The hidden benefits of electrification in difficult times

These are certainly challenging times that we face. Businesses like ours and their customers that have traditionally relied heavily on travel to carry out their work are very badly affected, with site access severely restricted and engineers not able to travel freely in country, let alone internationally. This is having a huge impact on the ability to support customer’s needs particularly for system start up, commissioning and troubleshooting.

Although this situation may ease in the near term, it is here to stay and travel restrictions will be with us in one form or another for a long time to come. This forces us to not only think about alternative ways of providing customer field support, but to actually get on with it.

Here at MJR we provide integrated power and automation solutions for a wide range of applications amongst them electrification of traditional mechanical and hydraulic systems. The benefits of electrification in a marine and offshore environment are usually perceived as:

  • Lower risk of pollution due to accidental oil release
  • No risk of oil contamination leading to equipment failure
  • No requirement for pipework flushing
  • Higher dynamic performance
  • Better energy efficiency, lower losses and ease of power management
  • Easier and faster commissioning and repair

However there are some hidden benefits lurking that are often are not so well understood, or if they are understood they are not very well accepted or common practice in the industry. I am talking about Remote Access for commissioning, troubleshooting, maintenance, performance monitoring,  data analytics and if required remote control.

Most people are very familiar with remote access to their computers as this is the first line of IT support offered in an office environment apart from “have you tried turning it off and back on again?”. It’s easy to get access to a hydraulic control system with a PLC and a remote gateway connected to the Internet but the ability to actually do anything useful with it is limited. Aside from measuring temperatures, pressures, valve activation and general I/O there’s not much that remote access can usefully achieve in terms of the actual hydraulic power circuit which is generally where the issues lie.

Although both hydraulic and electric/hybrid power train systems can both be controlled by sophisticated PLC/SCADA based control systems that can have remote access, they deliver power in a very different way. Hydraulic power systems rely solely on hardware devices such as oil, pumps, valves, filters and accumulators whereas an electric drive system relies on transistors, diodes, capacitors, fuses, circuit breakers with a microprocessor and firmware controlling it all.

That means that unlike a hydraulic power system the complete electric power train is fully accessible from the control system and unlike its hydraulic counterpart where physical adjustment and setting up is required, all parameters in the electric drive system can be accessed, read from, written to and adjusted via a computer. That means remote access can get to all parts of the system including the important power delivery devices, not just a limited part of the system.

This brings enormous benefits in terms of the ability carry out comprehensive remote intervention including remote commissioning and troubleshooting. We have provided remote access to our systems for several years now for maintenance and troubleshooting but generally commissioning has been done in person with our engineers travelling to site. However over the last  month due to travel restrictions we have carried out several successful remote commissioning jobs – one was just down the road from us that had limited site access and another in Shanghai that had even more limited site access!

Both jobs were carried out with full remote control and system access using a mixture of mobile gateways (there was no fixed LAN connection on the ships) and video conferencing and with the support of local site personnel providing our eyes, ears and hands. In the case of the Shanghai job, what would have taken an engineer more than a week, once travel and rest time was factored in, took one day from our office. Not only was a commissioning job done that could otherwise not have been done due to the travel restrictions, it cost the customer one day for an engineer instead of a four to five figure sum. Remote access also allows our engineers to provide much more responsive support across a wide number of systems as engineers time is not wasted travelling.

But what about security?

Online security has always been a major concern with remote access of critical systems, and at MJR we take cyber security very seriously. All of our remote access solutions utilise secure encrypted tunneling protocols ensuring the highest levels of protection and our engineers are highly trained and experienced in deployment and maintenance of secure remote connectivity.

Can I remotely access the system myself?

Yes. Whether it be for remote viewing of system performance, data analysis or reporting or integration with other business systems we can provide cloud based remote access solutions to your desktop.

If you would like to significantly reduce commissioning and support costs for your systems, improve response times and gain access to critical system performance data and monitoring screens then please contact us to see how we can help.

For more information please contact:

Paul Cairns

+44(0)1642 536240