Is Proactive NDT Inspection the Key to Great Asset Management?
Good asset management is underpinned by regular NDT inspections. Industry regulations specify how often these should be carried out to remain safe and compliant, something that provides maintenance managers with far-reaching logistical challenges.
Issues Surrounding Scheduling
Issues surrounding scheduling and carrying out the required inspections include:
- Asset shutdown – often protracted, especially where the environment needs to be made safe for human approach/entry.
- Reduced productivity – every moment an asset is out of use equals a loss in revenue.
- Inspection expertise – some testing requires bespoke inspectors/teams. This means hiring the relevant personnel or training/upskilling existing staff to do so.
- Risk management – especially in scenarios that require confined space entry and/or working at height.
- Asset preparation – aspects, such as constructing and removing scaffolding pre and post-inspection, further heighten costs and inspection times.
With all of the above, it can be tough to see why (or even how) managers might consider increasing NDT tasks over and above what’s legally required.
However… Consider the following:
- The costs of unplanned downtime: Anything that causes an asset to be shut down has a monetary cost. It can also have much further reaching implications, such as injury, death or environmental disaster. Such incidents are sadly all too common in industries, such as oil & gas, mining, petroleum etc.
- Consumer, staff and stakeholder confidence: Proactive maintenance positively impacts how an organisation is viewed.
- Repairs and maintenance can be accurately predicted: Data modelling based on testing results is not only reliable, but it also allows strategic planning for shutdowns to coincide with multiple needs, rather than an unexpected event or a single type of inspection.
The upshot of all of these is reflected in the bottom line – in other words, it saves money and can increase productivity and output.
The combination of both preventative maintenance (AKA regular NDT inspections) and predictive maintenance is a powerful tool. Intelligent implementation of advanced technology can easily and efficiently upscale asset management.
For example, using cutting-edge tools to carry out additional NDT tasks, such as detecting corrosion and pitting in steel structures. Cutting-edge equipment, like the MFL Floor Tank Scanner has revolutionised the ease and speed in which the whole inspection process can be completed.
Or, let’s look at that mainstay of NDT – ultrasonic testing. As well as there being a wide variety of fast and highly accurate UT equipment available, such testers can also be fitted to robotic crawlers and climbers to carry out tests in hard-to-reach locations.
Utilising such apparatus can speed up testing processes by 10 times or more, as well as reduce the cost and risk of doing so. If this were then to be combined with the creation of digital versions of assets that take their intel from the returned data over multiple tests, it’s then possible to predict with extreme accuracy the MTBF and define exactly when maintenance and repair work should be carried out.
Such advances remove a huge element of risk to asset testing, allowing maintenance managers to make informed decisions and amalgamate works to be carried out at appropriate times.
The key takeaway is that while regular NDT inspection is and will always be the mainstay of asset management, utilising the latest technology to streamline the process across a range of assets or even a plant as a whole will dramatically upgrade the process.
As robotics, sensors, testing devices and more continue to push the boundaries, a failure of a plant or organisation to overhaul the approach to asset management could well lead to being left behind one’s competitors. AI, machine learning, VR and AR are already playing significant roles within the non-destructive testing field. Combining this with rapidly advancing predictive maintenance is the key to NDT of the future.
Carry on reading How Robots Are Shaking up NDT Inspections to find out more.