When we talk about industrial inspection activities, the traditional concept is to comply with established maintenance programs, which in turn are designed according to mandatory standards or those that are established autonomously.
The evidence on the reality of the inspections constitutes a set of activities that range from the simplest such as a simple visual check of an installation or a process, to others that are much more sophisticated and complex and, of course, much more expensive.
If we establish the parameters that define any type of inspection, we can contemplate summarizing the following: time, cost, resources and risk.
These parameters, each contain their own factors that define and quantify them, but each of them in turn introduces inputs into the others. Thus, for example, the time considered as the execution intervals of the inspection tasks can interfere with the business activity itself and therefore reducing or delaying these deadlines will have an impact on costs. In turn, the necessary resources, depending on how they are dimensioned and depending on how different tools are chosen, will have an impact on costs and risk. And so, we could continue enumerating the different connections that are established between the aforementioned parameters.
Costs are undoubtedly the factor that governs many of the decisions that ultimately materialize in the inspection plan, without forgetting that the risk and risk mitigation measures, ultimately translate into a sometimes very important component of the final cost.
Attempts have been made to find ways to integrate inspections into maintenance plans in some sectors through risk-based inspections (RBI), which is a way of approaching inspections by analyzing the risks of the components and of the systems and adjust them so that, in the end, as we said before, a reduction in costs is achieved.
All these logical innovations are linked to the introduction of new tools that can help not only reduce costs but also provide a substantial improvement in established inspection plans, by being able to carry out inspections at a lower cost, faster and on all to make them safer.
All these tools are constantly evolving, becoming more capable and providing more data that gives more value to inspections. On the other hand, scheduled inspections can be carried out and in what we could call virtual inspections where human participation is practically non-existent.
All this proposes a different approach to inspections so that they are no longer considered as a cost unit within the company’s activities and are now considered as an internal business unit. The inspections thus proposed will no longer be an additional cost to the operating accounts, to be considered as a department that generates benefits that can be easily quantified.
Cheaper inspections, with fewer risks, more efficient, producing savings in maintenance costs, avoiding breakdowns, etc., increasingly efficient in the resources used, can be the difference between companies in mature industrial sectors.
Inspections with the right tools and with management geared towards safety and efficiency can be a determining factor in the competitiveness of a company.