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Shipping’s digital shift: definitions, benefits and opportunities.

The shipping industry is undergoing a digital transformation that has changed the way the industry thinks about traditional classification. Technology has underpinned so much of this recent evolution and there has been a lot of discussion about digital twins, digital class and digital health management (DHM) systems, sparking a lot of interest and some confusion too.

At LR, we have worked to better define these terms for the industry, understanding that these might develop over time as the technologies become more established and as classification evolves to further support them. It is important for us to understand the value digital can bring to the industry and our customers, and how we build confidence in these technologies going forward.

The benefits of digital twins

We define digital twins as a ‘multi-physics, data-driven representation (or model) of a physical asset, often residing in a cloud-based environment using data streamed from the physical asset (e.g. a gas turbine, diesel engine, compressors, pumps etc.)’. These can help owners and operators improve aspects of their operational performance and maintenance regimes through insights generated by the twins. Another benefit of digital twins is that their data can provide greater transparency and repeatability in demonstrating compliance, making it more convenient for owners and operators to provide data to class societies and other regulatory bodies. Digital twins learn and improve their insight over time by gathering data on how an asset performs under different operating conditions, which is supported by mathematical rules based on the physics of the real world.

Digital twins can also be used to better understand current asset health (fault detection and diagnostics) and create predictions of asset health in the future (prognostics).

Digital health management

LR has established the term DHM to describe digital technologies and systems that are used to gather data and insights on an asset’s health, which could be in the form of a digital twin. DHM systems provide functionalities such as fault detection, diagnostics or prognostics, and will have an increasing role to play in operating assets safely, reliably and economically. They will also become a key feature of autonomous and remote systems and vessels as the vessels grow in size, sophistication, range endurance and operational capabilities.

There may be additional benefits of having a trusted digital twin and DHM systems, such as improving insurance or charter rates through greater trust in asset reliability and the possibility that the insights generated from digital twins during operation could be fed back into new, more efficient and reliable equipment and ship designs.

LR’s digital compliance framework

Inspired by the potential value to the industry provided by digital twins and DHM systems, and the need to develop confidence and understanding in these technologies, LR has collaborated with industry leaders in this area to develop a process of providing assurance of digital twins and digital compliance through a data-driven compliance framework. The digital compliance framework consists of four approval stages for the system providers and the owners.

Stage one, Digital Twin READY, gives digital twin providers LR’s ‘seal of approval’ as a twin builder, helping them demonstrate to potential customers that they can develop such technologies. If a twin provider reaches stage two, Digital Twin APPROVED, it means LR has officially approved a twin or DHM that has been developed and deployed for a specific asset. For owners and operators, stage three of the framework, Digital Twin COMMISSIONED gives them the confidence that the twin and DHM system works with their ship or asset properly and is commissioned with the ship’s/asset’s systems. Stage four, Digital Twin LIVE, is an ongoing process which provides the owners and operators with confidence that the twin is working as it should, which in time will encourage them to trust the insight that’s generated through the physical asset’s operational lifetime.

Our digital compliance framework was first validated through a co-creation project with GE, resulting in an approval in principle to Digital Twin READY for GE’s Predix Asset Performance Management, which is a DHM system that uses digital twins and advanced diagnostic/prognostic techniques.

For LR, our work is about supporting the industry’s digitalisation journey to realise new value and, more importantly, supporting our customers to build confidence in these technologies so that they can be trusted within the industry to make better, more informed decisions safely.

Horizons IMO 2020

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Horizons brings together insight into current trends and hot topics in maritime, alongside expert views from our people on regulation, technology and innovation.

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