Imagine operating a ship while continuously keeping track of 100 different things that were happening aboard your ship. It’s simple data collection, but the amount of data produced can be utterly overwhelming and frankly useless if you don’t know what’s relevant and what isn’t.
“Understanding big data and making useful decisions from it is not one of the core competencies of a shipowner,” notes Jaime Tetrault, Caterpillar Marine product support director in a recent phone call. “In the past, some have tried evaluating at this data while displayed as a bunch of squiggly lines on a chart or perhaps attempted to crunch it all in huge Excel spreadsheets, but none have truly succeeded because the solution is far more complicated,” he says.
After Tetrault published a paper two years ago with the Royal Institute of Naval Architects highlighting these issues, and the lack of adoption of remote monitoring solutions by ship owners, Ken Krooner, founder of Virginia Beach-based ESRG reached out.
For the past 15 years, his company had installed sensors aboard U.S. Navy ships that not only collected data, but had a processing system that could combine and evaluate the data to make a prognostic evaluation of what was actually happening with the system.
“This was completely new territory for the maritime sector,” described Tetrault when he first spoke with Ken Krooner – and he was interested.
ESRG is not just a tool for predictive maintenance however, it can also provide vessel owners with an inside look at how their vessels are being operated and provide information that shows them when they are being operated outside of a “normal” operating window.
“With this information, owners can then evaluate their operations to reduce instances of high stress. This can have a follow-on result of reducing safety mishaps and wear and tear on the vessel,” says Rob Bradenham, General Manager at ESRG.
Caterpillar’s interest in ESRG led them to conduct a field test this system for a full year on two different vessels, one being a low-tech, non-Cat powered vessel built in the 1970s, and the other a more modern vessel outfitted with Cat engines. The purpose was to show that this system could be used on any type of vessel, regardless of age or engine type.
Today, Caterpillar has announced that not only did this field test exceed expectations, but as a result of their testing, they have acquired the company via a deal struck recently.
Tetrault says ESRG will be fully integrated into Caterpillar and be rebranded into Caterpillar Marine Asset Intelligence. All employees will remain in position and be supplemented initially by additional personnel focused on expanding the company’s sales efforts.
“Our role as Caterpillar Marine is to introduce a full suite of analytics solutions to our customers which are tailored to their individual pain points,” commented Leslie Bell-Friedel, Caterpillar Marine Asset Intelligence business development manager. “Some customers will want to focus on increasing the reliability of machinery operations, while others will be focused on optimizing vessel productivity, ensuring safety, and/or operating more sustainably.
“This technology not only monitors running conditions, but it leverages analytics to understand the interrelations of different variables on the overall system and incorporates historical data to predict future failure modes. Regardless of the individual challenges, Caterpillar Marine is now able to offer a full suite of analytics solutions to help our customers achieve their objectives.”