NDE 4.0 Podcast | Transcript | Ramon Fernandez | Episode 5

NDE 4.0 Podcast Transcript

NDE 4.0 Podcast

Episode 5 — Ramon Fernandez — Overcoming Resistance to Change


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 Azari: Today we have as our guests Ramon Fernandez, who is an NDE instructor that has personally trained and certified over 300 NDE practitioners and has shared his NDE knowledge with more than 1500 professionals around the world. Ramon was both a civil and a structural engineer and is a dual degree MBA. He specializes now in strategic business management, technology and innovation management, and research processes. His NDE experience started in 1985 as a VT, PT, and NT inspector of specialized castings and precision machine components. He is currently an ASNT Level III Technician. Ramone’s company, Fercon Group, has been active for 20 years, providing support and consultancy services to assist companies in a variety of ways, including operational excellence and organizational change management.

Ramon is currently publishing a series of articles, advising others on how to build sustainable business models and personal growth in the NDE field while growing towards industry 4.0 or NDE 4.0. You can find these articles on his LinkedIn profile, which we will link to our main podcast page. Welcome, Ramon, welcome. Thank you for coming. We are honored to have you as our guest today, and I’m excited to talk more about the human and business sides of NDE for that matter. Ok, are you ready to get started with our five questions?

Ramon: Yes, thank you. It’s something that I’m passionate about.

Nasrin: So our first question today is what interests you the most about the NDE 4.0 movement?

Ramon: Well, there are many reasons that I can detect, but here are at least five of them. The first one is we want to participate actively in the consolidation and the tuning of a global industry 4.0 ecosystem. This ecosystem maybe like the scaffolding for this entity for consumer movement, because we’re witnessing that. This movement is not geographically centered, but it also has multiple geographic perspectives. There are people like you in the U.S. or people in Germany, in China and Japan, and we want to participate in order to build that structure. Then we want to enrich what our company has been doing.

We want to challenge what we’re doing, having contact with all this community and at the end in translate. Okay. We want to provide better solutions for our customers. Customers that now on the transition from, an Industry 3.0 to Industry 4.0, and they will need equity for consumer solutions. Also because we are very involved with training inspectors normally after we finished with them and training, we still remain in contact and sometimes they call us for professional advice: How can they move ahead? We want to provide them with better support and better advising.

And finally, I think the NDE 4.0 movement is aligned with what we do in terms of social responsibility. We have done both for more than 20 years to provide training and job opportunities for underprivileged students. And also a for gender from this probably 300 students, I have less than 50 women. And this is not because of us but because of the work environment. We want to have more women in NDT and also more job opportunities for senior people. And also we want to push ahead safety standards for construction. These are most of the reasons that we want to get involved in this movement.

Nasrin: That’s fantastic. I love the focus on the personal side, the educational side, the diversification in the field. I think that’s really, really excellent. And there’s, there seems to be such a large amount of opportunity in this field. Continuing the conversation along that path of personal growth in NDE, let’s move to our second question, which is around competencies. So as NDE evolves with Industry 4.0 technologies, what do you think are the primary competencies that NDE professionals need to develop in order to be successful in the future? Regardless of gender or age or previous experience?

Ramon: Okay, I’m a civil engineer and I want to make a civil engineering analogy. It’s like making a building. First, we need to have a strong foundation. And this is what I call the core competencies. You have to know about engineering, physics, mathematics. They have to be reinforced because those are the foundations, material, technology, everything. This was the hard competencies. Then, this is the foundation.

For the soft competencies, you have to do something that had to do with your role as a professional, as a person, the ability for critical thinking, the ability to analyze, to question, to lead, to have social influence. This is the best scaffolding for the building. And then, we’re in a digital age, so you have to develop digital competencies. This is the wiring or life in the building. The digital competencies I may split it into two sections. The first one was at the fundamental level or basic digital competencies but has to do with programming software. Or the platform use, but also there’s a higher sense has to do with NDE 4.0 what I call exponential digital competencies. Things like blockchain, digital twins are beautiful and augmented realities. This is something you have to learn to move forward. I think that people would expect, you know, some of the things you mentioned around the hard competencies, the digital competence, the competencies that you mentioned. I really like the concept around the soft competencies, too, though because I think that, especially as an educator, as you are thinking about our students of today are our leaders of tomorrow, and they’ll need those soft skills to be successful in the future.

So do you provide training classes for those competencies within your companies and with your clients? Actually, we have alliances with some of the other companies that help us to provide that. What we do is we, we are a one door company. They come with us and we provide them solutions. But the thing is all, the other point that I want to emphasize is, as companies become more digitalized, they are able to expand more rapidly so they can have exponential growth of that. So this is something for people who are trying to start a new business, digital capabilities will be a strong asset in order to make their business grow faster.

Sure you’re in the software business, so you know more than me about it. I think we know. I think we recognize that intellectually, but it’s always practical, it’s always different, more difficult. We find this too, with our, with our clients, that it’s a difficult thing to actually do it in a practical way. It’s easy to think about how great digital improvement is, but it’s not easy to do. So I appreciate the challenges around both the training side as well as the execution side.

Nasrin: So let’s move to our third question. As, as an educator, an expert in corporate training and coaching, what career development paths do you recommend for individuals who are currently working in NDE or who are planning to head in that direction?

Ramon: Okay. I will divide my answer into two parts. The first one is a reflection about which role we’re having as professionals. And actually I was, I was, two days ago. I was watching it, survey made by the work and on the forum, and some of the rules remain stable around the time. They, we, we will be needing doctors.

We will be needing some sort of engineers and people on the agricultural side. We, regardless of how technology or society evolves, those are the stable rules in society. Then this is the challenge. There are roles that are becoming redundant that tend to disappear. And as a counterpart, there are new roles arising.

And it was, it was interesting that that statistic because in that study in four years, the stable roles remain the same and 48% but the redundant does manage 9% in four years. And the new roles increased 11%, so it is, I rapidly growing. So the first question we may ask, and we may, we may ask to my audience is they have to reflect on their current roles.

Are they at risk of becoming redundant and connecting with the previous question is weak new competencies they need to add in order two, it comes table or move to a new, a new role. This is a strong reflection of them. And the second one is a series of advice because sometimes customers or friends and family.

Come with me and says, my, my son or my daughter is about to choose a career. Please tell them what they study, what they do. Instead of advising that I use some, brief reflections. The first one is to follow your passion. I always start with that. Follow your passion. Hmm. It was never in my, in my career path to becoming an NDT professional when I was in college.

But NDT allows me to do many things that I love, allows me to teach, allows me to research, allows me to have contact with people in interesting ways.

The second one is to find your purpose and play with your strengths. Realized, what you love, what you’re good at. What is needed from you and what you can be paid for? So this is something and never stop learning. This is, this is one of the strongest ways to not become obsolete. Diversify your competencies. And one thing has had been very important to me. Find mentors and build a respectful relationship with them. This is the fundamentals.

Try to make that a graph and detect who is your business contacts. But also from that 100 or 200 contacts, which ones are really strategic, which make us provide support. Actually participating in this podcast is challenging my own status because I will do something that is not normal for you. Also, and this is probably one of the, of the things that probably the most important importance, try to match new career development plans. With your family and your planning and your personal and family goals. Very often I come in contact with CEOs or inspectors that start with a crisis because there’s this discrepancy of paths. Yeah, well, this is the end. Enjoy the experience. You have to enjoy the experience.

Nasrin: Agreed. And you know, I do think that some people may not realize that, that isn’t in the field, of NDT how challenging the job can be on family life. Because a lot of people that the job can be stressful. It can take, it can take the technician away from their family for some time. So I think those are really, really important points that you bring up. I like that. But let’s move from the individual to the corporation. And I feel that although in Industry 4.0 is moving forward quickly and a lot of other industries, for companies that are specializing in NDT, we’re a little bit below the curve on this technological growth for a lot of the reasons you’ve already mentioned. So I’m curious about that. And that leads us to question number four, which is what are some attitudes and or behaviors from a company that may block or slows down the organization’s ability to adopt NDE 4.0 and Industry 4.0 technologies?

Ramon: Okay. Well, I would like to close the circle. The first one is resistance to change. This is something that happens and not only for Industry 4.0 but for every innovation or change or when you try to implement quality management. This happened to me when I tried to implement quality management systems within companies. The immune system of the company attacks you so well. You have to learn how to deal with, how to manage change.

Well, the second one is, so companies are still stuck in an Industry 3.0 mindset. They haven’t realized that there is a revolution going on broadly. There are only a few companies, but they still remain. the third one is. Well, some people, they are aware that there is an industry 4.0 going, a revolution going on, but even having a strategy or a roadmap and how to move ahead.

The fourth one is okay, they have a strategy but they operate on the business model that is previous. To move ahead with the same business model that they had in the previous, industrial revolution. Well, also big. The fifth point is they try to do all by themselves. They center in themselves and they don’t seek cooperation between there people are the participant in their business environment. They don’t realize that they’re participants in an industry. They’re focused on beating the competitor and be ahead of them, but not for growing the cake for all of them, or creating new markets where everyone can participate.

And again, going in the circle. This is probably one of the hardest barriers as the budgetary and the bureaucratic restrictions with incompetence.

Sure, sure. This is what I have witnessed. Yeah. One of the things we’ve talked about with some of our other guests and that I often think about is this lack of collaboration and lack of standards and there’s still a ways to go for everybody to get on the same page and like you mentioned, help each other to move forward. You know, sometimes when I think about where the industry is going, there are some pretty big changes ahead and it, it, it definitely can, can put some companies that are, as you mentioned, stuck in their current mindset. It can put them way behind. So hopefully they’ll, you know, start to come aboard and start to adopt some of these changes that need to happen. And certainly, as a community, we should keep talking about some of these things front and center to make sure that everybody doesn’t fall behind and move the entire industry forward.

Ramon: A brief comment, if you search for research papers on NDT, you will find a lot of papers on the technical side. Yeah, on the management side and the business, this is something that we had to push ahead going on and a very interesting one, but there’s still something that we need as a community to push forward.

Nasrin: Yeah, that’s a great point. I think you’re exactly right there. You know, a lot of what we talk about when we think NDE 4.0 is the technology, and it is about technology. But the reality is, in order to make it work, we need to have a business plan and we need to have a business focus to move it forward. So I think you and I are on the same page on that, and that’s one of the reasons I’m excited to have you here today because you’re bringing that perspective in that’s a little bit different than what we’ve had before on the podcast. So I appreciate your comments.

Nasrin: So let’s move to our final question in the podcast today. Because you’re in the NDE training field, our final question is how do you see the evolution of NDE training and certification to support the industry’s movement towards NDE 4.0?

Ramon: Well, in recent years, I have seen, people, things that they call out the first one. By one side and increased specialization and technician. There’s new techniques, new technologies, new equivalents, man. NDT becomes even more sophisticated. And also the why, the proliferation of NDT enabled devices. You can connect to your phone a sensor for infrared imaging or you can purchase equipment to detect leaks on air conditioning equipment, and you don’t have planning either on infrared or leak testing. So this is for everybody. And we’ve seen the increasing specialization versus the wider democratization. This is one of the trends and the other trend that I’m witnessing and it’s happening with my customers.

Yes. The fusion of knowledge from people whose inspectors. That means they need to acquire digital competencies, but people who are in engineering and are not performing duties and inspectors, they need to learn NDT. Recently I finished a training seminar on radiographic interpretation for people who are modeling in 3D. So they need to acquire NDT skills to supplement their digital skills.

So this is the two trends that I’m seeing that, and I think that this trend will advance towards the future. And this is, and something that, the interactions between instructors and the students. I see that there will be an adjustment in the role of the traditional NDT Level III technicians.

We in NDT cannot have all the skills and all the knowledge in the digital world. So we have to supplement the skills and make alliances in order to supplement that. And this is something that I’m doing actually in this, at this time, a lot of telepresence. How to be there and how to assist, really this is something that they will, we will have to advance. Also, the multidisciplinary approach in development entity for continual training programs. Not just one instructor, but at least two or three of them. Something that I would love to have is artificial intelligence, a digital assistant that can evaluate people on the basics of math, chemistry, and physics for the students that are sent to me for training.

Normally I go through a diagnosis with them in physics and mathematics and it’s an interview I do with them. With each and every one of them. I need AI to assist me with that. It provides me a brief rough knowledge. I can go and go in more detail with them and the use of platforms. This is something for training and about certification.

I see at least four trends. The first one is how the certification of digital competencies will supplement. Certifications that will be the foundation for certifications on NDE 4.0, the development of technology-specific or industry-specific certification standards, certification. The standards for the oil and gas industry or for aerospace that has to do with NDT. This is something I have talked with Ripi Singh about with, from a recent event. Yeah. 40 years about this certification of NDT or consider instructors not only inspectors, but instructors should be certified. And actually this is something that also I would love to witness. Assistants, digital assistants that are able to detect and evaluate any indications. I normally in the NDT industry, we are a little lacking as compared to the medical industry. And I’m witnessing right now in the medical side of the, of the NDE evaluation that, some, system of digital assistance is becoming increasingly capable of making a medical diagnosis. Interesting, so this is something that we will happen to us in the near future.

So this is the trend that I’m seeing on both training and certification.

Nasrin: What about, here’s an interesting thought for you. What about training and certifying the AI itself. One of the thoughts that I had, as I was speaking to another NDE expert recently, is, you know, sort of reluctance to some

concepts like artificial intelligence and using AI to supplement technicians and not having the confidence that the AI has the same capability as a Level III technician. So is there any thought about training and certifying AI so that you could actually treat an AI as a certified technician?

Ramon: Actually, first you have to obtain a real understanding of what AI means. Is this is something that I’m passionate about? I have been reading and working on it for nearly 30 years, since 1987 when it was in its infancy. So, I’m actually excited about it. Me, too. I think it’s fascinating. It’s fascinating. So let’s see what lies ahead.

Nasrin: Yeah, I agree. Well, this has been a fantastic conversation and I know the conversation isn’t ending here, but our time is up for today. It’s been an incredibly informative session today with Ramon Fernandez, so thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today, Ramon, we appreciate you being here.

Ramon: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Nasrin: Great, so thank you again so much and have a great day everyone. For more expert views on NDT, subscribe to the Floodlight Software blog at https://floodlightsoftware.com.

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