predictively adapts to the power requirements of the vessel. In the case of hybrid energy supply, the system regulates the combined use of batteries and engines.
The systems described here have already been in existence for some time, but restricted to very large and complex vessel types. For smaller models, such as tugs, they have simply been too expensive until now. Jan Glas, Sales Director Automation & Digital Products at SCHOTTEL, explains the reason for this: “The conventional systems collect many individual signals from many individual components from different manufacturers on the vessel. These signals are then processed in control and monitoring systems developed specially for this vessel. That is very costly.” This is because a separate solution has to be developed for each component on the basis of the available signals.
A software-based platform, such as X-Connect, adopts exactly the opposite approach. “I don’t have to program new software, but can use the mouse to drag the units that are to be monitored or controlled, for instance a rudderpropeller or a main engine, into the system from a list,” Jan Glas explains. “In this way, I can simply select from the database the different pumps and valves I want to monitor on my vessel and configure an individual overall system myself. Basically, I replicate the vessel in our software on a modular basis.” This is then used to automatically generate a list of signals that are taken from and supplied by the units – in the traditional manner via cables and terminal boxes. Irrespective of the level of automation desired, X-Connect can be tailored to the current requirements.
“The main advantage of our digital solutions is their flexibility,” says Jan Glas. “This is evident during the initial configuration using drag-and-drop, but also throughout the entire service life of the vessel. After all, the systems can be maintained remotely, with the result that updates can be loaded via the internet. AMS, IAS, PMS and EMS can be expanded as required to include new components. If these are equipped with sensors, it’s a simple matter of plug and play.”
Looking to the future, SCHOTTEL is offering an increasingly dense network of data in a clear form through the interaction of X-Connect and the inhouse Fleet Management Portal. This holistic approach enables customers to have even more efficient and safer operation and management processes – from individual vessels to the entire fleet.
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