NDE 4.0 Podcast Transcript
NDE 4.0 Podcast Episode 2 — How NDT Companies Should Approach NDE 4.0
Welcome to the NDE 4.0 Podcast, where we ask five questions for a NDE or NDT expert. This is the show for NDE 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 Dr. Ripi Singh with us today. Welcome, Ripi.
Ripi: Thank you.
Floodlight Software: Ripi is an innovation and productivity coach with over 30 years of learning and experience. Ripi, could you provide our audience with a little more background about your experience, please?
Ripi: Sure, Bruce. My first career – some people jokingly call me Ripi 1.0 – was an academic. So I spent about 10 years in various universities teaching. And Ripi 2.0 was in the corporate America where I worked for United Technologies and later on also started the renewable energy business for Alstom Power, which was then later acquired by GE. And Ripi 3.0 was the small business that I first started. And now here I am, Ripi 4.0, so to say, in my fourth stage of life, trying to adopt and bring Industry 4.0 into various domains.
Floodlight Software: I love the 1.0 to 4.0 analogy. We’ll feed off of that in our conversation today, no doubt. So, again, welcome. Thank you for joining us. Well, we have five questions for you today as we do all of our NDE experts. Are you ready to get started?
Floodlight Software: Okay. So question number one, let’s start with the big picture. What’s the purpose in your mind of NDE 4.0 and or why should industry leaders pay attention to it?
Ripi: Bruce, that’s a very good starting question here. Simon said it should start with the why and I follow that. You start with the why. So why NDE 4.0? Well, let’s first look at what is NDE 4.0? NDE 4.0 is trying to take the traditional inspection technologies and bring in Industry 4.0, the digital world, together. It’s a confluence of digital and physical technologies in some sense, right? Now, we know that the whole purpose of NDE is to ensure safety of critical infrastructure, whether it’s airplanes or its gas plants or pipelines or bridges or railroad or whatever. So NDE 4.0, essentially, still has the same purpose. We want to assure safety of the infrastructure, safety of the operators using that infrastructure, whether you’re a passenger in my airline or you are a traveler in a train. And also the safety of the inspectors because they’re also humans working in adverse conditions to do the inspection.
But then why NDE 4.0? Does it really have a different purpose than traditional NDE? Slightly, yes. What happens is in NDE 4.0, we are bringing in a concept of a digital point, which means I have a cyber replica of reality. And I can now use these cyber algorithms to predict the reality, which means in the digital twin, I can foresee the physical world, and I can take proactive actions to prevent from bad events occurring. So the purpose, safety’s still being the same, but you are now equipped with lot more prognostics ability, with lot more data that can actually enhance your ability to enhance safety. And on top of it, you can do it cost-effectively. So the whole purpose, just like Industry 4.0, the purpose is the betterment of humanity, the betterment of society. The purpose of NDE 4.0 is, really, I call it Safety 5.0, which is essentially I want to get safety, but I also want to get safety at an affordable cost, right? We all look for things like hey, everything, I want it safer, cheaper, better, right?
Floodlight Software: Right.
Ripi: Faster, cheaper, better. What do we call it here? Yeah, and better, in that the NDE world is safer. So I want it safer and I want it faster and I want it cheaper. Now, in any traditional innovation, you can only choose two. You end up having to live with the third one. I want it safer and faster; I can’t get it cheaper. I want it cheaper and faster; I can’t get it safer. But when you actually take the opportunity of bringing cyber and physical world together, for once, you are in a position where you can accomplish all three of them together for a while until the entire NDE 4.0 matures. So that’s the purpose behind pursuing this confluence of cyber-physical world. Yeah. Safety, fast, and also affordability, all three together.
Floodlight Software: Along that line, do you see industry leaders grabbing hold of that? I mean, what’s the level of traction of that concept? I mean, I haven’t heard the term confluence talking about the cyber in the physical sense, and I think that’s a wonderful point. Do you see industry leaders grabbing hold of that and moving with it?
Ripi: So within the Industry 4.0 world, Germans are talking about that. Japanese have taken it beyond cyber-physical. They talk about cyber, physical, and human confluence because they say it works all in the end for the benefit of humanity. Again, human mentality, if you look at Robert’s distribution curve, it will tell you that about 16 percent are early adopters and 34 percent are early majority. So early adopters have caught on to this concept, and now we’re at the chasm where I have to go beyond 16 to 20 percent and get to the early majority and then the late majority. So we are at that point where 8 to 10 percent of the industrial leaders have caught on, and they are figuring out what business opportunities does this provide to them, what purpose does it serve for them. But at large, even now, we have not received a mass traction on this topic yet.
Floodlight Software: I was just going to ask you about the timing, and I think you kind of touched on it with we’re mostly in the early adopter stage if I understood you right?
Ripi: Yeah. And again, when we talk about confluence of cyber-physical technologies here, there are so many industry 4.0 technologies that are actually coming together, right? If you think of it, yes, there is industrial in a lot of things, and there’s artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printing, blockchain, 5G as an infrastructure. And these technologies, I mean, there so many of them, right? Eventually, every business will adopt all of them but for different businesses, the timing to adopt them is different. If you’re in the radiography business, you want to go where the digital image processing and artificial intelligence imaging processing before you think of using 3D printing in your system. But on the other side, if you’re in an ultrasonic business and you’re looking at providing capability on a submarine where hey, I may have to suddenly inspect some location that I’ve never inspected before, and I don’t have a technology can take me there. Can I modify the sensor using a 3D printer out there in the field and use it? So for different applications within the inspection world, all of these different digital technologies should come in at a different timing. So you may be early for one. And you may be late for something else. The point is, each business leader has to look at it from the perspective of, “What will add value to me now? What will add value to me three years from now or five years from now?” Or has it not yet matured? Or maybe I never need it.
Floodlight Software: Ripi, I’m thinking, perhaps, a direction provided to our audience today would be to establish a roadmap, perhaps, relative to their business and the technologies that they want to plan, when, and why.
Ripi: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think each of the companies that I work with, we look at in the next five years to ten years, let’s have digitalization or whatever you want to call it, or digital transformation roadmap – excuse me – and then say, “You know what? Out of these nine technologies, I don’t have to worry about these three today but the other five or six I need to adopt in the next five years. But let me go after augmented reality now – because that’s a value creation I can immediately see – and something else later.” Plus, one also has to realize that certain technologies like artificial intelligence, which are based on the data you gather– so every company that I talk to, I advise them that, “Please frame your problem now. Please establish the context now and start gathering the data now even if you don’t know how to use it, even if you don’t have the machine learning available. But let’s figure out a way to capture all the data so that when we learn how to use AI, we’ll actually have something to work off of.”
Floodlight Software: In that conversation, are you exploring different ways to capture that data?
Ripi: Yes, we do.
Floodlight Software: I just think about the enormous challenge of that with, perhaps, a lack of technology or lack of process to do that efficiently.
Ripi: Yeah. You’ll be surprised at how many people are actually just not doing anything about the data because they don’t know what they’re going to do with it. So why worry about it? Why save it? I mean, machines are capturing it. But you just don’t store it. Or you store it, and you say, “Hey, keep it for 30 days. And keep overwriting it out for 30 days.” Right? It’s there. A lot of times, it is there. But we just don’t consciously make an effort to keep it in a structured manner. See, structuring it is also very important. I can’t just have a bunch of error codes in different files because two ears from now, I will not be able to search it and sort it. So at least create a structure so that I can store it properly. Right?
Floodlight Software: It [seems as you?] have a [inaudible] laptop computer in my library or files. I can never find anything based on my lack of structure. Well, actually, you’re helping me make a connection between the data structure and the gathering back to your opening point about the cyber and the physical confluence. That seems like a really realistic and relatable concept to take advantage of that to bring forth the faster, better, cheaper example that you used. By looking at data as a cyber technique and digitalization as a set of technologies and processes, does that seem like I’m on the right track and understanding your points here?
Ripi: Yes. I would say yes.
Floodlight Software: Okay. Good how about– I know you have a lot of experience. I’m not sure if it’s in the 2.0 or the 3.0 Ripi version that you explained earlier, but you have a lot of other industry experience. Are you seeing other industries leading the way that we can model, or that we should try to replicate or at least follow?
Ripi: Should we follow another industry? That’s a good question. I would say, the underlying technologies are pretty much the same. Everybody is applying those technologies. We can learn the lessons from how they use. Last year I was in China, and I was quite impressed by– at the same place there was a conference going on around digital construction and how this whole IoT-based and AI-based activity that is going on in the construction industry. I was quite surprised. I’m not surprised that in Wuhan they could build a hospital in 10 days [laughter]. Right?
Floodlight Software: A lot to talk about there. Yeah.
Ripi: Right. I mean, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking the amount of coordination that is required to pull off a project like that is so immense, they must be running on something which is not human [laughter].
Floodlight Software: I would agree. It was a large facility as I saw it as well. I forgot the patient [capacity?], but it’s not a small building.
Ripi: Right. So when you think about moving to the digital world and be in the construction industry, absolutely. I have a friend in the construction sector over here, and we talk about how we will take their BIM modeling, which is the Building Information Modeling, from CAD to actually having a augmented reality-based visualization for the architects so they can think of what a building would look like. Transmitted on to using an automated system to generate what they call as fields for the supplier so that I can get my doors and windows shipped automatically for this building. Right? Because it’s coming all from the same model. So the same model, once you get in the room and you say, “I like this room,” click. Right? And the system starts issuing [inaudible] for the doors and the windows, and whatever has to be 3D printed starts coming in together. And then even afterwards what I noticed over there is the [inaudible] guys, the inspectors, are actually planning that I will go into the construction site with my augmented reality goggles, and I can overlay the actual construction with the digital visual, and I can immediately see whether the door is placed correctly or whether it’s off by six inches.
Floodlight Software: That’s fascinating.
Ripi: The same things can happen in the inspection world. We can adopt it. The same thing in the medical world. We can adopt it. I do have startup plans in the medical devices, and we see some new stuff over there, too.
Floodlight Software: Thank you. Those are great examples. So I’m led to think now about standardization. Are there any standards that the organization can adopt that perhaps would follow another industry, or simply for the inspection industry?
Ripi: So here is what happens in– just think about it. When we talk about memory cards, right? You remember how we had this SD card and the different flash drive and the different flash drive, and your laptop has got six different ports? Why does that happen? There are people who want to be ahead of the technology, and they want to create a monopoly. And they create their own little design, and they want to monopolize that, right? And somebody else comes up with a different design, and somebody else comes up with a different design, and at one point, the industry gets frustrated and says, “Guys, this is not working [inaudible]. Let’s get together. Let’s accept, ‘Okay, we will have a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0, right, and HMDI, and everything else will fall apart.'” Right [laughter]? So we are at the same stage within NDE in terms of bringing technologies together. When I’m trying to put the cyber-physical systems together and they have to go connect at the hardware level and at the software level, right? And there are multiple options out there. Okay? And the company struggles with it, so Johannes, whom you would probably talk in another podcast, will touch upon those technology standards that are helping in Germany. And within ASNT, we’ve formed a team which is going to look at a whole bunch of those, and then make recommendations for ASNT saying, “You know what? For the NDT inspections world, it’s best for us to follow, whether it’s digital twins or something else, or here are nine options, but these two are best. Let’s gravitate in that direction.” So we are at that stage, where in the technology world, we are saying, “Let’s adopt something, let’s accept something.” And I’m not sure that, again, any standard that we’d stand up would last more than four, five years because technology will change and somebody will come up with a new one. My PC has a new port every three years when I buy a new PC, and then you come up with adapters, right? So we’ll end up with a situation, “Well, this OEM is following that standard, and this service company is following that standard, and refusing to.” Well, there’s money to be made by creating a market. Then we’ll have all those [adopters?] in [within]–
So, that’s where we are with technology. Essentially, what I’m saying is that this thing is moving so fast, okay? And it’s driven by business objectives, that it hard to hold on to a standard. Okay? But it’s still not prominent, we still have a few things, and it’s falling in place slowly. I would expect in about two years time, we will stabilize as to where we are gravitating towards NDE 4.0 on the technology side.
Floodlight Software: That’s not a long time, actually.
Ripi: Yeah. And now, in terms of processes, right? So technology’s one piece. In terms of processes, we developed a process to manage innovation about four, five years ago, which now some pieces of it have become an ISO standard on innovation management. So ISO 56000, which was released, three bits of that have been released in the last one year, three more will come out in the next two years, and it’s on innovation management. It actually provides you how we generate ideas, how you manage intellectual property, how you have partnerships on innovation. So from a process perspective, there is a nicer standard which is coming out.
Floodlight Software: Well, that’s going to guide us well.
Ripi: And then, in terms of education, we have the certification thing, and we debate about what’s the role of NDE 4.0 certification, does it require a third certification? I’m not in favor of that, I would rather say, “ASNT Level III technicians should have enough proficiency to be able to handle this type of a technology.” And with an ASNT Level I technician, I’m okay if they don’t know what NDE 4.0 is for the next three years. So we need to develop those requirements for the skill piece, so that, again, when you say, “I am an ASNT Level III.” I know what to expect from you in terms of NDE 4.0, and there’s sub-committee which is looking at that. Quickly, I think maybe a year or two to develop this. We’re getting there.
Floodlight Software: Yeah, well it’s encouraging. In my world, I would say people, process and technology. You touched on all of that in the examples of standards, from an innovation process to education and certification of people doing the inspections and such. I think that’s always a balance particularly with digital transformation.
Floodlight Software: Speaking of people, as we were just touching on, how about culture? A confluence of cyber and physical, and now we’re talking about people, processes and technology. How do you think all of this will fit our current culture, and do you expect any major cultural changes in the future?
Ripi: Yeah. So, Bruce, that’s a very interesting question, and I can share with you some firsthand experiences of the computers coming in. Okay? I’m not that old, but I grew up in India, and when I started my engineering school I was still using log tables and slide rule.
Floodlight Software: Sure.
Ripi: I was a sophomore when I was allowed to use a calculator. It was very fascinating machine for me, and fortunately by the time I became a senior in my undergrad, the very first computer in the town that came I had a chance to go actually see what it means. Okay? So I saw that computer. We had to go into the building. We had to take an air shower to get rid of any dust and [crosstalk], and special gear, completely as if you are in a virus zone.
Floodlight Software: Sure.
Ripi: And that was the first computer. I’m standing in front of it, just like this, and looking at it, Wow!” And then six months later there were major social strikes all over the city and the country, and people said, “We should not let computers come in because they’ll take away jobs. They will do this. They will completely kill the society.” There was so much resistance. There was so much friction, so much inertia. There was bloodbath around some of those episodes. It was really really horrible. I was all excited about it because I’m on the third person side of it, but I’ll tell you, I mean, culturally, yes, this change is hard for any country because it is so radical, and it is so scary. And it is threatening people for their jobs. Whenever I talk about automation with one of my clients, two people get excited, but other eight will find some reason to say why this will not fit in their company, why this is a wrong thing. In the back of their mind there is the fear that their jobs will be gone. What people miss out is that it’s not really a jobs question. It’s a skills question. Jobs will be there. In fact the number of jobs will be even more, but they would require different skill set. So the question is, if people are resisting, what they’re telling you is that I’m not ready to learn anything more. I’ve given up on learning, okay. “I learned enough. Now it’s my job to earn cash on what I learned,” and we’re telling them, “No. You need to go learn something new.” Right? If you notice, I actually resist using the word that I have 30 years of experience. I tend to say that I have 30 years of learning and 2 years of experience because really everything before that was kind of now obsolete in this era. This is a skills question. We should not resist developing new skills. Now compare that time when I first saw the computer in late ’80s in India, when everybody resisted computers from coming in, to today, 2020, which is 30 years later. Computers is the number one economy for India, right? Everybody in the world has outsourced software development to India, right?
Floodlight Software: Absolutely.
Ripi: The whole economy boomed because of that, so somebody at that that time was visionary enough to say, “You know what? I’m not going to let these people who are resisting actually shut me down. I’m going to put these computers because this is the right thing to do.” We are in the same stage today. Adapting this is the right thing to do, okay. We are at a point where– hey, Bruce, I always tell people every industrial revolution has reduced the number of days we go to work. We used to work seven days a week before the industrial revolution. Then it came to six, then it came to five and a half, then it came to five. If I can put robotics and automation in the system and maintain the same level of productivity, I should be able to take home the same salary working four days a week rather than five days a week.
Floodlight Software: Work smarter, not harder.
Ripi: Exactly. Let the machine do the job for you. Somebody asked me, “So does it mean eventually it’ll be three days a week, two days a week?” I said, “Yeah, absolutely [laughter].” Why not?
Floodlight Software: Why not? Maybe in somebody else’s lifetime, but why not?
Ripi: Yeah. That’s okay. Bruce, it’s a scenario. I’ll throw it out there and you can probably choose to keep it or anything. But I envision one day, there will be machines doing everything, including generating energy for themselves, including maintaining themselves, including producing new machines, and humanity will have to find a different purpose of what they do with their life.
Floodlight Software: Well, that sounds like another discussion. I love your spirit behind the skills and our commitment to lifelong learning. You’ve demonstrated that. And there’s a lot of press today even, about jobs being replaced, and yet our worldwide economy is doing great. And people have adopted those skills, so two thoughts come to my mind. One is it’s leadership also as we started talking about what should our industry leaders be doing about NDE 4.0. People want to be led, and they need to hear that message and what’s in it for me and be encouraged and supported in their learning to obtain skills. And the other part is with robotics, as we talk about today, it is eliminating a lot of repetitive tasks, no doubt. But on the same token, the human capacity and the analytical abilities of humans are more valuable than ever, even from all the way down to the interaction skills we have human to human. So there’s so much to talk about in that topic. But relative to our topic today, it just seems like a huge part of leadership for NDE 4.0 in our industry.
Ripi: I agree with you. I think there’re three or four articles that have come out called Leadership 4.0. It’s about how do you lead an organization through the digital transformation, and how do you lead a digital organization, right. There’re topics we talk about called robotic supervision, okay, because eventually, robots, they might become your supervisor, right?
Floodlight Software: That’s a big thought, but, yeah, yeah.
Ripi: You may have to take an instruction from a robot. It’s quite possible. Hey, I am able to do it from the computer, right? It’s just you need to work with robots side-by-side. And last week, I was having a conversation with somebody around intelligence management. You heard data management and you heard about knowledge management. When you start talking about bringing artificial intelligence into your system whether it’s NDE 4.0, general industry 4.0, right? I mean just just like you’re thinking of robot on the shop floor. You could be thinking of you’re in a conference room with two leaders, two scientists, and one artificial intelligence computer sitting out there giving you opinions about based on the data and behavior you had in the past, you’re going to have now manage that, right? And within a company, do you manage an artificial intelligence as if it’s a physical asset like a machine or do you treat it like an intellectual asset like a human being where I must actually assign a mentor to an artificial intelligence so that we cram that AI system properly, right? So as a leader, one has to think about, “Hey, on one side I’m getting these automated machines to work with the machines. I’m also getting intelligence augmentation to work with my intelligent people and now, I have to deal with all of them together.” And just like within an organization, sometimes there are some people who are very smart. They think very fast. They act very fast, and we call them, you know? Same thing can happen now with artificial intelligence in the room. And this thing is so fast [laughter] where there are people who are going to get up, “No. By the way, shut up. I don’t need you today [laughter] .”
Floodlight Software: Well, at least we know our future’s going to be very fun [laughter]. Well, Ripi, we’ve covered a lot of information. Your insights have been wonderful. My thoughts leaving here as we started with a confluence of cyber and physical to really doing things faster, better, and cheaper that is the business objectives behind digital transformation, having that digital transformation roadmap that you talked about, and all of the different technologies relative to the business objectives of that particular organization to a absolutely brilliant discussion on the people impact and culture and skills and continuously learning. And perhaps they tasted what our future will be like. Seems to me that the world’s an exciting place, and with NDE 4.0, there’s nothing but opportunity for us to define for the future business and generations.
Ripi: Absolutely. Absolutely. You sounded very, very well, Bruce. Yeah. I think you had some really good questions, and this was a wonderful conversation. Thank you for your time and patience. And yes, it is going to be fun. This is the most exciting period in the history of humanity. I tell you, 200,000 years, these 50 years are the best.
Floodlight Software: I love it. I love your positiveness. How can our audience contact you in the future for any other information?
Ripi: So the best way, actually, to reach me and to find out what I’m doing is through LinkedIn.
Floodlight Software: Yes Ripi, thank you. So you can learn more about NDE 4.0 at floodlightsoft.com. Thank you, Ripi. Goodbye.
Ripi: Thank you. Bye.
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