Bringing certainty to maintenance costs

ABB on how to handle maintenance headaches.

Maintenance costs are easy to report, but difficult to predict. Spare parts, delivery costs, labour, off-hire: all can be measured and managed. But is it possible to put a cost on the opportunities missed while a ship is out of action, or value the reputational impact of late arriving cargo or passengers?

In 2018, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is part of the US Department of Commerce, published a paper that looked at the costs and benefits of advanced maintenance in the manufacturing sector and found that “efficient machinery maintenance methods can mean the difference between a thriving profitable firm and one that loses money and sales.”

The past year has underlined the benefits of having service agreements in place in times of uncertainty. When COVID hit, it added to the upheaval to supply lines already being disrupted by the emergence of new fuels and a changing regulatory environment. Having service agreements in place means that shipowners and operators can move away from ad hoc repairs and spare parts ordering, taking a longer view as quick access to these services was becoming increasingly unreliable.

It is in times like these, when company executives are focusing on how their businesses will survive, that the burden of unplanned and unexpected maintenance issues is least wanted.

Something we have all learned from this has been the value of data-enabled monitoring of shipboard equipment, which has become a key feature of shipping over the last decade. If we didn’t know before that sensor-driven onboard monitoring was going to be vital for the industry’s long-term evolution and efficiency, we know it now.

With systems like those now commonplace, planned maintenance and service contracts make more sense now than ever before. Data-enabled monitoring is a logical step for any company that has invested in those technologies to enable OEM specialists to advise and support them as they rein in difficult-to-predict maintenance costs.

That will surely be one of the lasting and valuable lessons when we finally leave this pandemic in our wake.

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