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transformations

In July, Wärtsilä enhanced its digital offering by acquiring Eniram, just as the company was on the cusp of launching a transformative new solution named SkyLight. Jan Wilhelmsson, Eniram’s VP, Commercial Shipping, explains the concepts underpinning the company’s bold moves.

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What is SkyLight in a nutshell?

Jan Wilhelmsson: I used to give a presentation called ‘It’s nice to do what we’ve always done in this industry’, pointing out an interesting anomaly in the way our technically advanced modern vessels work. Roughly 100 years ago, the radio was invented, which changed shipping in such a way that vessels could actually radio back home on a daily basis and communicate where they were. You took the sun’s height in the middle of the day to establish your position. And once you had that, you would calculate your distance from your previous noon report, establish how much fuel remains on board, and send this data back to the office.

This was a game changer in its day, and the same methodology has been in place ever since. Most vessels that now go on charter send a short email (even this is relatively new – it wasn’t so long ago that telex was the norm) communicating how many miles they have travelled, how much fuel they have on board, where they’re heading, and to report on the local weather. This is used as the basis of measuring their fuel consumption, and that accumulated data is then used to assess the vessel’s fuel performance.

If you think of it, it’s a little insane that if you buy a car today, it’s constantly reporting back to the engineering centre and its engineers. Whereas today, a large tanker or bulk carrier, in most cases, still relies on that century-old noon reporting system as the foundation for how they are commercially operated.

What we are doing with SkyLight is determining the vessel’s fuel consumption curve. When you undertake noon reporting, you use the average weather conditions during that 24-hour period. Now, you don’t need to be a meteorologist to realise that weather can change quite a bit over a whole day and night, so such averages are hardly precise. By moving to four times a day, you have much better granularity. With SkyLight, we take five-minute location readings, and then automatically enrich that data with the current weather conditions. No one could manually report every five minutes, because, as an officer on board, you would be doing nothing else. SkyLight automates this function and makes it a part of a vessel’s normal operations, with all the huge advantages it confers now being simply taken for granted.

How will the system benefit Wärtsilä’s marine customers?

Jan Wilhelmsson: SkyLight actually addresses the way shipping is being conducted as a business. With SkyLight, ship operators can cost-effectively monitor their fleet and compare the performance of each vessel in detail. Our software keeps records of the ships’ performance, enabling more prompt reporting, planning and cost optimisation. Fundamentally, we’re allowing ship operators to manage their business more effectively.

Critical to this is the accuracy of the data we extract from the vessel. For various reasons, the precision of our readings is streets ahead of that of any competing offering at this price point (which, in any case, would often have to consist of two or more separate solutions from different providers).

The next advantage is our modelling. We know for a fact that a very large portion of ship speed logs contain major errors. With Skylight we realised that rather than trying to correct these systems, we could just create these values using the correction-model system we had developed for our previous products, which we now refer to as “artificial sensing”. So, instead of actually measuring the speed by physically having an expensive installation on board that is integrated with the speed log and the navigation system, we use modelling to calculate it. Because we have the vessel’s movements, and we have all the weather data, the sea state and the tidal current, we know the difference between speed and distance through water, and the distance and speed over ground. And thus we can calculate the water track without resorting to the log.

All of these factors combined lead to far greater accuracy than has been seen elsewhere in the industry without major installations. And there is a very simple correlation between the accuracy of our data, and our customer’s ability to optimise their operations based upon it.

How does SkyLight represent an innovation in terms of the business model?

Jan Wilhelmsson: We are shifting from selling installations to offering analytics and optimisation sold fully as a monthly service. The industry formerly consisted of ship owners who owned and operated their vessels, whereas today, the vast majority of vessels are not owned and technically managed by the same entity that commercially operates them. So, what we’re doing here is adjusting to the market rather than attempting to change it.

This necessitates considering all the value chains separately. Ship management is now separate from commercial operations, for example. This has happened across a number of industries, but since it has now occurred to such a large extent in shipping, we need to rethink our role as a market service provider, rather than a product vendor. Of course, this is not news at Wärtsilä. In that sense, Eniram’s way of thinking fits quite nicely into the bigger picture.

 

What does Eniram as an existing organisation bring to Wärtsilä?

Jan Wilhelmsson: Eniram is a company of digital natives. The founders are all highly educated in mathematics, statistics and IT-related fields. Add a few of us complementing this with shipping backgrounds (in fact, I’m one of the few people in the company who can’t code), and we are now able to support the industry’s move to digitalisation with tangible value propositions. So it’s very much an IT and tech-oriented company which has, over the years, also accumulated a great deal of knowledge about shipping.

The core value of the company is in its know-how and the solutions it has developed. Speaking from my own point of view, what I’m seeing now is an opportunity to get those solutions to the market much faster, thanks to the direct customer access that Wärtsilä can provide.

Secondly, we have a further opportunity in the enriched potential for development, which up to the moment of the acquisition was self-financed. This was a great way to do things but it also had some limitations. Now we have a parent company with a great deal more resources. We are yet to determine the ways that these might be employed, and in one sense of course, SkyLight as it currently exists is just the first step. But it’s easy to point out that you can accomplish much more being part of a strong global organisation. 

"It’s easy to point out that you can accomplish much more with a strong balancer behind you."

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