Meet the Experts:
Aug. 14 2019
In the latest of our ‘Meet the Experts’ series, we speak to Lorna Thorougood, who is a driving force behind the Bureau Veritas strategy to adopt innovative technologies such as drones and wearable devices in order to improve the safety and efficiency of our services. Here she talks about the rapid development of those technologies, and the benefits they bring to our clients.
"Safer, Faster, Better"
I’ve worked at Bureau Veritas for 14 years in a variety of roles, starting in the air quality testing labs and then account management before I moved across to what is now the procurement team. After returning from maternity leave in 2013, I was given the opportunity to work in the Technical, Quality and Risk (TQR) team.
Initially I was responsible for the driver risk process and subcontractors, however with the business changes and the responsibilities of the team shifting, I quickly moved into a Support Manager role, working alongside the TQR director, Kyle Veitch, as well as supporting our Accreditation Manager and HSE Manager.
Kyle is so passionate about technology and its role in driving the business forward. I worked closely with him on a number of initiatives to adopt such innovations and as a result I’ve taken on the role of Technical Manager for Drones and Wearables. It’s a fascinating strategic development to be so heavily involved with.
Using new technology to improve the service we deliver to clients is only something which has really come into play in the last two to three years. The TIC industry has a reputation for being relatively slow to develop compared to others, but we’re proud to be leading the sector in this way.
These innovations help our engineers, inspectors and auditors to deliver a better service and our clients are already noticing the benefits. We now offer new ways of inspecting using UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) systems, we’re improving our internal training using Microsoft HoloLens technology and we’re introducing alternative ways of internal supervision and external auditing using Realwear Smart Glasses. Through using technology in this way, it enables engineers to do their job safer, quicker or more efficiently.
New products to improve the way we work are being developed all the time, but in the inspection field there are often challenges surrounding the uptake of such products. It’s important to not only keep up with new technologies, but to ensure we’re using the right tools to enhance our service.
Take thermal cameras, for example; at one point they were the next big thing but now every electrical engineer carries one. We see the products we’re adopting now as something that all engineers and inspectors will have access to in the future.
In TQR we have the phrase ‘safer, faster, better’, which we try and apply to everything we do. For example, we’re improving engineer training using Microsoft HoloLens, which enables hard-to-access assets such as pressure equipment to be brought into a training room using mixed reality. This enables our specialists to provide training safely on systems which can’t be accessed as they are normally in service, as well as giving visibility of faults and issues which may only be seen a couple of times in a career.
Elsewhere, Realwear Smart Glasses are being used to complete remote supervision of engineers – an alternative to field auditing.
As part of our UKAS accreditation, each engineer needs to have periodic monitoring to ensure their competency. In the past this was done face to face by our technical teams, which often meant lengthy travel times that took the technical teams away from other business. Now, engineers can wear Realwear Smart Glasses and undertake remote monitoring using the ‘see what I see, hear what I hear’ technology. The engineers still get interaction with the specialist and in many cases the specialist gets a better view of what the engineer is seeing and doing.
For ‘safer’, we’re utilising UAVs (commonly known as drones) to complete visual inspections on assets which are inaccessible or hard to reach – reducing the need for engineers to work at height.
Inspections using UAVs currently fall into two different categories; internal and external.
Working with our partners Sky Futures, we have developed our blended inspection method to visually inspect internal inaccessible assets. Combining both the technical knowledge of engineers and the skill of the UAV pilots, we can offer our clients an alternative to costly scaffolding and MEWPs (Mobile Elevated Work Platforms), often with less plant down time. In some cases, we’re able to access assets which otherwise couldn’t be inspected and therefore would be put out of service – and we’re also now exploring this method of inspection for other confined spaces, tanks and mechanical assets.
Externally, we’re using an alternative UAV to undertake building, site and structural surveys. Using the intelligent on-board camera, it gives a view that our inspectors would otherwise be unable to get and enables them to cover wider ranging areas that could not easily be covered on foot.
Each set of technology comes with its own set of challenges and risks which we always take into consideration when trialling and using.
HoloLens will not fully replace onsite training as there is still a need for physical inspection on some sites, but it does speed up and enhance the process for our engineers.
Realwear uses streaming technology and live video feeds and as such we need to consider data protection such as GDPR in certain locations.
UAVs hold the biggest number of risks that must be taken into consideration. As well as the job itself, we need to ensure we’re insured, have CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) permission and that the pilots are highly qualified to do the job - which is why we’ve partnered with Sky Futures. When it comes to an actual inspection, we need to complete a full risk assessment, which is done prior to the inspection, and then the pilot will always complete dynamic risk assessments while on the job. Also, when looking at mechanical assets the technology currently isn’t advanced enough to perform physical tests such a bolt tightness or NDT, so careful consideration needs to be taken by the engineer when assessing the video footage.
As we’ve seen in the past few years, this kind of technology is moving at a rapid pace and there’s no sign of it slowing down. In fact, we’re already seeing the technology that we’ve adopted progress on a regular basis.
The smart glasses are already more reliable and robust than they were when we started working with them, and we expect them to soon come with their own in-built steaming technology rather than relying on connection to a Wi-Fi hotspot.
One of the big problems we see with UAVs is the battery length, which means flight times are often short, so this is something we’re hoping the manufacturers will be able to improve. We also know there are a number of companies out there developing additional sensors, which can be carried by drones both for physical testing and for sampling, something else we’re keeping an eye on.
We are working closely with our colleagues in France who are looking at software advancements including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), and of course we’re always on the lookout for the next thing to improve our services. We’re certainly not standing still and we will continue to be early adopters where possible.
If you want to know more about how our technology can help enhance your testing, inspection and certification requirements, call our team on 0345 600 1828 or email: email@example.com.