NDE 4.0 Podcast Transcript
Episode 1 — NDE 4.0 and Digital Transformation in NDT / NDE
Welcome to the NDE 4.0 Podcast where we have five questions for an NDE / NDT expert. This is the show for NDE / NDT professionals where we dig into the big questions about NDE inspections and digital transformation. Every episode we ask a NDT expert five questions that can help you do your job better.
Floodlight Software: We have Nasrin Azari with us today. Nasrin is the CEO of Floodlight Software who has a background in computer science and mobility applications. Welcome, Nasrin and thank you for joining us.
Nasrin: Thanks. It’s great to be here.
Floodlight Software: So before we begin I think it would be a good idea if you actually give a little more detail about your background for our audience today.
Nasrin: Sure. No problem. So again my name is Nasrin Azari. I’m currently the CEO of Floodlight Software which was recently founded as a spin-off of Mobile Reach which as been in business since 2002. And at Mobile Reach we provide enterprise-grade mobile solutions to field technicians at a wide variety of organizations around the world. My personal background is in mobile computing as you mentioned. I received my master’s in computer science specializing in mobile computing way the heck in 1996 when the industry was in its infancy. Now and even then my passion has always been around using mobile computing to improve our lives and our work and how we get things done. This has resulted in a focus on process improvement to mobility, improving work processes through mobile solutions. And at Floodlight we take this passion to the inspection industry and go beyond mobile to the entire end-to-end business process around planning, scheduling and performing industrial inspections, and then analyzing and consolidating test results. We position Floodlight as the quote-to-cash business platform for industrial inspection companies, and we’re heavily focused on the NDT industry.
Floodlight Software: Excellent. Excellent. Thank you for that. Well, we have five questions for you as we do all of our NDE experts. Are you ready to get started?
Nasrin: I am.
Floodlight Software: Okay. Good deal. Let’s start with the big picture. How do you see NDE 4.0? In other words, to you what is it and why is it important?
Nasrin: Yeah, that’s a great question to start with. So I’m relatively new to the NDE industry but I view NDE 4.0 as the industry’s path towards digital transformation which I’m very familiar with, and towards the creation of what I would call smart infrastructure. So NDE 4.0 is the integration of the NDE of today and what’s called Industry 4.0 or the so-called forth industrial revolution which focuses heavily on the internet of things, the interoperability of equipment, and big data analytics. The benefit gained by creating smart machines that can talk to each other in an NDE setting are as of yet unrealized, but they have incredible promise. Creating a connected environment for NDE equipment, enabling continuous monitoring from IoT devices, capturing and storing results from NDE testing in a single network repository enables enhanced analytics and AI methods that can, for example, automate the analysis of test results and improve probabilities and error detection. And all of this is really important to the industry because there’s the potential for exponentially increasing the effectiveness and breadth of NDE testing. So today there are certain regulations around how often industrial equipment and infrastructure must be inspected, and these regulations exist because failures, like the burst of a pipeline or a tank of some sort of a railroad failure, although those failures are rare they tend to have catastrophic results and are incredibly expensive to fix. If NDE 4.0 can take nondestructive testing and reducing in-service equipment and infrastructure failures to, say, 20% of what they are today that would equate to an extraordinary number of human lives saved and equally extraordinary amount of saving due to fewer investigations and fixes for catastrophic incidents. I think that’s incredibly important to everybody.
Floodlight Software: I totally agree. Just to reflect on 20%, that would be an amazing result. Yeah. Excellent point. So how did you come to be involved with NDE 4.0? Give us a sense of your expertise. You talked about your computer science and mobility background, but where is your expertise and perhaps your perspective on NDE 4.0?
Nasrin: Sure. So I was introduced to the world of NDT through one of our customers who is one of the largest providers of NDT services around the world, and I became fascinated by the complexity of the business and the breadth of the business. I had really no knowledge of nondestructive testing until we started working with this customer. And I think most people are similar. Most people today have no knowledge of NDT and yet the industry has a huge impact on our everyday safety. Safety of airplanes, of railroads, of bridge and tunnels, towers, tanks, oil and natural gas pipelines which is the area that our customer worked in, nuclear power plants, energy sources, etc.. So the NDE industry is incredibly important to every person in the entire world. So I’m fascinated by the industry itself. My personal background is in – as I mentioned before – it’s in the field of mobile computing, and for the last 15 years I’ve been working to provide effective solutions for field workers in a variety of different work environments and use cases, and NDT inspectors in the field are one of those environments. My personal specialty is best described as process analysis and improvement. I excel at helping organizations map out their existing processes which is how they work today, and then re-engineering those processes to enable the organization to work smarter, typically through the use of technology to make those changes possible. And when it comes to NDE although I’m not an NDT operator or expert I understand that the tools and methods used to performed NDT are very complex, they require operators to develop skills and certifications that take years to develop. I know that equipment vendors are becoming more and more sophisticated and moving towards digitization of their processes, operations, and results. And I’ve come to see as I learn more about the industry that NDE customers must deal with a huge amount of disparate data and systems that don’t really talk to each other. And I see great value in creating a system that consolidates all of this incredible information to a central place where it can be organized and analyzed for the future benefit of particular organizations and for the industry as a whole.
Floodlight Software: Thank you. I’m thinking about that disparate data and the volume of data, and I loved the point too about the process analysis and improvement. It is amazing where you get to from going back to the basics and documenting the as-is if you will and coming up with different ways. But certainly I think one of our challenges in the industry is with the disparate systems and data flows and the analysis of those volumes of data. So thinking about what NDE providers should be thinking about or perhaps planning for related to NDE or NDE 4.0, can you give us some insights on that?
Nasrin: Yes. Definitely. So I believe that NDT providers need to start viewing digital transformation as a critical step in their evolution. As the industry matures, as testing tools and results become ever more digitized, these inspection companies are going to need a foundation in place to manage all the data and associated workflow processes. NDE 4.0 won’t happen overnight. It’s a process that will develop over time as new developments in the industry evolve, perhaps starting with certain types of procedures being automated. All of sudden the amount of test results data has quadrupled. At some point inspectors will start installing continuous monitoring sensors on equipment and produce copious amounts of data, and the point of that is when the data’s analyzed we can enable proactive and targeted manual inspections of suspect areas. That has amazing value for asset owners. That’s just an incredible vision in the future of the NDT world, but in order to provide this kind of value to their customers NDT providers will have to put in place a foundation to support this kind of advanced data management and to integrate with artificial intelligence and analytics programs. In order to support the future advancement of IoT, of augmented reality, digital twins, machine learning, and all the other great promises of NDE 4.0 providers need to start building advanced data management digital infrastructure today.
Floodlight Software: Yeah, there was a quote I heard years ago that the future is now and perhaps that’s the message. So thinking about our market in the NDE world, how does NDE 4.0 – in your mind, in your thoughts – help expand our market in NDE?
Nasrin: Yeah, that’s great question because I know that some of the partitioners in the NDE space feel sort of pressured to perform and sometimes they feel that they’re jobs are not seen as relevant by the industry when it really is a critical part of the whole sort of industrial infrastructure that we build. I see NDE 4.0 as creating an opportunity for NDT providers to become a proactive, valued provider in the community. Today NDT is commonly viewed as moderately effective fault detection layer that slows down manufacturing and construction and is fraught with human error. NDE 4.0 speeds up NDT testing, enables more automated capabilities which improves accuracy of test results, and also creates an environment where catastrophic incidents can be avoided. No asset owner wants a catastrophic failure to happen to them. The physical and reputation costs are tremendous. So as the NDT industry begins to transform and implement NDE 4.0 concepts, the probability of error detection will increase significantly which will greatly improve the willingness of manufacturers and operators to adopt NDE programs. NDE 4.0 also has the capability to expand the frequency of testing to the extent that NDT becomes an integral part of the production and operation of industrial equipment. And in my mind that is NDE nirvana, to be seen as a part of that entire process.
Floodlight Software: I love it. We need an industry or market nirvana. So let’s push for that. Absolutely. But again it’s back to your comment in the beginning about the 20%. Perhaps that’s a realistic goal and if we keep that vision the marketplace nirvana would be ours. And make the world a safer place. So I’m thinking about looking outside. We just talked about our market place, so now let’s look outside our industry a little bit. What can NDT or NDE companies learn from other industries that are more readily adopting digital transformation?
Nasrin: That’s a great question because there are a lot of companies and a lot of industries that are adopting digital transformation to become more efficient and more productive. So the benefits are great, and so digital transformation is incredibly powerful but it’s also very complex and it’s deceptively difficult to implement. It’s a process that takes time, takes time to plan and develop, and often times you will feel like you’re taking a few steps backwards to move forwards again during that process. So on the technology front in order for digital transformation to occur effectively standards need to be developed and accepted across the industry and this hasn’t happened yet for NDE and needs to happen. But this step enables that cross-communication that’s a crucial building block of NDE 4.0. It basically creates that common language that various systems will use to talk to each other, and that’s really a basic step from a technology perspective that has to happen really before we can move to NDE 4.0 and get that communication between different types of equipment. But in addition to the technology changes I also wanted to mention some other things. So technology generally– when you think about digital transformation that’s 90% of your focus. That’s what you think about. But there’s two other key parts of the process that are important to digital transformation, people and process, and they’re equally important. Implementing technology when you haven’t re-engineered your process correctly will become a huge and expensive failure or at the very least much less effective than if you had taken the time to diligently develop your new processes. And even if you have correctly designed your processes, built out a brand new system that creates a digital infrastructure for your organization, you still have the hurdle of getting your people on board, and processing technology changes are not easy for most people to adjust to. Digital transformation means that a lot of people in your organization will be changing the way they do their job, and this can be scary. It can be very hard and if not handled seriously and with care it can result in great losses of your talented and highly skilled work force. It’s not an insurmountable challenge by any means, but it require diligent planning around rolling out new systems, creating proper training for end users, and sharing the grand, long-term vision of how everyone will benefit. One of the things you just mentioned, that 20%, and in creating that vision and letting people see how they’re a part of making it happen is a really key component to it. And I think sometimes that gets lost. When people think about digital transformation they think about technology and all those aspects of it, but you can’t lose sight on the people.
Floodlight Software: Well said. Thank you, Nasrin. This has been a wealth of information. I’m stuck on the 20% possibility. I love the comment about process analysis and driving improvement based on evaluating exactly how you do things today and looking for opportunity. The common language and with the future of digital transformation and NDE 4.0 I think is a very strong point and love the people and process. Certainly I would agree in my experience digital transformation is more than technology. Clearly it’s also about people and process. And summing it up, it’s about the possibility of a nirvana endpoint for this industry and to continue the good work that we’re doing to improve the welfare of the world.
Floodlight Software: So Nasrin, thank you once again, and we really appreciate your time. You can learn more about Nasrin and NDE 4.0 at floodlightsoft.com. For more expert views on NDT, subscribe to the Floodlight Software blog at floodlightsoft.com.