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Inspection service providers shouldn’t wait for their clients to demand the best technology

By Isaak Tsalicoglou, April 4, 2019,10:00 am CEST

In many service industries, firms innovate and embrace new technologies because and only once clients demand it. However, NDT professionals have many compelling reasons to adopt cutting-edge products and processes even if clients aren’t pressing them to do so.

The truth is that no-one engages quality assurance (QA) and non-destructive testing (NDT) experts because they really want to. We all want to live in a perfect world, where products and structures are always designed perfectly and are manufactured, assembled and constructed “to spec” correctly; a world where nothing ever deteriorates. In that fantasy world, there’s no need for confirmation from testing or quality-assurance professionals. Whether they’re in-house or third-party providers, those overseeing QA are usually viewed as gatekeepers, or hoops to jump through, in order to get to a desired goal, such as peace of mind.

The value we bring on a daily basis is recognized mainly in retrospect—when a failure occurs and its source must be identified. Many clients don’t demand the latest technology from inspection service providers because they mostly care about paper results, not about how those results are achieved and what they really mean. Many clients may be entirely unaware of innovations that are revolutionizing the NDT field — and they don’t need to know. That’s why they hire an expert.

Since clients aren’t asking about advances in the fields of, e.g., Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), Ultrasonic Pulse Echo (UPE), Ultrasonic Contact Impedance, mobile computing or cloud collaboration — just to name a few — some NDT professionals see no motive to adopt new technology or streamlined workflows. But, really, they are missing the point. Technological advances make the testing process easier and faster to perform, mitigate risks arising from human error and, most importantly, lead to more accurate results, new insights, and human safety.

For example, an NDT professional who uses traditional equipment and methods might not identify all rebars or conduits or delamination in a situation where the objects shows up clearly in 3D-imaging scans. Another one might simply accept the limitations of his legacy GPR equipment and simply shrug about its limited penetration depth. Yet another one might trust that the one technology he uses (e.g., GPR) can detect everything (spoiler: it cannot), while ignoring the advances made with ultrasonic concrete testing in terms of detecting delaminations and honeycombing — both cases that GPR cannot address. Or, another one may accept that strength estimation with Schmidt hammers must always involve jotting down numbers and calculations by hand — when recent advances have made data acquisition and processing instantaneous, fully automatic, and traceable.

In the past, such errors of judgment were fairly easy to make and accept, but with today’s technologically advanced equipment there’s no excuse for an inaccurate measurement or incomplete insights that put infrastructure, assets and ultimately people at risk. Results are easy for just about anyone to interpret and data is collected and stored digitally, with no complicated calculations for users to potentially get wrong.

Deploying and making productive use of new technology should be a focus of any business that wants to remain competitive in the vanguard of its market. Proceq GPR Live, Pundit Live Array Pro, Original Schmidt Live, Equotip Live UCI and related products make NDT pros more productive and enable faster turnaround on assignments, which are more than good-enough reasons to invest in them. Still, ultimately, the biggest benefit of this new kind of digital equipment may be the peace of mind and public safety that it helps to deliver.