While many large businesses conduct their own nondestructive testing (NDT) in-house, acquiring the necessary time, budget, and manpower to do so is not feasible for every company. In many cases, seeking the support of a third-party NDT agency can be an ideal way to ensure inspection needs are met without overextending company resources.
Independent agencies can create NDT maintenance strategies for any organization that needs periodic testing of vital assets. By drafting precise plans, third-party NDT companies can help small utilities enhance maintenance plans, prolong asset lifespans, and streamline operations.
Third-party NDT agencies can help managers and operators draft necessary inspection schedules that pinpoint defects before they morph into larger problems. Commencing timely inspections should also include a consistent system that highlights all types of damage.
Example: A startup oil pipeline company tests a small oil pipeline using phased array ultrasonic testing (PAUT). The initial testing detects some anomalies, but the firm doesn’t have enough funds to isolate certain sections of the piping for further testing. The maintenance manager stresses to the higher-ups that more testing is needed, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. The manager decides to contract a third-party agency that specializes in NDT. The third party analyst uses a paintbrush scanner that identified active corrosion within the piping that could have lead to a major spill.
Drafting the proper maintenance proposals is vital, as they help companies avoid catastrophes that could endanger both crew members and the public. Common deficiencies that operators might come across include:
- Internal or external corrosion
A well-crafted maintenance plan also allows managers to fix and repair current equipment, ensuring longevity and maximum use.
Third-party NDT inspectors can help operators in repairing old or worn equipment in the event of immediate deviation. This helps analysts utilize prevailing assets, especially during turbulent markets or tight financial periods.
Example: The oil market has been booming for over a year. The manager of a small oil firm is willing to invest in diamond-head drill bits for deeper drilling. However, oil prices soon slump, and with that comes fewer investment dollars diverted toward new equipment. That small oil company must use assets that are already in stock, placing added stress on dated equipment that could fail without notice. To make matters worse, the small company cannot expand the operations department’s request for new tools and equipment.
To save costs while benefiting from the best equipment, the best solution is hiring an inspection services firm that specializes in ultrasonic NDT. That same agency can also create an inspection plan that maps out a blueprint for current and future inspections, helping to extend the life of existing assets.
During tight crunches or unstable markets, third-party NDT can help organizations get quality inspection data in less time. Ultrasonic testing, for instance, outlines a full profile of an object’s structural integrity with no need to dismantle the item. NDT agencies can also test equipment while it’s in full use. An asset that exhibits the slightest deviation from its routine function can be detected by reputable third-party reps who know how to implement the most advanced and effective NDT practices.
A sound maintenance plan can help crew members find underlying flaws within assets that could lead to costly repairs and operational failures. The most reputable NDT companies retain high-quality handheld devices that allow inspectors to find aberrations quickly, fostering swift inspection times and precise data.
Other NDT methods, such as magnetic particle testing or liquid-penetrant testing, require long inspection intervals and can sometimes yield questionable data.
Example: A small oil refinery must test electric cables that rest behind drywall. The refinery doesn’t have the necessary tools to inspect the cables without tearing down the wall. However, an NDT company has an eddy current device that measures the coating thickness of the cables while detecting corroded spots in the process. The handheld device provides data without delay. Moreover, the handheld device requires no extra time for preparation or post-inspection clean-up.
The technology and software behind the devices yield reliable data that NDT inspectors can relay to clients without hesitation. The data helps managers know how well certain assets perform on the field while showing weak areas found within operational endeavors.
Perhaps most importantly, NDT companies can help businesses save time and resources by avoiding destructive-means testing. Destructive-means testing interrupts operational workflow and weakens materials and equipment during testing.
The Important Role of Third-Party Inspection Companies
Third-party nondestructive testing companies allow clients to reap the benefits of excellent NDT equipment without needing to budget for inspection employee training or other resources. Most importantly, it can give managers and owners the peace of mind needed when it comes to safety, reduced costs, and workplace efficiency. The primary role of third-party inspection is to lift the heavy burden of finding stress points that could jeopardize operations.
When choosing an NDT agency to work with, it’s important to evaluate not only the people involved but the tools they’ll be using for the job. Managers should look for NDT companies that equip their inspectors with high-quality inspection instrumentation and software. The better the tools they work with, the more thorough and precise the data they collect will be, which in turn will help reduce repair and maintenance costs and foster a safer work environment for everyone involved.