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The NPV of NDT Instruments

By Isaak Tsalicoglou, November 18, 2019, 10:00 am CEST

Veterans of the NDT industry often proudly take an “NPNG” approach to the job: No Pain, No Gain. However, with the advent of new technologies that simplify inspection and analysis with better results, they should instead be thinking of their instruments in terms of NPV: Net Present Value.

If you are an expert in providing concrete inspection services, chances are you learned the business at a time when getting good data and insights for your clients required a lot of manual handling of unwieldy, wired sensors, as well as an nigh-mystical ability to interpret the data. It probably took years, even decades, of experience with such instruments to reach the top of your game and feel truly confident in your ability to provide reliable insights in an acceptable time frame. Back then you didn’t need your instruments to be able to provide 3D imaging or automatically perform the analytical heavy-lifting. So why should you embrace solutions like Proceq GP8800 or Pundit PD8000?

One reason is that you can increase your company’s revenue and profitability rapidly with instruments that enable less-experienced inspectors to perform their work faster and with greater reliability than a seasoned pro can achieve with instruments that rely on concepts from the last century. If you look at your business from the perspective of Net Present Value, then equipment that costs you less while also helping you to get the job done faster, easier, better and more efficiently is not a luxury, but a must-have—and it makes sense for both your inspection crew and your customers.

Consider this scenario: a two-person NDT company is looking to hire a third person to expand its capacity of e.g. providing concrete hit-prevention services. Traditionally, this means buying an additional set of instruments and training a person who is new to the work of concrete inspection. Using the traditional mindset, the two business partners are going to need to build up cash reserves of approx. $20,000 just to buy an old-school instrument, plus spend the wages and their own precious time to train a new person so that he can work autonomously without risk to customers or the business. It is going to be months before the new employee and his equipment together can start producing revenue to offset the upfront one-off investment into both new equipment and the effort to make use of it with peace of mind for the business partners.

This is a risky way to grow your business; lots of upfront cost with a slim-to-none chance of a short payback period. At the same time, this approach is not scalable, e.g. when a huge opportunity comes in that requires two or three additional equipped inspectors to tackle a larger inspection job. $40,000, $60,000… those are not easy cash outflows for an inspection business to handle, let alone in short notice.

But what if the two business partners were to choose a Proceq GPR Live system (Proceq GP8000, or Proceq GP8800), instead? The cost is about $6,500 in year one for either of the GPR probes (which they own, and is theirs to keep), and from year two onwards it is around $3,000 for continuing access to an ever-evolving set of Pro software features and functionality, such as Augmented Reality and 3D visualization, remote collaboration and cloud-based data synchronization and sharing, raw data export and web-based reporting—all of that aiding their inspection crew to get faster to insights without all the head-scratching and business risk.

Adopting an “NPNG” mindset is also a fallacy from the point of view of the new employee; there is absolutely no value, for anyone, in making his competence buildup longer, more difficult and more costly than the absolute minimum it can be in all three dimensions.

Inexperienced users don’t have to worry about frequencies and filters; they just need equipment that gets the job done. Nobody needs to deal with user interfaces that look like the Apollo 11 controls either, so it is beneficial that there is almost no learning curve with Proceq GPR Live products—if you use a smartphone (you are most likely reading this text on one), you can start right away. With this approach, the two business partners can start getting a return on their initial investment within a matter of weeks, instead of months.

Their faster access to the benefits of such technologies is also a time-based competitive advantage: the business partners can ramp up and capture market share much more effectively when they embrace the Pro subscription model by Proceq. Earlier and affordable access to the instruments’ sophisticated imaging capabilities means that competing service providers using legacy equipment acquired later in the game cannot do everything that you can do—in the case of GPR, they will be limited in terms of penetration depth and resolution, and therefore in the diversity of inspection jobs they can address.

Additionally, let us not forget the resulting boost in end-to-end productivity; advanced software features reduce operator errors, aid data interpretation and make it possible on-site, decimate manual effort (e.g., for processing and reporting), and drastically cut down lead times. All this improves inspection crew productivity, reduces liability, and increases customer satisfaction thanks to a quick turnaround without misunderstandings, aggravation, or rework.

At the end of the day, as an inspection business owner, the future is in your hands. Maybe you don’t want to grow your business, and you are happy with the cash flow you’re currently getting with traditional instruments and working processes. Well, good luck keeping that business. Sooner rather than later, competitors with better technology that is now accessible through affordable pricing models will inevitably cut into your market share by offering faster turnaround times and more reliable insights at service price points that hesitant and change-resistant inspection service providers are unlikely to be able to match.

The value of work does not increase with its difficulty, and nobody gets a medal for making his work more difficult than it needs to be. “No pain, no gain” is no longer an apt or acceptable motto for any business, that of concrete inspection included. To compete and thrive in the future, those who know what’s up need to unlock the NPV that can be found in innovative, user-friendly products that make work a breeze for everyone involved—including their clients.