A lifetime approach to engine costs
Stephen Crick, Technical Consultant at Finning UK & Ireland, advises on how workboat operators can save money and improve efficiencies by taking a lifetime approach to engine costs and other equipment.
It goes without saying that coastal and seagoing workboats – from tugboats and dredgers, to salvage and survey vessels – rely on high-quality and proven marine propulsion and auxiliary technologies to perform their duties. Naturally, a crew’s safety is the number one priority but, should engine failure occur, then this also impacts on a vessel’s capability to meet a customer’s expectations, which can be costly and lead to damaged relationships. Therefore, engine failure not only places a vessel at risk, but it can also impact significantly on the bottom line.
When it comes to maintenance, there are a number of support options available to help ensure engines continue to operate at peak performance, and operators do not have to spend large sums of money on servicing when equipment fails. Maintenance expenditure should actually be viewed as a long-term investment for workboat operators.
Routine fluid analysis is the first recommendation. Using incorrect fluids can lead to a range of problems. One example is modern anti-freeze’s composition, which is often purpose-designed for engines, but it’s common for incorrect coolants to be used, which can result in cylinder liner cavitation or pitting.
The insights that a condition monitoring provides can help operators to make smarter and more informed decisions, which helps to limit downtime and improve the total cost of ownership for a vessel’s equipment. For example, many oil changes are based on how an engine is predicted to perform, which fails to take into account all the operating conditions that may impact upon this. This is why a condition-based maintenance approach, such as fluid analysis, is so useful, because it can assess the health of an asset and advise when oil actually needs to be changed. Fluid analysis helps ensure the maximum value can be extracted from the lubricants and other fluids in the engine, while also minimising the cost of disposal.
Secondly, failure to use genuine spare parts can have a big impact on an engine’s total cost of ownership. Even slight differences in tolerance and fit can contribute to inefficiencies in areas such as fuel and oil consumption, and even lead to premature wear. For instance, a recent study from Caterpillar examined the case for using a manufacturers’ spares and the true cost of using non-genuine alternatives. One example offered is that by fitting the correctly specified fuel filter, an injector’s lifespan could be increased by more than 45 per cent. This approach ensures critical engine components are protected, while cutting maintenance costs too.
Engine performance can also be managed using remote monitoring. Data on how a marine engine is performing can be transmitted directly to the vessel operator or even to the experts that have supplied the engine. This means any potential issues can be identified before they cause real damage. Furthermore, this not only saves costs directly, but can also prevent issues that would otherwise leave a vessel out for repairs and unable to work.
MINIMSING LIFETIME COSTS
Another way to cut costs without sacrificing reliability is to consider remanufactured parts. There’s often a concern that because the equipment is not new, then the result is a lower quality solution. However, remanufactured parts should be re-worked to be ‘good-as-new’, and often come with warranties and guarantees to provide extra assurance. When compared with new equipment, savings of up to 60 per cent are possible.
Contracts such as customer service agreements or extended service coverage can also help limit long-term support costs. These can often be customised to meet different needs and budgets, but should – again – be seen as an investment that will help lower the total cost of ownership of a vessel and its equipment.
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