NDE 4.0 Podcast Transcript
Episode 6 — Hoosain Saboonchi — Ultimate NDE 4.0 Goals: Preventing Accidents and Saving Lives
Floodlight Software: Welcome to the NDE 4.0 Podcast where we ask five questions for an NDE / NDT expert. This is the show for NDE professionals where we dig into the big questions about NDE, NDT, industrial inspections, and digital transformation. Every episode we ask an NDT expert five questions that can help you do your job better.
Nasrin: Today we are honored to be speaking with Hossian Saboonchi, who currently leads the R&D Group in the Product and Systems Division of Mistras Group. Mistras is a leading provider of technology-enabled asset protection solutions used to maximize the uptime and safety of critical energy, industrial and public infrastructure.
Hossain has a background in mechanical and civil engineering with a focus on electromechanical sensor technology for NDT applications. In his role at Mistras, Hossain leads the data analytics and additive manufacturing groups. The Data Analytics Group strives to come up with an automated monitoring solution using AI and machine learning.
And the additive manufacturing group focuses on proving an in-process monitoring solution with regards to additive manufacturing. Welcome, Hossain to Floodlight Software’s NDE 4.0 Podcast, which poses five questions to an NDE 4.0 expert.
Hoosain: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Nasrin: Fantastic. Well, I think that your work is incredibly interesting and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts today. So let’s go ahead and get started. Our first question to you is this. What industry 4.0 technologies do you believe are the most important and relevant to NDE companies and why?
Hoosain: Ok, in my opinion, IoT and AI are the two significant game-changers regarding Industry 4.0. IoT or the internet of things is the low cost connected data acquisition systems and the industrial version of them or the iIoT enables the asset owners to utilize them widely, which, essentially generates a large database of different assets and the conditions. That’s where artificial intelligence or AI, provides the next level of service.
That service can be optimizing and providing predictive models, which can dramatically reduce the risk to [00:02:00] assets and the personnel who are working on the assets over the long term. Of course, my view might be biased based on the fact that I work in an R&D department of the product development division in an NDT company.
However, I don’t want to discount other technologies like the commercial clouds of additive manufacturing or 3D printing, advanced robotics, virtual reality, and many, other revolutionary advances in this field. If I may expand on some of these, I can start with cloud computing or cloud solutions.
The commercial clouds provide reliable storage and enormous processing power which is accessible from anywhere in the world. At the same time, it is maintained for the highest level of security and provides an unmatched, capability to scale up and down if needed, very rapidly.
IoT devices usually are set to communicate with one of these clouds, seamlessly and their powerful processing capabilities can be utilized for advanced AI algorithms. And it can do data mining and, all the cool stuff that they do with big data. This could revolutionize the way that NDT works.
As of right now, it is a risk-based inspection approach and one which essentially is customized to individual assets. Another technology that I want to talk about is 3D printing or what is also known as additive manufacturing. If you think about it, many structures are built on this concept of additive manufacturing. Brick by brick and layer by layer of concrete and beam by beam, you go up and build a structure or a dam, or you name it.
So, it’s not something new, but what is actually making it an interesting, revolutionary topic here is that the advancement in the last few years in this field enables it to, for many industries to manufacturer parts, either prototype or actual components, in a fraction of time, and in some cases, a fraction of cost. For it to be widely introduced and implemented in many different industries, there should be proper NDT techniques, which would verify those vital parts in terms of their quality and fitness for service.
And another technology, which is up in interest in NDT 4.0 is the use of cloud computing to introduce them to increase efficiency, quality, and reproducibility. This is not new. What has changed today? Is the use of advanced algorithms to attempt to control those robots even better and ask them to do many different tasks? This comes in very handy. If you plan to use the robots to perform an NDT task, for you, especially if your geometries are subject to change and you have different parts with different sizes.
It may seem at this point a little, science-fiction-like, but we might not be too far from the time that the inspector could be trained and introduced to their new job in a virtual or augmented reality environment, and maybe even coached by their Level IIIs from many miles away on how to perform a specific inspection.
Nasrin: Wow, that’s incredible. I’m personally relatively new to the NDT industry and I feel like most people who are also unfamiliar with NDT would be surprised to find out how much technology is actually involved in the process of performing NDT inspections during construction, as you mentioned, or even operations.
And knowing how dangerous some of these environments can be, it makes a lot of sense that companies will want to automate as much as possible using technologies, such as the IoT sensors. You mentioned, even using robots to replace human operators if that’s possible. And you know, you mentioned that none of this technology is necessarily brand new.
But certainly putting those pieces together and putting them in an industrial environment is something that’s really just in its infancy now and using connecting equipment, incorporating analytics and artificial intelligence are all currently groundbreaking concepts in the NDT field. Would you agree?
Hoosain: Yeah, that’s essentially a very good summary of what it was trying to say.
Nasrin: Yeah. Good. Okay. Well, let’s, that’s a great segue actually to our next question, which is: What are the biggest challenges in bringing these technologies to fruition, making them work?
Hoosain: So change is hard. Most industries are not equipped to adapt easily, especially if their profit margins are slim and they can’t afford to invest in R&D.
Any new technologies would have an adaptation curve, which starts with a small minority of inventors followed by early adopters, followed by early majority, late majority, and finally the laggers. In my opinion, we are still in the early adopter stage. For the early majority to adopt new technology, some key infrastructure to be put in place. This includes a modification to codes and standards followed by training at all levels of training staff to start from technicians, engineers, managers, investors. They all have to be introduced to these technologies and the codes and standards, which, now they are required to abide by. And, both of these are very time-consuming processes.
Another challenge that I can name, is the difference between the rate technology is changing and updating as opposed to how fast, any new technology will be adopted and utilized by, in this case, a very conservative or risk-averse, slow-moving industry like NDT. In many cases, from the time of the design of the new technology or device, when you start to the day you have obtained all the required certification, it may take two to three years. You don’t even need to do any change to the standards for this new device that you have introduced. But still, two to three years in today’s electronic lifetime is, is a generation and your design might be obsolete by that time. It [00:09:00] is a variable and industrial challenge in many industries like aerospace or designing an airplane.
The certifications are much longer and you’re signing a sheet that’s even longer. And, so it’s a real known, issue, but, it exists here as well. And if the NDE 4.0 technologies are being introduced, this becomes a more relevant problem to deal with. One last item.
I can’t overstate is the legal aspect of who owns the liability of any future catastrophe. It happens if you do something over what the codes are mandating you to do, and you uncover potential deficiency in your asset, then you’re legally responsible for repairing as soon as possible if the risk is high.
And if there is an accident based on what you already know, then you’re held accountable. However, if you stick to the minimum required inspections by coach and something terrible happens, you’re off the hook and somebody else, like your insurance, would take care of the financial burden. This dysfunctioning balance, if you wish, make the asset owners think twice or three times before moving to implement anything beyond their responsibility.
Nasrin: Oh, wow. That’s such an interesting and counterproductive situation. So it seems that there are standards that exist to ensure the safety of industrial assets and asset owners or operators are required to perform a certain amount of testing in order to certify the asset safety.
And if they adhere to those standards and correct operating procedures if a catastrophic event occurs, they’re really not liable for the incident. Right? However, today’s testing standards are pretty low. And if asset owners and operators go above those standards to do a better job of testing than what they’re absolutely required to do, say by using some of these emerging technologies that you mentioned, they might find more defects in their assets, and then they either must fix those assets or take the asset out of service. And both of those options seem pretty costly, which seems like it’s a pretty significant business dilemma for these asset owners. And I can see how that could be a pretty big challenge. Interesting.
So thinking about these countering priorities that industrial asset owners operators are facing on a daily basis, it’s easy to see why the adoption of emerging technologies is historically quite slow. So this brings us to question three. What do you see as changes that need to be made in the industry to speed up the adoption of NDE 4.0?
Hoosain: So as you see, the codes and the standards are playing a big role here. They are defined by technical associations, which are essentially a large group of experts of those skills and who have many years of experience in that field and note the details of the best practices and the ins and outs of it.
And the advocates of new technologies are typically a new generation of engineers and scientists. As a result, there are always a lag for codes and standards to be modified for any new technology. If your technology is mature enough to be introduced to these committees, typically it takes two to five years for them to put all the codes and the standards in place and moving it from a technical procedure to an actual standard, which needs to be followed by everybody.
This lag was acceptable when you have a significant change every 20 years. But, you don’t want to expose the industry to the risks that are not fully uncovered over the years. In the case of NDT 4.0, as most of the changes related to digital advancement, three to five years is considered a generation.
And by the time they have entered into the standard, that technology is obsolete and the next one has taken its place. For NDT standards to move in the right direction, technical committees have to take two concrete courses of action, in my opinion. First, they have to encourage and engage the next generation of NDT professionals in their committees.
Second, they have to open their doors to other committees in the form of joint meetings and collaborations. For example, with other relevant committees in different fields, which are not necessarily familiar with NDT. The goal of these involvements should be to make those codes and standards more adaptable and inclusive to newer technologies. Not just for the existing technologies, but also the technologies that are not out yet. Eventually, instead of playing the catch-up, they have to play offense.
Nasrin: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Sort of like forcing the rule-makers to be proactive and forward-looking versus, you know, kind of just monitoring the status quo, right?
Hoosain: Yeah, exactly. I think there’s a long way to go, but in the end, it takes a change in the mindset and a strategy from absolute certainty to looking ahead.
Nasrin: Yeah, it’s definitely a lot of hurdles to go over, but, you know, and it kind of leads us to our last question. To overcome the obstacles and hurdles, it’s important for companies to see the benefits, right. and so the question, the fourth question I have for you is what do you see as the greatest benefit or motivation for adopting for NDT companies and maybe even for the rule maker who’s and, and for all the, you know, the different organizations that are involved. It is, it is interesting. Okay. So. It is a big business dilemma, the tradeoff between health and safety versus the economic cost of protection. This is very similar to what the world is facing today with COVID-19 don’t you think
Hoosain: So, in terms of companies, companies are profit-seeking in nature, and as long as they can legally generate more money they will naturally seek a competitive advantage wherever they can get it. As history taught us, automation and advanced technologies, if adopted consciously and adequately can reduce costs and risks while increasing consistency in quality of work and service and products general.
The other side of the coin is that, if they don’t adapt, they will go extinct. If a company’s sole business plan is based on sending technicians to the field and collecting data manually, what would happen to that company? When most industries moved toward, automated data collection through IoT devices and don’t need inspection services much.
Another silver lining in that regard is I see the level of technical technology friendliness of the new generation is increasing day by day. You can see the change starting from universities and adoption of NDT courses for graduate students or engineering majors. Those students eventually will be more willing to implement changes where when they moved to the industry. This will be a slow shift. However, we’re observed that today’s climate it will not be long before we see that shift happening in the industry.
And the last key indicator for an optimistic view of change is that we see that, that financial market, the industry 4.0 has already borne fruit in many other sectors. And the industries are looking for, potential new markets, that could be disrupted, increasing the profits.
They would run numbers and, broach big players in each field one by one. With proper investment company, the less good luck then to change.
Yes, so you talked about COVID. There’s an irony I see here that, COVID in this case can turn out to be a force for good. Because people were scared of the computer viruses on how their data might be in danger or a loss or something.
But you see now that a lot of companies that we used to work with, they’re struggling to put something in place for the inspectors. Anybody outsider to walk into their site, they’re all scared that, okay, what if that person brings the COVID-19 virus into my field and my personnel we’ll have to quarantine and be out of work. So it’s of interesting time definitely.
Nasrin: Interesting. I completely agree with you on your comment about how [00:19:00] companies can greatly improve their competitive advantage by embracing technology and focusing on making internal process improvements.
NDT companies can become more efficient and productive, which really should reduce their overall costs. And it will enable them to perform more work in a shorter timeframe and at a lower price to the asset owner-operator. It kind of seems like a no brainer. I know there’s a lot of factors involved, but it sort of seems like it should be easier than it really is.
So let’s get to our final question, which is what final recommendations do you have for individuals and or companies interested in moving forward with NDE 4.0.
Hoosain: I’m sure you have heard the quote from that philosopher, “change is the only constant in life.” My recommendation to individuals and companies is to embrace the change and never lose sight of what is next and continuously [00:20:00] look forward to your way of achieving your goal.
Ultimately for NDT professionals, the goal is to prevent accidents and save lives. One day it was achieved by measuring in the field. The next day it might be done remotely or a robot or by using an IoT device.
Nasrin: Fantastic. What a great thought and a positive note to end our interview today, that the goal of NDT is indeed to prevent accidents and save lives.
And NDE 4.0 can certainly help achieve that goal better than maintaining the status quo. So thank you so much Hossain for participating in our podcast series and sharing your knowledge and experience.
Hoosain: You’re very welcome. It was my pleasure.
Nasrin: It was a very informative discussion today. Thank you listeners for tuning in.
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