Digital Transformation, Industry 4.0 & Automated Inspections
The key to Industry 4.0 capability will be defined by the automation of many processes. Technologies, such as infrastructure, utilities, and manufacturing are already taking advantage of information that’s gathered by various machine-read data. Fully advancing to Industry 4.0 will involve further embracing such strategies.
However, while such technology has been around for some years, it has often been prohibitively expensive.
Integrating advanced robotic platforms into new facilities is one way forward. Global IoT sensors pave the way for fully automated data gathering. But many pre-existing ones will continue to be in use for many years or decades. Retrofitting such sensors to an entire process would entail huge, usually unattainable costs. Thus, a solution is necessary that will fill the gap between the past and present.
Manoeuvring the Sensor to the Heart of the Action
Extraordinary efforts have been and continue to be made to bring cost-effective and efficient approaches to this challenge. If we consider that, to reduce costs, many companies are selectively fitting only the most critical machines with data-gathering sensors, the rest rely on time-consuming manual inspection. As this often falls low on the list of priorities, such tasks often fall behind schedule or are rushed and, therefore, return frequent inaccuracies.
Enter the agile robot – a platform able to travel to the asset and gather data from those that haven’t yet or are never going to be fitted with the latest sensor technology.
One example is Spot, a unique robotic platform created by Boston Dynamics, that’s designed to fill this data-gathering gap.
Automating Asset Inspection Without the Need for Internal Sensors
If we discount the prohibitively expensive solution of fitting IoT sensors to pre-existing assets, then we’re left with a single option: taking the sensors to the required location. Spot is a sensor-loaded robot that can be programmed to carry out regular or ad hoc inspections as required. Removing the need for manual inspections both increases accuracy and reduces costs. Asset-intensive industries, in particular, are those set to dramatically benefit from such cutting-edge tech.
The advantages of embracing such robotic solutions include:
- Fast, efficient data gathering: Ensure repetitive and labour-intensive tasks are regularly performed. Automating the process removes the risk of such inspections being pushed further down the list due to time constraints. It also removes human error from the equation.
- Reduces costs: Not only does it negate the need for expensive sensor retrofits to existing assets, but it also lowers manpower costs. In addition, this helps solve the ongoing challenge of skilled labour shortages that are causing issues across the globe.
- Remote operation: Spot can be programmed and driven from any location – even off-site – making it especially valuable for remote or hostile locations. Compatible software, known as Scout, that’s designed specifically for use with the platform, allows inspectors to deploy the robot at any chosen time (in addition to automated processes), such as when a problem needs to be assessed and resolved.
- Dynamic operation: As facilities are enhanced and upgraded in the future, so Spot evolves to process requirements. Missions can be edited and added, as well as altering the robot’s payload. The technology is compatible with a variety of inspection equipment, including cameras, radiation sensors, vibration monitoring, acoustic anomalies, and more.
Smart Inspection Combined with Asset Performance Management
Melding robotic inspection data gathering with machine learning and/or asset performance management software can effectively predict when and where maintenance needs to be carried out. This key element of Industry 4.0 is a crucial step to cost reduction and efficiency.
Such advanced robots are an area where Nexxis excels. Our needs-based procurement model allows companies to take advantage of the latest technology as and when needed. Using this unique and innovative solution approach is what makes us leaders in our field.
Carry on reading How Robots Are Shaking up NDT Inspections to find out more.