When it comes to mechanical, electrical and critical asset management, routine manual inspection is a critical component of every reliability maintenance strategy. However, identifying and reporting findings is only as effective as the remediation strategy. Inspection reports, maintenance histories, and design basis memorandums (DBM) stored in various data silos disassociates critical information from the physical location and environmental context of an asset. This leads to communication issues, service delays, extended downtime, and potentially catastrophic failure.
“A flagged and unread email with a PDF inspection report indicating critical asset issues with high risk to failure is no way to run your reliability program.”
Advances in analytics, AI, automation, and 3D visualization are improving efficiencies in reliability maintenance strategies by integrating predictive maintenance methodologies with streamlined visual data management (sensor data and 3D visualization of the physical space and assets). Whether the inspection is completed in person with a device in hand, or remote identification from sensors, alarms, controls dashboards or analytics monitoring systems, the time gap from issue detection to remediation needs to be narrowed.
How can 3D Visualization Augment a Reliability Maintenance Strategy?
3D visualization and Digital Twins of municipal buildings, commercial real estate, factory, plant, or other job sites allow for remote access and a data-driven, navigable virtual tour of environment conditions. Navigating a site remotely utilizing a Street View-like experience removes the hunting, speculation, and miscommunications that occur when communicating findings or trying to locate an asset on-site. It also supports pre-planning for timely remediation and safe navigation of dangerous sites. When connected to work orders or integrity programs, operators and maintenance can respond efficiently and effectively with historical and current asset data in hand. The goal is always to fix the problem on the first site visit with as few challenges as possible.
Augmenting reliability maintenance programs with 3D visualization enables a different way of thinking. Rather than relying on traditional linear reports or tabular-based excel documents, users can access and consume consolidated report data from a single window and drill into asset or location-specific data to uncover pertinent information, uncover pertinent information, compare drawings, overlay product models, access inspection findings, and review historical data.
With 3D visualization driving the organization and contextualization of your reliability maintenance program:
- Data silos are reduced by connecting asset locations to information and systems.
- Root cause analysis can be performed by comparing all data available.
- Quick approvals and collaboration on best approaches done remotely.
- Managing operational change (MOC) and approvals are more efficient and complete through 3D visualization.
Inspection Processes Benefit from Accessible Pre-Planning
For non-destructive inspections—including thermal, ultrasound, vibration, and chemical—pre-planning is critical to efficient project scoping, equipment sourcing, route planning, and locating assets. When site managers provide a series of spreadsheets with asset ID numbers lacking spatial or environmental context, stakeholders waste significant and costly time on asset “scavenger hunts” in addition to performing the inspection or repair. With only a checklist in hand, it’s easy to overlook an unlisted asset, misidentify assets with the wrong make/model, or arrive at a location after a change out has occurred and the designated asset is no longer there to test. Having 3D visualization before, during, and after the inspection removes all doubt about site conditions and asset location.
Visual Plan Digital Twins merge 360-degree photogrammetry with 2D site maps, floor-plans, and geo-located assets tagged with critical asset attribute information (make, model, serial number, operations manual, inspection histories, and much more). You gain a remotely accessible 24/7/365, virtual walkthrough of the site: a facility in your pocket to consult remotely and take back to the office with you after leaving the physical environment.
Intelligent Predictive Maintenance for More Efficient Asset Management
Industrial maintenance programs have long relied on manufacturer or internally-set scheduled maintenance timelines to perform routine tasks on critical equipment regardless of the asset’s current state. In some instances, performing schedule-based maintenance tasks on assets that are operating normally can unintentionally introduce issues—such as over-torquing or over lubrication—due to premature servicing, potentially leading to unnecessary spending, further operational downtime, or equipment failure.
With predictive maintenance, any equipment service recommendations are made based on real performance data, operational analytics, and asset historical data, effectively eliminating the potential for premature service issues, and refocusing resources on equipment not performing to standard. Using non-destructive inspection and testing methods, complex operations can identify active equipment and asset vulnerabilities, as well as indicate where future weaknesses may occur from both field-testing techniques and sensor technologies.
Integrating Non-Destructive Reliability Maintenance Testing with 3D Visualization
Regardless of your maintenance strategy, reported issues need to be quickly assessed and prioritized, and work orders created to remedy issues. Complete asset information must be available to operations teams to effectively respond to these issues. Digital Twins and cloud-based 360/3D visualization tools offer an excellent method of reducing data silos and locating historical and current asset information by consolidating various inspection findings into a virtually navigable single location:
Thermal Imaging is frequently utilized as a method for protecting critical electrical and mechanical assets through both qualitative and quantitative temperature measurements. Findings reports can contain significant visual data including thermal imaging, asset photos, asset lists, and more.
With 3D visualization: Experienced thermographers apply tags to their testing process, however, 3D visualization offers even greater context and orientation for anomaly remediation.
Ultrasound monitoring and inspections are critical for identifying issues for valves, controls, and steam traps, among other applications. For oil and gas processors, the findings of an ultrasound inspection can help identify and predict leaks in steam traps, which fail at an annual rate of 10-20%, representing 3% of all energy loss for major plants.
With 3D visualization: For large, complex sites, the time required for service providers to way-find, route-plan, and pre-plan necessary equipment is significantly reduced when 3D visualization is utilized as a scoping resource.
Vibration meters are an ideal tool for identifying the root cause of imbalance, misalignment, bent shaft, soft foot, and looseness, and can provide evidence of inadequate lubrication or early-stage bearing failures in mechanical assets. Similar to ultrasound, the graphical outputs lack visual documentation of the physical asset and its specific location.
With 3D visualization: By tagging vibration inspection results directly to an asset in a Digital Twin, inspection findings gain greater meaning through environmental and historical data within the 3D visualization of site conditions.
Many assets require multiple tests including visual inspection, mechanical, and/or chemical tests. Transformers are an excellent example where visual, electrical, and thermal inspections, as well as oil tests, are conducted. When these test results are stored in different integrity platforms, or PDF reports, the value of comparing the data is lost.
With 3D visualization: Feeding integrity inspection data into a single source with 3D visualization is a more efficient and dynamic solution to cataloging, managing, and accessing reports.
Graphical readings are helpful with interpreting issues, but not helpful in locating and visually identifying the specific asset being inspected, the system sources, or the operational environment. With small and numerous assets, locating and matching them to report findings can be problematic; likewise, setting up repeatable inspection routes and training new staff can be time-consuming.
With 3D visualization: With Digital Twins, assets are geo-located within the virtual environment, and route planning and training can be performed virtually, enabling maintenance and operations teams to efficiently develop a common understanding of a site and its assets through 3D visualization.
With each of these non-destructive tests, the reporting provides a singular snapshot of the equipment’s performance at the time of manual inspection. Additional performance data collection between inspections is captured using smart sensors, temperature-sensitive stickers, clamps, or other operational analytics. This results in a wide array of data captured across varying reports, from various sources, and in varying formats. Without effective organization and contextualization of these findings and the corresponding assets, the time between identifying the problem and fixing it becomes even more critical. When remediation means involving and communicating with additional third-party teams, service providers, maintenance crews, and stakeholders to review inspection findings, determine a plan, and complete repairs, communication issues and non-resolution can lead to further downtime and expense.
Through 3D visualization, we can take inspection results from various sources and formats, and give them the spatial context and historical understanding required for effectively locating, repairing, and auditing them.
It’s One Thing to Identify A Problem – It’s Another to Locate it and Fix It.
Whether an inspection report identifies two findings or 100, the problem of locating the compromised assets within the site environment remains. While thermal imaging, vibration testing, or ultrasound inspection are effective at identifying findings, the inspection reports are inherently limited in both spatial and historical contexts.
Without the context of where an asset’s location and its maintenance and repair history, the gap between identifying and remediating a problem expands as more time is spent searching for disorganized and siloed data, physically locating an asset, or inefficiently communicating with service providers.
The larger the time gap, the more it costs. For large operations, maintenance teams can suffer from data overload due to the sheer volume of reports: “With 800 different sites, my inspection test findings reports are all over the place – all of my tests are in different places, and don’t communicate anything about the site environment.” For an oil and gas tank inspection, an inefficiency like this due to a lack of consolidated visual and asset data can mean $37,000 per day, per tank, in additional downtime.
For more effective and efficient reliability operational maintenance to take place, we need to build resilience into the inspection-maintenance-repair process by augmenting reliability maintenance workflows with 3D visualization and Digital Twins.