Sitting down to write this blog, I find myself waxing nostalgic about all of the thermal situations and people I have encountered in my 13 years using infrared (IR). Over those years, I have had the privilege of working both as an on-site contractor and as a traveling service provider. This has given me some experiences that many in our field don’t get doing just one type of work at one facility.
As an on-site or in-plant thermographer, the primary mission is electrical and mechanical inspections. If the IR program has grown to the point of process inspections, and or process improvements, that’s great! Because this kind of stuff is fun and interesting. Also, it proves the value of IR to the company. About a dozen years ago I had the unique experience of developing and implementing both IR and motor circuit analysis/evaluation programs for a very large agriculture based company. We started down the path of having a “World Class Maintenance and Reliability” program. The path was long, challenging, and at times seemed impossible to complete. It took approximately seven to eight years to get to the “World Class” level. Once achieved, the drive to improve must be maintained or else the program will end up falling behind the pack.
Having been in that environment, moving into the role of a traveling service tech was, to say the least, surprising. Working in on-site culture for many years I was shocked moving into a customer site that was not part of the “World Class Maintenance and Reliability” mind set. You find yourself wanting to teach the site how it should be done, during your one or two day visit. Which in theory you should do, but it cannot be done in a day or two. Of course you have an inspection to complete in the time you are there.
Some places are never going down the path of a “World Class Maintenance and Reliability”. Although we don’t like to admit it, some are doing the inspection because the insurance company will cut them a deal on their rate or demanded an inspection be conducted or lose coverage. I have been to locations I visit each year, only to find the same faults over and over again. They pass the results to the insurance as proof of the inspection and do not do any of the repairs suggested. Frustrating, but I was not hired to develop and implement programs for them. I was only there to perform an inspection. Other sites I have visited were looking to start some kind of program, but are unsure how or where to start so they hire out the infrared work to see what the results are. It’s step in the right direction. When asked by this kind of customer, I do take some time and inform them of the many options and sources out there dealing with the “World Class Maintenance and Reliability” culture, and some of my experiences working within the culture, and helping to develop the programs.
There are providers out there who consult and mentor these types of companies. However if they are not aware of where to look for the providers, it can be a very daunting task to take without a little push in the right direction. I like to give that nudge. The nudge is expected in our profession as thermographers. Remember, you’re there for an inspection, but it doesn’t mean you can’t suggest a more effective long-term IR solution.