Six Decades of Mechanical Integrity

An Interview with Chuck Becht IV, CEO at Becht

May 13, 2024

Inspectioneering was fortunate to meet with Charles (Chuck) Becht IV, PhD, PE. As the Chief Executive Officer at Becht, a company celebrating its 60th anniversary, Chuck brings a wealth of experience and insight into the evolving landscape of mechanical integrity. In this interview, we explore pivotal events, technological advancements, influential figures, current challenges, and future outlooks within the industry.

Inspectioneering Journal (IJ): Chuck, thank you for joining us today. Let’s begin by exploring your background and Becht's 60-year history. Could you share your journey and how it led to your role at Becht?

Chuck Becht IV (CB): In 1986, I left Exxon Engineering to join Becht (formerly Becht Engineering Co.), which was founded by my father Charles Becht III in 1964. Our business historically had been focused on light industry and serving local architects and condominium associations. So initially, I focused on building our business in heavy industry in the energy sector — for example, refining — based on the fixed equipment expertise I had. As Becht grew, my role naturally shifted; I no longer provide detailed engineering consulting but am focused more on corporate culture, organization, and strategic opportunities. Despite this, I still enjoy making technical contributions and take pride in offering practical advice.

IJ: Reflecting on the past 60 years, what are some pivotal events, milestones, and technological advancements that you believe have significantly shaped the landscape of mechanical integrity?

CB: Due to some very severe process safety incidents in multiple facilities, OSHA 1910.119 was created requiring adherence to recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP). Around the same time, API RP 750 was also established as the industry recognized the need for increased discipline in managing process hazards and safety. The requirement to follow RAGAGEP led to the creation of numerous standards documenting good engineering practices and was a primary driving force for me to create ASME PCC-2, Repair of Pressure Equipment and Piping. We continue to see the development of better standards that offer guidance on safely operating our facilities. Significant advancements have been made in computerized analysis tools, such as inspection records (replacing paper-based systems), risk-based assessment, and mechanical design at the desktop.

Another major development has been the adoption of basing decisions on risk. This allows us to better allocate resources to achieve the best results and to communicate process safety risk to the organization to make better decisions. However, this has been happening simultaneously with a "brain drain" in the industry, so we are essentially treading water. What I believe we need now is to “skill up” early-career engineers and provide them with the necessary skills and tools to work more effectively and efficiently.

IJ: Throughout your career and involvement in various committees, you’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with many industry experts. Can you provide insights into the influential figures you’ve encountered and the impact they’ve had on shaping the industry?

CB: I have served on and chaired many code committees, where many volunteers have made significant contributions. To focus on a few, I will limit some citations to post construction activities and the creation of standards we rely on today. From my experience, those who had a significant influence were driven by a passion for what they were doing. Bob Sims initiated the ASME Post Construction Committee, Clyde Neely and John Batey created the initial ASME PCC-1. I championed and established the ASME PCC-2 committee. John Reynolds was a key thought leader in mechanical integrity from the early stages, Gerrit Buchheim has been a leader in API integrity-related standards, and David Osage was instrumental in the development of API 579. While there are many others, I have limited my citations to those of my age group and older.

IJ: Today, the industry faces several challenges, including technological complexities, regulatory demands, and sustainability concerns. Could you elaborate on some of the core challenges that the industry is grappling with, and what strategies or best practices organizations can adopt to navigate them?

CB: The industry is facing many challenges while at the same time losing experienced talent to retirements. As a result, there is a critical need to accelerate the competency development of early-career engineers. The loss of experienced staff also means fewer mentors for early-career staff which reduces opportunities to gain practical field wisdom. To address this, providing information in easily digestible digital formats is essential. For example, software or services designed to deliver process, damage mechanism, and technology best practices knowledge linked to interactive process flow diagrams, as well as to provide other technical information and access to seasoned experts who can help. Another approach involves developing cognitively mapped engineering standards tailored for specific equipment. Additionally, there's exploration into integrating Large Language Models – artificial intelligence with metadata-rich content – to provide even easier access to validated and actionable knowledge.

IJ: Looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of mechanical integrity? Are there any emerging trends or technologies that you believe will shape the industry in the coming years?

CB: We are continually advancing technology for mechanical integrity, including enhanced NDE methods. However, I believe the primary trend lies in digital solutions and the use of AI. As we continue to face more challenges, regulations, and data to manage and digest, digital solutions are necessary to make this a manageable task for the limited human resources we typically have. Aligning these solutions with the preferences of younger generations, in how they work and digest information, will make their use more effective.

IJ: We have talked a lot about early-career engineers. To wrap up our conversation, what single piece of advice would you offer to them as they progress through their careers?

CB: My advice is to get involved and take every opportunity to learn. On the cover of a brief autobiography my father wrote, it said, "Something I have learned in life... Success is a matter of constant learning and adjusting.”

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