The Past and Present of Asset Integrity Management Software

An Interview with Fernando Verzotto, Co-Founder and CEO at Antea

By Josh Means, Business Development Manager at Inspectioneering. March 24, 2023

Inspectioneering recently interviewed Fernando Verzotto, Co-Founder and CEO of Antea, a leading expert in the field of digital asset integrity management. With a background in chemical engineering and a degree from the University of Padua in Italy, Mr. Verzotto has been instrumental in advancing digital technology in the asset integrity industry. He began his career working in various chemical plants in Italy and abroad before embracing the advent of personal computers in the early 1980s. Our discussion with Mr. Verzotto centered on the evolution of asset integrity management (AIM) software over the past 30 years, providing valuable insights and a unique perspective on the industry's development. We hope you find this exchange informative and engaging.

Inspectioneering (IJ): Can you tell us about your background and what roles were pivotal in your founding of Antea?

Fernando Verzotto (FV): My co-founders, Engineers Domenico Salvà and Giuseppe Bidese, and I all came from a background in chemical and petrochemical plant construction. Therefore, we were well aware of the challenges faced in these plants when it came to obtaining useful technical information for managing installed assets.

Initially, we were interested in monitoring inspections carried out in the plants. However, we quickly realized the importance of having a comprehensive technical database containing all the necessary information for conducting inspections and subsequent reporting. Writing an inspection report took too much time, resulting in delayed submission to the client and subsequent invoicing.

Almost every report required the drawing of inspected parts to indicate the locations where inspections had been carried out. These drawings, though simple, had to be repeated for each inspection, leading to wasted time and energy. At the time, we thought it would be useful to build an archive of these drawings by utilizing the customer's existing construction drawings or those produced by the inspection company.

Since such software was not available back then, we decided to establish a software development company to bring our ideas to life. Therefore, from the very beginning, Antea placed great emphasis on the graphical aspect, anticipating by at least twenty years what is now called the Digital Twin.

IJ: Antea was established in 1989. What did software for AIM look like back then, and what challenges did organizations face in developing software?

FV: In 1989, the year of Antea's foundation, there was no dedicated Asset Integrity software. It was a time when personal computers were not yet widespread in industrial environments, and all the information management of that time was done through mainframes and terminals. Attempts were made to develop software using those infrastructures, but with little success.

As proof of Exxon's interest in our software writing capabilities, they tasked us with writing the first prototype of what would later become our platform, a prototype dedicated to managing inspections on pressure equipment. At that time, they informed us that attempts to develop software by their staff in the United States were met with significant difficulties. We identified that this was due to their insistence on using mainframes and terminals, which were not suitable for the purpose.

Antea had to demonstrate that all the necessary information for the purpose could be contained within 10 MB/20MB hard disks. From the beginning, our conviction was that the appropriate architecture for writing an AIM software was a network of PCs rather than a mainframe with terminals due to the lower cost of the former infrastructure and the greater ease of finding software developers on PCs.

If we had used a mainframe, we would not have been able to provide the software with graphic capabilities, which we did with significant effort, considering that at that time, the prevalent operating system for PCs was DOS, which was not equipped with graphical capabilities.

Later, with the arrival of Windows 95, it became easier to manage all this, and it also allowed the transition from 2D graphics to 3D graphics, thanks to its graphic components.

IJ: How has AIM software evolved over the past 30 years and what were some of the milestones in this evolution?

FV: In the past 30 years, computer technology has continuously progressed, both in hardware and software. This has significantly simplified the writing of software in general. Faster machines that are capable of handling large amounts of data in a short amount of time, increasingly powerful operating systems with 3D graphics capabilities, and the availability of highly performative databases have allowed the limits of AIM software to be expanded from pressure equipment to all asset types present in a plant.

This expansion has shed light on an existing problem: in order to manage all the assets in a plant, it is necessary to have all the original technical information for each asset, and if possible, supporting documentation. When processing existing systems that have been in place for many years, retrieving data –data mining – has proved to be the main problem. Much of the data was stored in unknown locations or has even been abandoned and destroyed. Thus, we knew that the software had to be enriched with the ability to uncover missing data, identify the sources from documentation or from systems that contained it, and then deposit it in a single environment for future structured use.

We made every effort to convince engineering and construction companies to provide customers with all the information they had to prepare or use for the completion of their assignment, but with limited success. Even today, this presents a challenge. We have always strongly recommended that companies impose, during the drafting of contracts, a clear definition of the project deliverables and strictly monitor their delivery. This should be a must for new projects as well as revamping projects. Unfortunately, this message has not yet been well received in many parts of the industrial world: having access to project and assembly data is vital and shouldn’t be missed.

3D modeling and/or 3D rendering from laser scans provide significant support for reporting inspection and maintenance events, showing where work will be or has been done instead of describing it, thereby greatly reducing the time for issuing work orders or reporting. A glimmer of hope is seen in the philosophy that some corporations are adopting—entrusting the initial management of the new plant (OEM) to the EPC’s designer/builder, with the obligation to leave the archives created during the design, construction, and initial operation phase.

IJ: How have industry standards and recommended practices influenced the development of AIM software?

FV: Production standards have long since revolutionized the industrial world, reducing construction costs (CAPEX). The introduction of recommended practices in inspection monitoring (API, NACE, etc.), inspection planning (e.g., RBI), maintenance interventions (e.g., RBM-RCM), and verification of production processes (e.g., FFS) has channeled plant management activities (OPEX). This allows for harmonized interventions based on documented experiences and orientation towards the most critical assets, thereby improving safety and reliability while often reducing operating costs. This has had a profound impact on the development of AIM software, whose specifications could no longer be entrusted solely to computer scientists; chemical and mechanical engineers must also contribute their expertise.

IJ: What are some recent trends and innovations in the field of AIM technology and how are they projected to help facilities?

FV: In recent years, several methodologies have emerged that will certainly influence the world of Asset Integrity. I am referring to the strengthening of the Digital Twin, the use of artificial intelligence, and the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). Their purpose is undoubtedly to make plant management activities easier. However, their success cannot ignore a serious data collection policy and appropriate data storage. While the term "Big Data" or large data analysis is often used, unfortunately, there is no “Big Data” without the data. Hence the value of IIoT and all of the new data sources that can influence asset integrity.

Therefore, it will be essential for the future that all companies extract the maximum data they have available and store it in an archive that facilitates its management.

Recent studies conducted by consulting firms reveal that proper data management allows for a payback period (PBP) related to data research and storage of just a few months. This benefit, which will last over time, will be essential for optimizing plant management activities in terms of sustainability, not to mention the value of the data analytics that are possible as a result.

IJ: How has the increased use of Digital Twin technology affected the way organizations manage asset integrity?

FV: The concept of the Digital Twin has been discussed for years, and recently there has been a great sensitivity towards its use. For the parts of the plant where a reasonable Digital Twin has been created, there will undoubtedly be benefits in terms of time savings for reporting and planning activities on the relevant items. Digital Twin enables communication between all facets of a company to facilitate the deposit of data in a single environment, converging all sources of data input from both Informational Technology and Operational Technology into a single repository that a user can use to visualize the data’s impact.

In terms of the way organizations manage asset integrity, Digital Twin plays a pivotal role in simplifying access to actionable data while also improving the integrity of the data that is accessed, because it ensures that all users are viewing the same version of the information. We have found that Digital Twin facilitates significant time savings on reporting and planning, not only because the data is more readily retrievable, but also because it is much faster to show what is occurring than it is to attempt to explain it.

I would like to take a moment to discuss what I personally believe the Digital Twin to be. I do not think that it is simply the creation of a 3D model of an entire system, even when dealing with an existing system that was not originally designed with a model in mind.

When an engineering model exists, it is necessary to use it. However, when one does not exist, I believe that a form of Digital Twin can be created simply by reading the content of the P&IDs and using them to populate a navigation tree or asset registry with all the assets identified in them, creating a biunivocal correspondence between the drawings from which they are derived and the items displayed in the navigation tree or asset registry.

All the items displayed in the navigation tree can be subsequently associated with the operations, or tasks performed on them and the documentation available relating to them. In the future, more 3D models will become available for new installations or revamping projects, and there will likely be many 3D models and laser scanning renderings available. The primary purpose is to obtain the localization of the points where operations are carried out, whether for inspection or maintenance, and to be able to reasonably prepare intervention routes. Traceability and repeatability are paramount here.

IJ: Can you discuss the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning and how they can help address industry challenges?

FV: Artificial intelligence is another topic that has been debated for some time; in the future, it will surely be applicable to many plant management activities. But in my opinion, that time has not yet come. Unlike the field of medicine, where data has been collected from all over the world for many years and managed in a structured way to support research and experimentation, this is not yet fully happening in the industrial world. At least, I do not perceive it to be so.

It is a shame that this is not happening because artificial intelligence can only be considered when large amounts of data are available and can be harmonized through technological systems. I have seen prototypes pass off as artificial intelligence or machine learning, spending many man-hours identifying algorithms that, not being supported by large amounts of data and their analysis, often turn out to be applicable only to the item investigated, and the results do not have a general application.

It is useful to talk about artificial intelligence, but it would be equally useful for companies to start organizing common databases where problems encountered during plant management and the analyses used to solve them can be stored, even anonymously. It is desirable that this happens swiftly if we want to fully utilize the computing and analytical capabilities that current information technology provides. In the future, every asset integrity software will have to deal with artificial intelligence. It likely will not happen in the short term, but it will surely happen.

IJ: The Internet of Things has become an essential component of many industries. How has it impacted the way facilities monitor and maintain assets and what role does AIM software play in this?

FV: The Internet of Things (IoT) assumes that the involved assets can transmit information and receive instructions directly from suitable platforms. This requires these items to be equipped with their own technology capable of transmitting and receiving data. For old or outdated plants, I do not see a massive transformation of existing assets into assets that can transmit information, as the cost of investment, in my opinion, would be excessive. However, it may be reasonable for some strategic assets to be equipped to transfer information and receive instructions as needed. Some assets may lend themselves to this more readily than others. For example, it may be reasonable to consider transforming pumps into communicating assets, while a column or reactor seems more difficult to me. The future is moving in that direction: increasingly, new plants will be equipped with communication capabilities from the design and construction stage for those variables that are essential for their management. Certainly, greenfield plants have a unique opportunity to establish these communication capabilities from the inception of the plant, during the design and construction phases, without having to worry about the expense or challenge of retrofitting them later. Currently, an Asset Integrity software can only show, supported by the available graphical tools, assets that are equipped with this capability and present the values of the variables of interest, either just in time or at a frequency set by the user. In the future, however, when sufficient data has been collected, it will be possible to use optimization algorithms, pre-built or resulting from artificial intelligence or machine learning processing, for both production and plant safety purposes.

IJ: What do you think the future holds for AIM software and what emerging technologies do you see having the most significant impact on the industry in the next 30 years?

FV: None of the previous technologies can be abandoned; in fact, they will be progressively enhanced in the future. In my opinion, the predominant use of artificial intelligence will be subject to one fundamental condition: that companies owning or operating plants are willing to share their operational experiences, including asset breakdowns, event mitigation activities, and process conditions at the time of the breakdown. A global database that presents the aforementioned information could certainly lead to effective algorithms in supporting predictive maintenance to avoid unexpected breakdowns that can cause harm to people, the environment, and result in lost production.

In some areas, this attempt is already underway. I am aware of at least one software platform that summarizes the experiences of some leading companies. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, it has been limited to the oil & gas exploration and production environment and has not been extended to the industrial world in general, particularly the petrochemical and chemical industries. The reasons for this are unclear, but it is possible that stakeholders are simply slow-moving or hesitant to share information due to concerns about protecting industrial secrets.

My hope is that this will happen, as everyone will benefit.

Special thanks to Fernando Verzotto for taking the time to chat with us and provide some valuable insights on the industry's development. To learn more about Antea’s story, please visit

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