Technology company GEA is actively involved in the German equipment manufacturers’ association VDMA working group ‘MTP in Shipbuilding’ to develop standardisation within the sector.
This group includes shipyards, shipowners, manufacturers of ship automation technology, system integrators and universities and is very relevant to the cruise sector, as German shipyards are major players in this market.
Through its dialogue with shipping companies and shipyards, MTP’s initiative gains valuable feedback for the current process engineering standardisation project being developed.
This standardisation process is currently being adapted to marine technology needs using a VDMA standard sheet. This enables the working group to draw on tried and tested products from technically related industries, which vastly simplifies its implementation.
MTP describes the standardisation of communication between systems and control level in a functional way, ie manufacturer and technology-neutral. This reduces complexity for all of the parties involved throughout the shipbuilding value chain and makes maritime digitisation much easier. This is of a major concern to shipyards. However, every other level of the shipbuilding value chain also benefits greatly from MTP, VDMA claimed.
“We have been manufacturing modular separation technology products for more than 20 years. Each individual component has to be integrated into the higher-level automation system of the entire plant,” explained Matthias Wiemann, GEA Separators’ Head of Automation and Controls. “If both the control system and the components to be added spoke the same language, things would go just as smoothly as integrating a printer into a PC using a printer driver today.”
Function modules work with their own programmable logic controller (PLC), which ultimately enables decentralised control networking on board ship. The respective PLC is then integrated into the ship automation via the MTP.
“This is where our GEA IO control system comes into play with the process technology on board,” added Sven Jadzinski, GEA’s Sales Manager for the global marine business. “We use the platform-independent, service-oriented ‘Open Platform Communications – Unified Architecture’ (OPC UA) as the data exchange standard.”
This standardized communication between the individual modules and the control system on board significantly reduces complexity. This enhances the efficiency of both the integration and commissioning of the components.
A recent survey conducted by the VDMA Marine Equipment and Systems working group underlines the acceptance of MTP in the marine industry. “The survey indicates that the automation experts from shipyards, system suppliers and machine builders expect noticeable time savings from the initial project planning phase to commissioning. In addition, the technology also paves the way for modifications to the life cycle of a ship,” said Hauke Schlegel, VDMA’s Managing Director Marine Equipment & Systems.
“If – as a concrete example – a time window of just three months is available for the commissioning of a cruise ship, then time-consuming discussions about signal forms, data formats or the decimal places of measuring ranges unnecessarily complicate the processes. However, it is precisely such tenacious co-ordination that all too often determines reality – especially when functional units have to be brought into the higher-level ship automation system,” he said..