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Living In The Here & Now: The current landscape & limitations of today’s inspection technologies

One of the biggest headaches for industries with large scale assets is that of effective inspection and cleaning. The processes used today are both fraught with danger and represent significant cost to carry out. While there is some technology available to reduce both of these aspects, organisations are understandably nervous of embracing change for fear of a risk to life and the limited data and research into proven alternative methods.

The reach of robotic solutions is beginning to make some headway, but to understand how these advances can be used to a company’s advantage, it’s first necessary to define the challenges that need to be overcome.

The Dark Ages of Asset Inspection

Current inspection and cleaning processes haven’t changed much in decades. While we can enter data into sophisticated computer systems that can give us a better understanding of lifecycles, the ways that we gain this data remains woefully inadequate. To prove a point, let’s take a look at three routine inspection/cleaning scenarios and the challenges they bring.

  1. Large asset inspection
  2. Confined entry inspection
  3. Vertical drop inspection

1. Large asset inspection

The typical scenario for any large asset inspection and/or cleaning process goes as follows:

  • Create a rescue plan
  • Build a scaffold – a process that takes around 4-6 days.
  • Inspector enters and takes manual spot readings. To carry out 100-200 readings takes around a day to complete. Results are written on a piece of paper and are manually entered into a computer system at some point post-inspection.
  • Deconstruct the scaffold – taking around 4-5 days.

The whole process creates multiple days of downtime, with the process of gaining around 200 points of data taking approximately 8-11 days to complete.

2. Confined entry inspection

Confined spaces represent additional hazards. These spaces are not made for human entry, yet still need regular inspection and cleaning to ensure they are fit for use. Carrying out such an inspection follows a path similar to the following:

  • Create a rescue plan, taking around 4-5 days due to the hazardous nature of the task.
  • A minimum of four people are needed to ensure that the inspection goes to plan.
  • Inspector enters the confined space, takes the necessary readings and perhaps carries out some required cleaning. Exits confined space.

Such an inspection presents the following issues:

  • A risk to life
  • The data collection and cleaning are only carried out in very specific locations as needed
  • The process is time consuming and expensive, typically taking up to five days with only limited data being collected

3. Vertical drop inspection

Assets that require entry via a vertical drop represent additional challenges. Such difficult locations require the following:

  • Rope access must be calculated and a rescue plan put into place – taking around 4-5 days
  • The area needs to be opened
  • Air oscillation must be achieved to make for a safe environment
  • Inspector enters and takes minimal spot readings – typically up to 10

Such an inspection provides a small amount of data for an extended period of downtime and related risk to life.

The Failures of Current Inspection Techniques

Utilising the above scenarios is commonplace, yet they perform poorly in many respects.

  • The use of scaffolding is time consuming, leading to extended downtime
  • There’s a considerable risk to human life
  • Such inspections and cleaning only focus on the current scope of work – in other words, the here and now. They fail to consider what might be needed in the future months and years
  • They only gain a limited amount of data or provide the ability to clean small, limited areas

Imagine what could be achieved if we could address all of these issues (and more). The use of robots to carry out inspection tasks represents an enormous shift in trust, yet the benefits will be monumental.

Reduced downtime, increased safety, massive data collection and analysis are but a few of the advantages that lie ahead. Of course, the age of the automaton is yet to be wholly affected, with many dexterity and manipulation hurdles to be overcome. But the basic technology is in place and the barriers to effective robotic solutions are being broken down.

At the forefront of this cybernetic revolution is Nexxis, the solutions-based, innovative and forward thinking NDT equipment procurement company that’s setting the roadmap for an advantaged way forward.

Ready to discover the art of the possible? Get in touch.

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