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How Software Is Making NDT Inspections (and Pipelines) Safer

There are roughly 3 million miles of pipelines distributing oil, natural gas, and other hazardous liquids across the United States. This dispersed network weaves across North America and grows in complexity depending on the geographical abundance or dearth of natural resources. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), this tangled web of steel and plastic is under-regulated and generally not safe. 

In the last decade, the gas and oil pipeline industry has fallen prey to an alarming loss of lives, injuries, and financial damages. Consider the following data compiled from 2009 through the end of 2018 by FracTracker, an industry reporting group. As a direct result of pipeline fires and explosions during this period, there were:

  • More than 5,500 incidents
  • Almost 600 injuries
  • 126 fatalities
  • $4 billion in damages
  • More than 30,000 people that needed to be evacuated

According to FracTracker, 1.7 pipeline incidents are reported each day in the U.S., requiring 9 people to be evacuated, and causing almost $1.3 million in property damage.

And to make matters worse, this data is not even close to being comprehensive. As reported by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), just 5 percent of gas gathering pipelines are subject to safety regulations. With the number of pipelines in the hundreds of thousands in oil fields across the country, gathering pipelines are largely unregulated. 

Clearly this situation is a major safety concern for the environment and the general public, but also for those on the frontlines servicing, inspecting and performing non-destructive tests on these potentially volatile assets. These modern-day heroes are out performing the work that can prevent accidents and save lives. 

Despite the critical nature of the work and high customer expectations, many NDT businesses still rely on manual processes for service delivery, both in the back-office and in the field. Paper forms are prevalent and create problems in getting accurate and timely information to customers.

With the recent innovations in data capture, including drones, sensors and barcode or RFID scanners, NDT businesses can now take advantage of a long list of technologies to help them serve customers better and keep pipelines safe. 

In light of the new technology that is popping up, software, long one of the easiest ways for businesses to streamline processes, has become almost an afterthought. Perhaps that is due to the siloed nature of business software, requiring integrations in order to interface with other software used in the business or by the NDT teams themselves. 

There are many types of highly specialized NDT software on the market today, each with unique value adds. Most are highly specialized and focus on the tests themselves, allowing an efficient way to both perform NDT and record the results.

Cloud based software subscriptions, or software as a service (SaaS), is also beginning to penetrate the NDT market, and for good reason. The ability to capture data from the field in real-time and push it into one system of record is invaluable.

In our work with NDT inspection companies, we have witnessed several ways in which NDT software can help you better serve your end customers. This will in turn prevent even more pipeline accidents, saving lives and irreparable environmental damage. 

Some of these improvements include:

  • Making field inspectors / testers safer
  • Making field inspectors / testers more productive
  • Enhanced collaboration
  • More accurate data capture
  • Better business decisions
  • Better communications with customers
  • Better customer service
  • More timely reporting
  • Always available data
  • Increased data security
  • Easy data access and recovery
  • Low administration and overhead
  • Low price point
  • Fast time to value
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved DSO
  • Improved time to cash

If you want to make your NDT inspections business better, safer, and more profitable, moving from manual, paper-based processes to one process of automation via software is crucial. To learn more about cloud-based NDT software for your business, visit our solutions page

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