Inspectioneering Journal

Embracing a New Approach to Retroactive PMI

By Brian Wilson, Business Development Manager, Energy Markets at Thermo Fisher Scientific. This article appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


In such industries and applications as oil and gas, crude oil refining, petrochemical processing and power generation, the potential for construction material mix-ups is very real, and the need for traceability through objective quality evidence

(OQE) has never been greater than it is today. Fortunately, the instrumentation available to detect inadvertent material substitutions through positive material identification (PMI) has never been more available, portable or powerful than it is today.

OQE is a term used in the US Navy’s Nuclear Submarine Safety Program (SUBSAFE) and can be defined as “a statement of fact, either quantitative or qualitative, pertaining to the quality of a product or service based on observations, measurements, or tests that can be verified.” In the nuclear Navy, one learns quickly that there is a procedure for everything, and there is no time like the present to perform a verification: if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when are you going to have time to do it again?

These principles can likewise be applied to retroactive PMI. Safety is paramount, and the assurance through objective quality evidence that correct materials get installed in the proper location, or verifying that existing materials meet intended requirements, is critical to reducing risk, protecting your brand name, and most importantly, protecting lives.

For one industrial services company, Tacten Industrial, Inc., embracing the latest technological advances in PMI while using rope access to conduct inspections has helped to transform their business. It has found the ideal formula for retroactive PMI that allows its team and its clients to rest assured that they’ve conducted their testing right – the first time.

Retroactive PMI using X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Technology

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers are an important tool in any industry that relies upon PMI and elemental chemistry. And the nature of handheld analyzers makes them ideal for retroactive PMI.

Figure 1. New handheld technology offers speed, accuracy, and productivity to PMI inspectors. (Photo courtesy Thermo Fisher Scientific)
Figure 1. New handheld technology offers speed, accuracy, and productivity to PMI inspectors. (Photo courtesy Thermo Fisher Scientific)

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