HomeLearnEventsNew Software, NDE, and MI Program Sustainability: Fall 2023 “Meeting of the Minds”

New Software, NDE, and MI Program Sustainability: Fall 2023 “Meeting of the Minds”

*As seen in Inspectioneering Journal’s January/February 2024 issue.

Last November in Chicago, Inspectioneering and Pinnacle had the privilege of co-hosting our 12th “Meeting of the Minds” (MOTM) roundtable discussion. For six years now, this bi-annual meeting has brought together a select group of leaders in mechanical integrity (MI) to discuss pertinent issues related to fixed equipment reliability and to share their personal experiences and opinions. This diverse group of participants comes from various sectors of the industry, including oil refining, petrochemicals, offshore production, and chemical processing.

The theme of this discussion centered around the impact of software advancements and new nondestructive examination (NDE) technologies on fixed equipment reliability and mechanical integrity programs. Participants discussed their experiences with implementing and adapting to new software tools, some challenges they have encountered, and various implementation strategies. They also touched on integrating new NDE technologies into their inspection practices and briefly discussed steps they’ve taken to ensure their integrity programs are sustainable.

Adoption of New Software Tools

Participants discussed the significance of incorporating new software tools such as asset performance management (APM), risk-based inspection (RBI), and other enterprise solutions into their reliability and integrity programs. They acknowledged the challenges associated with transitioning to new software, including integration with existing systems, overcoming resistance to change, and ensuring thorough planning and evaluation before implementation.

For instance, one individual highlighted the historical challenges faced by his company in keeping up with software updates, but acknowledged recent efforts to adapt and implement newer versions across their sites. Another opened up about the unanticipated hurdles they encountered when implementing APM software across their facilities, stating that “it required a lot of additional work that we weren’t necessarily prepared for. It’s been a challenge to integrate this new software with SAP and our other work systems, as well as with our operations and production data. So one important lesson from this experience has been to fully evaluate, understand, and plan for the knock-on effects before implementing a new software.”

The conversation further emphasized the importance of effective change management strategies in facilitating successful software transitions. Participants stressed the need for clear communication, training, and support to address resistance to change and ensure smooth adoption of new technologies. They also highlighted the significance of involving cross-functional teams and a diverse group of stakeholders in the planning and evaluation process to provide comprehensive insights into the potential impacts and requirements.

One participant shared their experience transitioning from RBI to APM software across multiple plants, emphasizing the importance of early change management efforts and collaboration with risk analysts and plant personnel to ensure a smooth transition. Another individual admitted they often run into the trap of liking the “new shiny thing,” and that they had been burned by attempting to switch to new software or technologies without thoroughly assessing how it will integrate into their existing systems. He added, “We’re often having to ask folks not very experienced with the programs to help implement them, which requires us to establish new guidelines and procedures to ensure consistency across the organization, among many other things.” 

Unfortunately, as one participant put it, “You can’t transfer experience to someone through a written procedure.” Yet others in the room noted there are certain steps you can take to help close that gap. One person stated that something they had learned and been doing through APM is creating queries that help to automate some of that logic. He went on to say that “it might not necessarily be teaching it or passing it on, but we’ve learned, for example, after years of looking at RBI data in spreadsheets, when something doesn’t quite look right. And we’ve found that we can effectively build that into some of our queries so that the software flags certain anomalies for us and kind of acts as an implementation audit or quality check. For example, if I have a toxic fluid in my equipment, I can expect to get a toxic consequence. So if I go through my spreadsheets and it shows that I have toxic fluids in my equipment but my toxic consequence shows N/A, then there is an obvious issue there.”

Utilization of Data and Analytics

We live in an exciting time where there is a software solution available for virtually every situation. But that is also part of the problem. Technology is advancing so quickly that you have to be really thoughtful about what you choose to implement at your facilities and in your programs. During the meeting, participants discussed the role of software tools in leveraging data and analytics to improve decision-making and streamline processes. They emphasized the importance of creating dashboards, implementing quality checks, and utilizing data lakes for better visualization and analysis. 

One of the participants stated, “We’ve implemented dashboards and we’re trying to integrate all this stuff together and make sense of it all; and then something else inevitably comes along and it’s like, damn, now we have to implement it all over again!” That’s why it is so important to be thoughtful about how you’re setting up your data parameters so that it can hopefully be platform agnostic. 

Another individual said that they have gone to a cloud-based digital platform and are trying to integrate everything that they do and make sure they stay connected to everything in the field. He shared, “We’re moving to SaaS on APM, and to do that, we had to move RBI back into APM. So we went through a major transition period to make that happen. The rate of change has been high (maybe a little too high for the organization), but success-wise, I think it’s been phenomenal. We can now move data across the organization, into the field, and we’re very excited about how this is advancing our program.” They could see the inefficiencies of how data traveled from the field into their data systems, so they took very deliberate and strategic measures to get things from anywhere to where it needs to go in the least amount of steps possible. He said he emphasizes to every one of his people to get all of their reports into their database! “An auditor doesn’t care about the stack of reports on your desk; they only care about what’s in the database. An inspection report is not considered complete until it is logged in our database,” he added.

When asked what other things they thought were keys to a successful software implementation, one person said, “First, make sure the organization is forward thinking and will commit the resources required to making things better. And second, and probably more importantly, make sure you have an effective IT department, because nowadays we rely so heavily on that group to not only help us understand the landscape better, but also to effectively implement all of the apps and solutions that we’re trying to leverage to make our programs better.” That sentiment was echoed by nearly everyone else in the room.

New NDE Technologies

Our conversation transitioned to the adoption of new NDE technologies and the effect they were having on everybody’s integrity programs. Participants shared some promising experiences with remotely operated robotics, drones, and advanced NDE techniques, emphasizing their value in detecting defects and assessing equipment integrity. One individual shared that “at one of our plants we’d done numerous AET inspections over the years, but now with phased array, we’re finding wet H2S cracking we’ve never seen before, forcing us to do a lot of emergency-type shutdowns to look at vessels.” He added that “it’s also forced us to look at our FFS protocols and maybe reconsider whether we’re evaluating some of these things that we’re seeing correctly, because some of it may be overly conservative.”

Another individual shared that they had realized significant value from transitioning from more of a quantity-type to more quality-type NDE, especially since they’re moving into doing API 581 RBI. He said, “We realize we’re having to pay more to get better quality NDE, but the net benefit of inspection interval extensions or a better understanding of our equipment has made it worth it. It’s not necessarily that we’ve been keeping up with the latest and greatest; we’ve just shifted from more general NDE to more focused, higher-quality NDE. One thing we’ve done to help demonstrate that success is, as we’ve changed our inspection strategies to incorporate these new NDE techniques, we’re doing a better job highlighting and documenting the things they’re finding that we wouldn’t have found using our old techniques. And to help justify the additional costs that come with the higher-quality NDE, we reviewed all of our pressure vessel incidents over the last 10 years (not including piping), and we said that if we only recognized 10% of the leaks we’ve had in the last 10 years, it would pay for the project 100 times over.”

When asked about how they are keeping up with the latest advancements in NDE, several members of the group said they have individuals at each of their sites responsible for keeping up with new technologies. But that’s not enough. They agreed that “you have to keep these people active and engaged with one another through regular meetings, either monthly or quarterly, where they come together to talk about NDE stuff; what works, what doesn’t work, share some presentations, talk about the latest/greatest, conference discoveries; etc. You’ve got to stay plugged in and keep your people talking to one another.”

Sustainability of Integrity Programs

Maintaining sustainable mechanical integrity programs requires investment in training, succession planning, and building a strong organizational culture that supports the integrity function. Participants emphasized the importance of involving younger professionals in industry organizations and fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration across sites. “Get the younger inspectors and engineers involved with some of the industry organizations like API or ASNT early,” one person stated. “You want to give them different outlets to learn, and contribute, and connect with other like-minded professionals in the industry. This will help them stay engaged and hopefully prevent them from feeling disenfranchised,” he added.

Another participant shared that they do mechanical integrity audits at all of their sites, where they go in there for a week and review the equipment records, looking at every part of the site’s mechanical integrity program to see whether or not it’s meeting the organization’s standards. For the last year and a half, they’ve tried to identify some young engineers who’ve taken ownership at their site to take with them to help audit the other plants. He believes this exercise is extremely beneficial for their young engineers, as they make connections and take that knowledge back to their site, but it also helps them develop a deeper knowledge of what the organization wants out of their MI program. “I think that’s been a great exercise for us to build a bench for our organization and make our integrity programs more sustainable,” he said. 

One individual stated that to ensure your integrity programs are sustainable, “you have to make sure more people know what is really going on, including operations.” He shared that “one of the things we’ve been putting together, emphasizing, and almost requiring, are cross-functional teams that meet every month and they look at our integrity program from an operations standpoint, from an inspection standpoint, and from a maintenance and reliability standpoint. They look at what happened and what we found over the last month, whether it be an operational upset or inspection finding, and they work through these issues together.”


This MOTM discussion highlighted the complex interplay between software advancements, NDE technologies, and effective change management strategies in shaping fixed equipment reliability and mechanical integrity programs. By leveraging data and analytics, adopting new technologies, and fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement, organizations can enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of their integrity programs in the long run.

Inspectioneering and Pinnacle would like to thank all of the participants for sharing their insights and experiences. We sincerely appreciate your participation in these discussions and your dedication to educating and advancing the Inspectioneering community.

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