Production with a faster time-to-market, flexibility and simplicity are the key issues that continue to shape the industry. In shipbuilding, this means improving the interoperability and standardization of automation systems as the various modules and systems in the engine room often create an incredibly complex web of digital connections. Modular automation with the Module Type Package (MTP) provides a remedy: Integration via MTP can significantly reduce the amount of manual effort involved, saving time and money. MTP is no longer just a vague concept for the future, but is already proving its value in initial practical tests. Now the marine industry also aims to benefit from this form of automation.

MTP now aims to clear the decks in the shipbuilding industry with smart connectivity

GEA has been a practical partner for the industry for many years and has outstanding application expertise. As the driving force behind the MTP standard in the marine industry, GEA experts are actively involved in the VDMA working group "MTP in Shipbuilding" together with shipyards, ship owners, manufacturers of ship automation technology, system integrators and universities. Through its dialogue with leading shipping companies and shipyards, the MTP industrial initiative obtains valuable feedback for the standardization project. The process engineering standard under development is currently being adapted to the needs of marine technology using a VDMA standard sheet. This enables the working group to draw on tried and tested products from technically related industries, which vastly simplifies the implementation.

MTP reduces the complexity throughout the shipbuilding value chain

MTP describes the standardization of communication between systems and control level in a functional way, i.e. manufacturer and technology-neutral. This reduces complexity for all of the parties involved throughout the shipbuilding value chain and makes maritime digitization much easier. This is a major concern for shipyards. However, every other level of the shipbuilding value chain also benefits greatly from MTP.

"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," explains Matthias Wiemann, Head of Automation and Controls for GEA Separators. "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 decentralized control networking on board a ship. The respective PLC is then integrated into the ship automation via the MTP. The MTP is completely defined as a standardized interface. "This is where our GEA IO control system comes into play with the process technology on board", explains Sven Jadzinski, Sales Manager for the global marine business at GEA. "We use the platform-independent, service-oriented 'Open Platform Communications - Unified Architecture' (OPC UA) as the data exchange standard. This latest generation of OPC provides the controller with the appropriate communication protocol. This creates multiple OPC nodes per element (e.g. valve = 20 variables). As the information about the meaning of the variables is also essential for correct processing (for example: setpoint or substitute value), this information also has to be modeled in the MTP. Furthermore, the GEA IO control of a separator enables all of the variables required for communication with the control system to be loaded into the OPC UA server of the PLC in compliance with the standards," says Sven Jadzinski. 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.

Survey confirms high acceptance of MTP

The 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," summarizes Hauke Schlegel, Managing Director Marine Equipment & Systems at VDMA.

This time saving and cost advantage contributes to an increased competitiveness in the international market. In addition, projects with decentralized intelligence and MTP deployment are much easier to control and more reliable in their implementation. "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 coordination that all too often determines reality - especially when functional units have to be brought into the higher-level ship automation system," says Hauke Schlegel.

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