Inspection data management software: Boosting work efficiency and control

An ideal inspection software obtains inspection data in an efficient manner, performs an accurate analysis and gives the next inspection schedule with increased inspection confidence, observes Ashfaq Anwer

Ashfaq Anwer is an inspection engineer with 14 years of experience in ammonia-urea complexes, petrochemical units, and oil and gas installations.
Ashfaq Anwer is an inspection engineer with 14 years of experience in ammonia-urea complexes, petrochemical units, and oil and gas installations.

“This loss of process containment has occurred for the second time now. Is there any inspection record for this equipment?” This is something which is very commonly heard by inspection individuals in their daily, or weekly meetings with operations and maintenance.

Sometimes, it happens on the first leak itself. All depends on the severity, the risk. For potable water leak, this question may arise on second, or a third leak in a row and with definite frequency. But for process leaks where this risk is high, nobody waits long enough before putting up a question on last inspection findings/records.

Last inspection, or the most recent inspection is the core of an equipment. However, the trail is equally important to know what has been happening with the equipment since its operation. That inspection history cannot be memorised by any individual for all the equipment and other static equipment the person is responsible for.

Database management system
Here comes in the utility of a database management system. Inspection database management has been done since years by petrochemical plants, refining, oil and gas, and energy sectors where inspection history means a lot. Earlier on, we – inspection engineers – were using plain registers to keep notes on our equipment, their most recent inspection, their brief history, major repairs, or replacements done, etc.

Then, computers invaded and took over the work of registers in the form of excel, which has been popular until now. The advancement in technology led to our shift from excel to a standalone inspection data management software. Till excel, there have been many similarities in the way people were maintaining the inspection data, scheduling, performing and reporting inspections. Change and diversity came in when inspection data management software stormed the market and offered a variety of features.

Petrochemical, and oil and gas set-ups reacted a little slow in the start to different software in the market but then the features attracted them; on the top of all was the time saving and the quick access to the inspection data. At the moment, around the globe, in all high-risk plants operating process fluids, an inspection data management software has been an asking, which cannot be denied. But what actually that software should offer is the question for which an appropriate answer should be sorted out.

Productivity and efficiency of that system shall be tangible and can be visualised and presented at all levels of the management. Before we go in further detail of what an inspection data management software should be offering as a minimum, we will take a look at the inspection data management cycle. 

Inspection scheduling
Typically, inspection data management is a four step process starting from inspection scheduling where correct inspection frequencies are assigned based upon the previous inspection history, minimum inspection code requirements and the recommended best practices. This is a key step as everything, which comes after has got its roots in here.

Inspection data management has to score high in scheduling next inspection in a very graphical manner, which should not only enable inspection individual but the asset management also to see what is coming up in the running year 2019, or what kind of inspection are we expecting a year after in 2020. These indicators can only be taken by the software if it has got an outclass inspection scheduling feature.

Inspection planning and execution
Moving to the next step in process is the inspection planning and execution part. How an inspection data management software helps you in planning your tasks over a year, or a month is something meaningful. How it helps in actually performing an inspection is another useful aspect to look at. If a software is so mobile that it can be used on a mobile device, which is intrinsically safe while actually performing an inspection, then the inspection engineer does not have to really worry about something missed by the inspector.

A mobile device with some kind of checklist, notes, recommendations and photo features would take the inspection data management software to another level. We have seen such devices in operation now containing information like the pending tasks for the week, month, or year for the assigned inspector, and data on inspections done in the last month and some other good features of the same sort.

Inspection reporting
Inspection reporting, without any doubt, is the backbone for any inspection data management software. Developers should have the main objective of making inspection reporting the most outstanding process among all other processes their software offers. The way a software is obtaining inspection report from inspector is truly a representation of how the software would be able to provide inspector back with the sorts of information he/she requires. If a software is obtaining information, which is less objective and more subjective, similar information should be expected as an outcome when needed.

However, if a software is specifically asking you when reporting inspection of a heat exchanger that what was the level of tube blockage (high, medium, low, negligible), how many tubes were seen fully blocked, which rows were blocked on a whole (top ones, middle ones, or the bottom), what kind of debris were found, what lab analysis says on these debris, then obviously on a single click, software would be able to provide you with an information, which is likely to hit the bull’s-eye when needed. We have seen cases where these sort of information have been obtained by the software. It depends on the user whether he uses that to the full, or not; however, software has to contain all such features.

Inspection data management
The final process of inspection data management is inspection data analysis, which would directly impact inspection scheduling and budgeting. Inspection budgeting can be shown as a separate process in inspection data management as it means a lot. How a data is analysed in an inspection data management software critically impacts the decision of the customer. If the data analysis background information is well tabulated enabling user to change analysis settings without much of hassle, then it gives an added advantage to software regarding its smart features.

On the other hand, software, which is entirely dependent on the user input to perform analysis, is not considered to be a first choice for the user. As a must, it should be having the ability to confirm the minimum code thickness based upon diameter, pressure and material information. Also, it should have the feature of calculating that thickness for a variety of components of different geometries. In case there is something which is meaningless coming up as an analysis outcome, it must be able to identify what is actually wrong and how to possibly correct that.

Summing up all the important considerations while picking the right inspection data management software, user must be cautious while gauging the features, which should not end up consuming more time of inspection personnel on the desk rather in the field. Inspection data management software should become an aide to inspection personnel in their day-to-day activities boosting their work efficiency and control.

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