Industry 4.0 on the High Seas

Photo: Siemens

By David Grucza

Werner von Siemens' mission to lay 50,000 nautical miles of
transatlantic cables might not have been destined to fail - but
at least one business rival tried to make sure that it would. It
wasn't enough to merely execute a risky project that had never
been done before. The crew aboard the Faraday, the ship that
Siemens and his brothers commissioned, also had to move faster
than saboteurs who planted false reports in the press and even
broke cables. And it was in this pressure-filled environment that
Siemens turned to another recent invention of his to enable his
crew to work around the clock: a electrical generator, placed on
the deck, to light up the night skies.

This spirit of deploying new technology and innovation on the
high seas is just as relevant 143 years later - even if the
challenges are much different, which thousands of leaders from
the maritime industry, including naval architects, shipbuilders
and owner/operators talked about recently at the International
WorkBoat Show in New Orleans. Today the marine industry is
working towards solutions for propulsion, environmental
regulations, safety standards, and global trade by embracing the
technological advancements currently reshaping the industrial
world: what we call Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution where the
brainpower that has gone into creating apps for smartphones is
creating applications for smart factories. An array of new tools
emblematic of the digital transformation - advanced robotics, 3D
printing, design software, and big data networks connecting
people, machines, systems, processes, plants, and customers -are
enhancing competitiveness globally and meeting rapidly changing
customer demands. Siemens' customers embracing digital
enterprises are experiencing a 50 percent reduction in time to
market, a 30 percent reduction in engineering costs, and 50
percent higher throughput. But this isn't just happening in
factories; it's happening in the marine industry. This year, the
world's first electrically-powered car ferry went into service,
taking vehicles and people four miles across the Sognefjord in

And it had zero emissions. Batteries are charged on each side of
the fjord with electricity, provide from a mix of the country's
renewable resources such as hydro and wind power.

Another Industry 4.0 development is using one common platform to
collect and consolidate operational ship data from different
system suppliers and in common data formats in order to supply
applications via a simple and standardized interface. The
applications can help optimize ship operation and performance.
For example, software is used to transmit vast amounts of ship or
event fleet operational data, back to an onshore control center
for analysis and optimization. Monitoring systems at sea allows
for quick response to issues, thus increasing reliability and
uptime, while reducing costs. We also see Industry 4.0 influences
in the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, location of the Discovery
Channel's popular reality television series, Deadliest Catch. The
recently commissioned Blue North commercial fishing vessel is now
operating out of Dutch Harbor and is now one of the world's most
highly automated ships, able to catch, process and package fresh
cod on-board in a Industry 4.0-like factory on the seas.

Finally, product lifecycle software (PLM) is being used to design
the most highly complex ships. Performance and build-time is sped
through the collaboration of designers, engineers, production
specialists, partners and suppliers, so shipyards can optimize
performance. While on the seas, operators are using advanced
software to integrate all operational equipment through seamless
and controlled data acquisition.

143 years ago, a technological solution, borrowed from another
industry, enabled the Faraday to thwart its antagonists and
launch a new era of global communications. But take notice in
2017: the ocean economy is estimated at $1 trillion, and the
world's oldest industry is bringing Industry 4.0 to the high seas
to boost resource efficiency, reliability and productivity.

The Author

David Grucza is Director, Siemens Drilling & Marine,

Mar 2, 2017

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