NDT: Criteria to select the right file management tool

In the last article, “The unsuspected recurring cost hidden in inspection companies’ OPEX (operation expense)”the cost of file management for NDT companies has been covered. In that article, the time consuming process of file management was explained as well as the significant cost related to NDT activities.

A lot of NDT companies do not realize how much they spend each year just to go through the process of properly archiving files. The reality of inspection sites has really changed in the last years. New technologies ease the archiving task; however, that brings a lot of new responsibilities for site inspectors. No matter the quality of the inspection, the job is not completed until inspection data is properly stored into the company’s official repository. Even though they benefit from a lot of new technologies it is still time consuming which proves costly to companies.

This is without paying attention to all possible errors that may occur from the moment of the acquisition until the files are securely stored on the server. Those errors may not often happen, but their sources are multiple. A broken or lost USB key, a file incorrectly named, a subcontractor who forgets to give back his keys at the end of a contract, or an employee who forgets to transfer his files caused by a bad connection… Fortunately, those kinds of mistakes do not happen too often. However, it is expensive for a company to resolve them. Most of the time the error is only realized once everyone is back at the office. So a professional has to be sent back to the site to reanalyze the missing portion. This results in more expenses in salary, travel, accommodation… and this is not considering delays in the work schedule.

Imagine being able to automatically receive all data acquired on your server. All those errors would not exist.

To develop this solution, you would have to consider multiple components. First, create a connection between all your inspection devices and your server. Second, secure your connection. Third, your solution must transfer all your files to the right location on your server. In addition, the solution must be compatible with all your devices and your IT infrastructure. Once all those conditions are met, you would benefit from the best file management tool possible.

Let us begin with the first component: Connecting all your inspection devices. The easiest way, is to buy a USB key which acts as a bridge between your products and a cellphone or a “hot spot”. This is the most efficient way to bring together all your devices. Not all connected keys will transfer your data. Most of those solutions only use the Wi-Fi. That will help you to get your product connected, but nothing more. Those solutions allow you to connect your devices but they do not transfer file. Your device will not be able to access a local connection. Therefore, you will not be able to transfer any data from your device. An ideal solution would use the Bluetooth and the Wi­Fi technologies. That kind of solution will allow your devices to be connected and transfer data automatically in real time.

Once the first component is completed, you are now equipped with a reliable connection. However, no one can assure you that you will always get an efficient connection. Inspection sites are often located in remote areas. It is important to find an alternative to this reality. The solution is not to find a 3G connection, it would be too expensive and complicated. It is better to find a solution with sufficient storage space to acquire all data of one entire inspection day.

But what is the interest of being connected, if the solution that compiles all data of a workday without being connected? This is only an additional security, a plan B. A good solution will transfer automatically all your data to your server as soon as you get a new connection. It is impossible to know in advance how long you will not have access to a connection. That is why it is better to get more storage capacity than not enough.

For example, if an inspector is not able to get a connection for a complete day in the field. All data acquired during the day will be saved to the new solution. Once he gets back to his home base, the solution will use the connection to automatically transfer all data acquired without the inspector having to setup anything.

In the end, a good solution must be able to correctly save data on your server. You are now presented with many options. The inspector can program the solution each morning. The solution can be programmed days in advance. If you opt for a more intelligent solution, you may get a geolocation association. All data acquired will be associate to the GPS and data can be sorted based on location.

If you want to develop it yourself, you will have to invest a lot of time and money to make it happen. Nevertheless, that would be worth it. Those types of solutions bring more security to your company. They will not only help you avoid some expensive mistakes, but also allow you to remotely follow any inspection and in real time. Even if manipulation errors are not happening too often, their consequences have important impacts on your work schedules, your benefits, and your company brand.

If you are interested to know how much this solution can help your company, look up your free study at: info@amotus.ca

To know more about this new process come see us at the ASNT annual conference, booth 828. October 24 to 27 in Long Beach.