Improving Productivity and Increasing Uptime with Advanced Inspection Tools

Today’s advanced visual inspection technology, such as Mentor Visual iQ from GE, helps operators make smarter decisions faster. More sophisticated devices with connectivity and intuitive touchscreen user-interfaces extend uptime and increase productivity. The latest generation of visual inspection technologies improve inspection processes and help address challenges around the growing skills gap by providing less experienced inspectors with the insights necessary to do their jobs via technology similar to that of a smartphone.

Every minute of downtime, whether it’s a turbine that is taken offline or a plane that is grounded, costs money – upwards of millions of dollars per day. Advanced visual inspection technologies allow technicians to more quickly and accurately identify issues or rule out problems reducing costly downtime.

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Past systems required technicians to use a joy stick and menu to select points they wanted to measure and record annotations. Now, inspectors can easily access the points they want to measure by a simple touch on the screen. Moreover, the touchscreen speeds up the commonly used text annotation process by 50 percent compared to older visual inspection systems. Inspectors can take a picture and add a text annotation that labels the defect, making it easier to share the image and get a second opinion from an off-site expert. It is also much quicker for inspectors to choose the images they want to share with improved file navigation tools that are easily accessible on the touchscreen.

Hardware upgrades have dramatically improved visual inspection, and software is simultaneously evolving to keep pace with an increasingly connected environment. Device side menu and profile software that is built within the system has become easier for technicians to access and is more customized to their needs. Inspectors can change interfaces and profiles on the system to have exactly what they need to complete their jobs most effectively. And for compatibility with existing systems, new software packages load onto the system and set standards to keep inspectors working in the same consistent format across the organization. For example, a power plant employee working on the compressor side of a turbine can save images following a predetermined procedure which allows each inspector, regardless of location and experience level, to conduct the inspection the same way and in the same order. Consistency is just another facet of a productive workforce that provides more accurate results. The latest software for visual inspection is being developed with architecture for the future to adapt to the changing landscape and workplace dynamic.

To learn more about these benefits, read the full article in Quality Manufacturing Today here: http://www.qmtmag.com/display_eds.cfm?edno=8004979.

 By Tom Ward, RVI Senior Product Manager, GE Measurement & Control

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Monitoring, Detecting and Measuring Corrosion

Natural objects, such as granite, and man-made structures, such as bridges, cars, ships, refineries, aircraft, are all subject to the same environmental stresses. Light, temperature changes, water, and gasses in the air all play a role in the breakdown of materials. The one major difference is just how quickly that breakdown occurs.

A general term for the degradation of man-made structures is corrosion. Scientists try to understand the mechanisms by which corrosion occurs, design barriers to corrosion, find ways to monitor the progress of corrosion, and build processes for asset maintenance and systems to reduce the overall costs of corrosion to society.

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The economic impact of corrosion has been researched at length. A well-known study published in 1999 by NACE (the National Association of Corrosion Engineers) titled The United States Cost of Corrosion Study indicates that the direct cost of corrosion is more than 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Similar studies report direct costs ranging from 2 to 4.5 percent of the GDP. The real issue is where direct costs end and indirect costs begin.

Given these enormous costs, it is not surprising that there are large industries centered on:

  1. Corrosion prevention (such as additives in water systems, coating materials like paint for automobiles, etc.)
  2. Corrosion repair and maintenance
  3. Corrosion monitoring, detection, and measurement.

Regularly scheduled inspections can validate corrosion rates and allow engineers and operators to better plan for maintenance situations. While ultrasound thickness (UT) readings can be of occasional use with regularly scheduled inspections, they do not provide enough precision with the collection of manual thickness readings to adequately determine wall thickness losses from corrosion. Pitting cannot be reliably detected by conventional UT methods simply because the size of the defect is small compared to the area inspected. Phased array ultrasound (PAUT) techniques can be developed to approach the needed precision and get great coverage quickly.

The direct and indirect costs of corrosion can be staggering. With improved inspection technologies, such as digital radiography and phased array ultrasound, and maintenance schedules, equipment manufacturers and providers are helping organizations control costs and get a better handle on the health of their assets.

For more information on corrosion monitoring, detection and measurement, read Robert Ward’s article in Inspection Trends Corrosion, Monitoring, Detection and Measurement. And, for more information on GE’s phased array flaw detectors, visit here.

By Bob Ward, Senior Product Manager, Portables, GE Measurement & Control

Inspection in the Smartphone Era

With the introduction of advanced technologies, inspection and engineering fields have an opportunity to revolutionize how they train and bring on-board new inspectors. Major inspection users are identifying new solutions to lessen the impact of an aging workforce and growing skills gap. Whether it is by establishing new training programs, such as the Alabama Industrial Development Training program led by Airbus, or adopting advanced visual inspection tools, asset owners are embracing technology to improve productivity and reduce the shortage of qualified inspectors.

Inspectors entering the field today, raised with smartphones and handheld computers, expect their workplace tools to be equally intuitive and easy to operate. New visual inspection technology, such as Mentor Visual iQ from GE, will replace older borescopes with more sophisticated devices. Industrial organizations are selecting borescopes with built-in technology to help operators make smarter decisions faster. These advancements, including connectivity and intuitive touchscreen user-interfaces, improve probability of detection and extend uptime.

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The latest generation of visual inspection technologies provides some of the same benefits that smartphones have provided consumers: improved productivity, ease of use and instant connectivity.

  • Improved image quality and probability of detection: Advancements in visual inspection technology and image resolution speed up the inspection process and improve the probability of detection. These factors influence inspectors’ confidence in their categorization of the defect. Just as the camera on today’s smartphones has improved image resolution to the level of replacing digital cameras, visual borescope technology has evolved to provide high-quality images that easily distinguish a crack from a grease mark in tough inspection environments.
  • Remote collaboration capabilities: New inspection devices with remote collaboration capabilities connect field technicians with senior-level experts across the world allowing for real-time feedback and support. Senior inspectors can provide direction and feedback from their own desks, reducing travel time, costs and downtime.
  • Increased productivity and uptime: Advanced visual inspection technologies allow technicians to more quickly and accurately identify issues or rule out problems reducing costly downtime.

To learn more about these benefits, read the full article in Quality Manufacturing Today here: http://www.qmtmag.com/display_eds.cfm?edno=8004979.

By Tom Ward, RVI Senior Product Manager, GE Measurement & Control