The unsuspected recurring hidden cost in OPEX inspection companies "Operational Expenditures".
Inspection companies are now forced to use a two-step “acquire and archive” inspection process. As we have seen, this means the inspector may perform up to 1 hour of data archiving and the logistic for each day of acquisition.
Unfortunately, the operational expense losses for inspection companies do not end there. An additional component that comes into play in this new process is the media used to store the data itself, namely, the USB key.
This article explains how the use of seemingly low-cost USB keys ends up significantly impacting OPEX inspection companies.
File management process review
Granted, USB keys have gotten extremely cheap over the years. This makes it hard to believe that they may have any significant impact on the overall business. However, the problem resides in the collateral damage that USB key cause. To better understand this, let’s review a typical inspection and file management process.
- Inspectors use NDT equipment to acquire the data, which they store on USB keys.
- Each file gets indexed properly, using tags such as client name, asset, site section, component, and contract number.
- Once full, the USB key is unconnected properly.
- Each USB key is stored in a secured location (inspectors may use up to a dozen USB keys per day).
- At the end of each day, inspectors leave the site and go to where they can access a PC (a trailer, most frequently).
- They then copy all of the inspection files from each USB key onto the PC.
- Once the PC is connected to a secured data server or cloud solution, they take every file they have recorded and archive all of them.
This last step might be done at the end of each day or once a week when data has been sorted and analyzed.
Circling back to the point about collateral damage, we can see that almost every step in the process brings its own element of risk. For example, the inspector may miss a weld on a pipeline (Step 1), get the file indexing wrong (Step 2), use the same USB key twice and overwrite the existing data (Step 6), forget to copy the content of a key (Step 7), or he may even lose a key altogether.
In all of these cases, a common consequence is that inspectors must return to the inspection site and perform acquisition for the second time. This means the inspection company has to cover wages and travel expenses twice for the same component.
From an operational standpoint, extra time will also be required to rework the schedule and ensure that sending an inspector back to a previous site does not put another project’s schedule at risk. This is not an easy task, especially considering the shortage of qualified and reliable inspectors available on the market.
Combined, all of these factors quickly eat up profit margins and, in the worst situation, can even lead to a contract breach.
Disrupting the legacy file management process
Thanks to the rapid evolution of mobile infrastructure and cloud technologies, inspection companies that are willing to explore solutions to this file management problem now have a few solutions available to them. The core idea behind all of these solutions is to automate the legacy, manipulation-intensive process described above and reduce the number of steps in order to proportionally reduce risk.