Applying IoT to improve Business Processes

The NYK Group encourages in-house innovation, and seafarers are constantly crafting creative ideas and developing equipment that supports safe operations. This, in turn, often leads to new business opportunities.

Co-developing J-Marine NeCST, an Operational Support Tool

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J-Marine NeCST in action.

NYK, MTI Co. Ltd. (a group company), and Japan Radio Co. Ltd. recently teamed up to develop J-Marine NeCST, an operational support tool that lets users manage and share electronic charts and other voyage information on large-screen displays. All large cargo vessels making international voyages must have Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) by 2018. By fusing its years of experience in vessel operation management with its partners' technological capabilities, the Group has successfully developed a one-of-a-kind tool that not only lets users write information by hand on electronic charts but also boasts incredible operability and maneuverability — and even a feature that integrates prepared route information with ECDIS. The tool also lets users superimpose meteorological and sea conditions information, thereby streamlining and optimizing the process of drafting voyage plans. By digitizing vessel-specific information, as well, the tool enables information sharing among ships and land-based sites to make onboard and onshore work processes more efficient. The Group plans to start installing J-Marine NeCST on new vessels going into operation in fiscal 2018.

Reducing Crew Members' Workload: Kirari NINJA

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Photograph of the inside of a combustion chamber taken by Kirari NINJA, which is shown in the upper photograph

MTI and Daito Electron Co. Ltd. have jointly developed Kirari NINJA (patent pending), a device that can automatically photograph the inside of a vessel engine's combustion chamber.
Until now, a crew member has had to stop the engine and go inside to inspect the combustion chamber. However, darkness made seeing the inside of the chamber in detail difficult. Also, working for long periods in high temperatures exhausted crew members. Kirari NINJA comprises a panoramic camera and a light. By installing it on the upper part of the piston in the combustion chamber, 360-degree photographs of the interior can be taken during one round of vertical piston movement, which takes approximately 10 minutes. This capability dramatically reduces the workload of crew members. Moreover, the photographs taken enable them to see the condition of the inside of the combustion chamber in great detail, which promises to help prevent engine accidents and reduce maintenance costs.

A Chief Engineer's Opinion

Until now, inspecting inside an engine involved working in very hot, confined spaces. However, Kirari NINJA has enabled inspectors to minimise the time spent working inside engines. Also, detailed inspections inside engines by engineers used to require opening engines, but Kirari NINJA enables inspections without opening. As a result, we are able to conduct inspections more often, and in doing so contributing to safe vessel operations. In retrospect, it surprises me that this type of inspection tool did not exist. I think it took the particular viewpoint of a shipping company to identify the need and develop such a tool.

Supporting Safe Vessel Handling: i.Master

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Docking and undocking is one of the most tense times in vessel operations. To provide assistance in reducing the risk of colliding with the quay, the NYK Group has introduced i.Master software for handheld digital charts. The software gives crew members a bird's eye view of the vessel's movement and the surrounding situation. Via a tablet computer, the software shows crew members the course of a vessel and its docking or undocking speed and automatically identifies other vessels. Furthermore, the system allows crew members to monitor docking and undocking constantly without being on the bridge. Collisions with the quay could force vessels to lay up for long periods. As well as inconveniencing customers, such delays would lead to a loss of trust. By using i.Master effectively, we will reduce the risk inherent in docking and undocking.
i.Master is just one example of our innovative efforts to develop useful technologies for a range of operational situations and thereby build systems that ensure stable, safe, and efficient vessel operations.

A Captain's Opinion

For vessels such as car carriers, which have many blind spots from the captain's position when docking and undocking, i.Master is a really valuable support tool for the captain because it gives an overview of the vessel's movement. Also, we take advantage of tablet computers' portability to ensure smooth communication. For example, while handling the vessel, the pilot can use the system to discuss docking and undocking plans with crew members, and they can check with each other as needed.

Enabling Accurate, Easy Measurement of Tank Liquids: Honesty

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MTI and Semco Ltd. have jointly developed Honesty, an efficient tank sounding device (patent pending) that improves efficiency when measuring liquid stored in the vessel's tanks. Tank sounding entails measuring the depth of liquid stored in the tank or the distance from the top of a tank to the liquid surface. Honesty significantly streamlines the process of sounding the surface of liquids in tanks.
Moreover, the device accurately measures cappuccino bunker, which causes the quantity of delivered bunker oil to appear greater than it actually is due to small air bubbles being in the bunker oil when bunkering. Honesty is able to measure accurately the quantity of bunkered oil, even cappuccino bunker, because its sensor does not react to bubbles on the surface of the liquid.
In addition to bunker oil, the device can measure colourless and transparent liquid, such as lubricating oil, ballast water, and bilge. While incorporating a range of progressive features, the device has outstanding usability. It is lightweight and easily portable and does not require an external power source because it operates on standard batteries. Also, Honesty has received approval from the ship classification society ClassNK.

A Chief Engineer's Opinion

Tank sounding is always a race against time when we have to sail as soon as possible after bunkering. The introduction of Honesty has enabled us to measure tank levels quickly and accurately. Also, we measure the levels of all ballast tanks daily. However, measuring the surface level of colourless and transparent seawater is difficult and time consuming. Honesty has significantly reduced the time we spend making these measurements.

Promising a Wide Range of Uses: UMS Check System

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The NYK Group and MTI have jointly developed the UMS Check System, the first time a Japanese shipping company has developed such a system. Before engines and equipment are operated unattended, for example at night, measurements need to be taken, and the taking of such measurements is called an "unmanned machinery space (UMS) check." In a conventional UMS check, crew members take measurements from all equipment installed in a vessel's engine based on an extensive checklist and manually record the collected measurement values on paper. The introduction of the UMS Check System removes the need to record data on paper. The system not only greatly reduces data-entry time compared to entry with a conventional keypad but also notifies the operator if abnormal figures are entered, allowing the operator to respond quickly.
Furthermore, because the system instantly shows data trends for the past week, it quickly alerts crew members of abnormalities and promises to become a useful training tool. In addition, the system displays data trends as graphs so that operators can check changes over time and allows crew to store photographs or videos of equipment-related abnormalities. Also, the system can send data directly from handheld terminals to onshore servers, allowing onshore personnel to view data in a timely manner. We intend to use the resulting big data to create new value.

A Chief Engineer's Opinion

Confirming that each of the more than 1,000 items on the UMS checklist is at a safe value calls for competence and concentration. Digitisation allows the setting of benchmarks for inspection items so that inspectors can readily tell if the measurements they have taken are correct. I feel that, besides enabling us to send inspection data to onshore operations for use, the system has made this inspection data more immediately useful for onboard operations.

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