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Bridging the Digital Gap: Connecting IDMS and NDT Devices for Seamless Inspection Workflow

By Peter Rosiepen, Managing Director at DIMATE. May 29, 2024
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In today's world, having different systems and devices can be both tricky and beneficial for industries. One significant challenge is bridging the digital gap between inspection data management systems (IDMS) and nondestructive testing (NDT) devices. Since inspections use a lot of data, it's important to exchange it automatically and thus digitally. This article explores the digitalization of inspection processes, its main challenges, and how to bridge the gap effectively.

The Digital Transformation of Inspection

In recent years, inspection processes have become more digital. Now, details of inspection and NDT device images are often in digital formats, making things more accurate and accessible. This move from paper to digital systems increases efficiency and accuracy. However, even with these improvements, inspections still involve manual work and manual data transfer. People are still making Excel lists, printing them out, and passing them around by hand, which leads to mistakes and slows things down. Also, inspection images and reports on USB flash drives, or sent through email, introduce security risks and make sharing information more difficult.

The Persistence of Manual Processes

The use of manual processes in the inspection workflow causes various issues, from data security concerns to delays in the inspection schedule. Research has shown the downsides of manual data entry and the media breaks at various stages of the inspection process. Additionally, about 10% of reports contain mistakes such as wrong measurements or misassigned inspection points. These errors make it hard to fully rely on inspection data, which is crucial for accurately assessing equipment or parts.

Figure 1. Typical inspection process with manual processes
Figure 1. Typical inspection process with manual processes

Quick access to correct data is vital, and relying on old-fashioned methods simply slows things down. This can make it difficult for companies to stay competitive and compliant with industry standards.

A Completely Digital Inspection Process

To fully embrace digitalization in inspections, it's essential to shift from partly digital to completely digital processes—automating everything from creating inspection orders to sharing results. This thorough digitalization aims to cut down on manual work, lower the risk of losing data, and ensure the inspection data received is reliable.

Automating inspection processes and bridging digital gaps have many advantages that boost organizations’ efficiency. One of the benefits is real-time data syncing, which makes sure inspection data is transferred smoothly. This not only enhances data security but also improves collaboration among the inspection team.

Automating tasks, such as entering and transferring data, can save organizations a lot of time. For example, it frees up inspectors to focus more on actual inspections, which makes the whole process more productive. Moreover, the seamless exchange of inspection data speeds up the entire inspection process, which leads to a shortened turnaround time.

Improving data quality is another significant benefit. By eliminating manual data transfers, the probability of mistakes is greatly reduced. This means that organizations can more readily rely on their data, which leads to better decision-making.

Bridging the Gap

Fortunately, organizations don't have to figure out automation on their own. The key to bridging the digital gap is using a Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) that seamlessly links IDMS and NDT devices.

Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) is a comprehensive system widely used in the field of medicine and nondestructive testing. PACS streamlines the management, storage, retrieval, and distribution of digital images and associated data.

This solution serves as a bridge, facilitating the automated exchange of data. With automation, organizations can stop relying on manual work. Instead, inspection orders, images, and results can be effortlessly transferred between systems.

Inspection process with PACS Technology
Figure 2. Inspection process with PACS Technology

For instance, a refinery in The Netherlands used a PACS software solution to bridge the digital gap in their inspection processes. The journey began with a proof of concept at the refinery and proved highly successful due to its powerful impact on NDT and asset integrity. Encouraged by the results, the operator decided to roll out PACS to its other refining sites worldwide. This initiative fits into the company’s broader strategic digitization project in which PACS played a central role.

Other Considerations

The IT department should be brought on board to coordinate the integration with the customer's IT systems (e.g., ERP, IDMS, APM, etc.). It is essential to identify and eliminate all media breaks in the inspection process.

It is recommended to begin with the digitization of one test method, such as radiographic testing, rather than attempting to digitize all inspection systems and departments simultaneously, as this often leads to chaos. Only after successfully digitizing one inspection method should the next be addressed.

User training after system installation is crucial, as many people remain apprehensive about digitalization and adopting new systems.

Conclusion

The digital gap between IDMS and NDT devices is a significant challenge for inspection processes. Even though the industry is moving towards digitalization, manual work is still holding things back. Advanced software such as PACS is a smart way to solve this problem. As industries evolve in the digital age, connecting IDMS and NDT devices will be key for inspection processes to become efficient and resilient to the demands of rapidly changing technologies.


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