Inspectioneering Journal

Implementation of a PDCA Process for In-Line Inspection of Pipelines

By Johanna Milena Ditta Sarmiento, Maintenance Engineer at Ecopetrol S.A., and María Camila Pinilla Granados, Integrity and Reliability Support Engineer at Ecopetrol S.A. This article appears in the November/December 2023 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Pipelines should be reliable and efficient in transporting natural gas and liquid hydrocarbons across very long distances. As with other types of fixed assets, their mechanical integrity is of utmost importance. In this context, in-line inspection (ILI) has become a cornerstone in ensuring the integrity and safety of pipeline networks around the world. However, the effectiveness of ILI lies not only in the advanced technology used, but also in the application of a proven methodology for continuous process improvement.

This article applies the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) methodology to the ILI process. PDCA, also known as a continuous improvement cycle, has proven to be an invaluable tool for quality management and efficiency in a variety of industries.

Recognizing how the phases of the PDCA cycle fit the unique requirements of ILI, we’ll address each stage in a technical and practical way, assessing how these adaptations can increase efficiency and safety in pipeline inspection while maintaining integrity and compliance with international standards.

Ultimately, we hope to shed light on the importance of the PDCA methodology in the smart pipeline inspection industry and how it can contribute to a safer and more reliable future in critical infrastructure asset management.

This technical assessment aims to take advantage of the combination of global standards with the direct experience of professionals applied in a continuous improvement methodology. Our objective is to provide a clearer and more effective vision of an intelligent pipeline inspection process.

PDCA Methodology for ILI: A Structured Approach to Continuous Improvement

The PDCA approach, also called the "Continuous Improvement Cycle" or "Deming's Circle" in honor of its creator, Edwards Deming, establishes a systematic method to achieve continuous improvements which encompass quality through reducing failures, increasing effectiveness and efficiency, solving problems, and predicting and eliminating potential risks, among other aspects.

The Deming Circle is composed of four stages that follow each other in a cyclical manner: Plan, Do, Check, and Act (Figure 1). Once the last stage is completed, the cycle restarts, allowing activities to be periodically reviewed and potential improvements to be evaluated and constantly integrated, as appropriate.

The successful implementation of ILI is highly dependent on a sound methodology that enables efficient process management and continuous improvement. In this regard, the PDCA methodology emerges as a structured and highly effective approach to address the unique challenges presented by ILI.

Figure 1. Procedure of PDCA management method [1].
Figure 1. Procedure of PDCA management method [1].

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Posted by Christos Christoglou on December 29, 2023
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