Why Maintenance Visual Inspections Will Never Go Out Of Style
Visual inspection is one of the most basic and oldest maintenance interventions. Skilled technicians traverse facilities to identify structural flaws, surface wear and tear, cracks, leakages, corrosion, buckling of welds and other structural members. The main goal of visual inspection is to identify defects that may impede the performance of an asset. After recognizing the flaws, technicians take the initiative to fix them before they worsen and result in asset damage or accidents.
Visual inspection is a technique that is applicable across industries for monitoring welds, pipe systems, pressure vessels, machinery, buildings, valves, etc. Experts use the naked eye and years of experience to check if anything is wrong with an asset. They also utilize advanced inspection tools like remote cameras and drones to improve the fault-finding mission. This maintenance technique is vital for lowering the overall cost and time of maintenance. Despite the simplicity, visual inspection proves relevant to routine and emergency maintenance. Here is why visual inspection will outlast generations.
Any organization, irrespective of its asset base, is always on the lookout to minimize maintenance costs while improving the availability and reliability of assets. This quest has seen most organizations ditch the run-to-failure maintenance models and adopt data-driven strategies like predictive maintenance . At the basic level, predictive maintenance involves visual inspections on the surfaces of critical aspects. At advanced levels, it includes the installation of sensors and complex network systems.
When maintenance technicians conduct facility inspections, they can analyze the physical appearances of assets and establish whether they have underlying weaknesses. Leakages in a pipeline could point to a deteriorating valve seal, corroding welds, worn-out gaskets or corroded pipe. Once the technicians identify the flaws, they evaluate their severity and prioritize correction as soon as possible. Through visual inspection, companies identify asset defects at an early stage. It averts escalation of flaws into irreparable equipment damages, minimizes safety risk and enhances facility compliance to statutory regulations.
Streamlining modern maintenance programs requires the collection of vast streams of asset operating data. Similarly, to improve the accuracy and speed of inspection, companies invest in technologically advanced tools. Technicians often have a wide array of parts or expansive areas to inspect. Inspecting complex facilities require several days to conclude. Organizations are continually equipping technicians with assistive tools to improve inspection processes.
There is heavy investment in high-quality remote inspection cameras, autonomous robots and drones. These utilities give technicians access to hard-to-reach places, hazardous spaces and internal components of machinery. They collect and store massive amounts of data, displaying them on portable screens. Maintenance teams evaluate the graphical images to check if an asset is in perfect working condition. These technologies significantly reduce the overall inspection time, signaling a shorter maintenance turnaround time.
Organizations use automation to improve the quality and consistency of processes and products. The goal is to minimize human intervention and enhance the precision of high consequence facilities like nuclear power plants which contain expensive and sensitive assets. Maintenance of such facilities demands razor-sharp precision. Inspection strategies for these operations must be top-notch.
Technicians conduct visual inspections on a sample of final products to evaluate their quality. The quality of the finish is enough to indicate if the production process is smooth or has flaws causing production bottlenecks. Technicians rely heavily on digital visual inspection tools in combination with condition-monitoring sensors. They optimize inspection schedules and spruce up predictive maintenance strategies. That way, they ensure the optimal availability of critical assets.
Training employees ensure correct utilization and care of diverse assets within a facility. Training is a comprehensive process that involves identifying skill gaps and tailoring training sessions to address them. Operators and technicians interact with assets daily. They understand their behavior in different operating conditions. While visual inspection seems simple, employees skip some components. In other cases, technicians conduct thorough inspections but fail to extract valuable maintenance information from field data. It leaves the maintenance department with little or inappropriate data for maintenance planning.
To improve the skills of their employees, companies utilize past inspection records to develop training modules for technicians and operators. Companies create computerized models of visual inspection events to create virtual and augmented reality clips for future reference. They use these digital resources to train new and existing employees. For instance, operators become aware of the components they must inspect before, during and after the operation of an asset. Technicians on the other hand, learn how to interpret flaws. With these training techniques, companies can reach several employees using mobile devices. Training using field data and events enhances their comprehension of asset operation and maintenance.
Visual inspection has survived the test of time and is advancing with technology providing maintenance professionals access to digital tools. Incorporating visual inspections to routine maintenance programs helps companies control operational costs and extend the useful lives of critical assets. Companies can strengthen their visual inspection strategies by providing clear guidelines for identifying, rectifying and recording flaws on physical assets.
Author: Bryan Christiansen, founder and CEO of Limble CMMS.
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