Case Studies: Digitizing Borescope Inspection
GE Energy’s Contractual Services (Atlanta) provides maintenance services for numerous power generation and industrial customers requiring large frame gas turbines for their operations. Annual borescope inspections are a part of the GE Energy’s operating and maintenance recommendation. The Contractual Services team, as the primary maintenance contractor, recognized the need and value in improving its borescope inspection process. GE Energy’s Inspection and Life Extension Services borescope team provides the borescope inspection services for large frame gas turbines.
Increased DemandFollowing each borescope inspection, GE Energy inspectors spent hours manually consolidating images and handwritten notes into a comprehensive report. It became apparent to GE Energy’s Inspection & Life Extension Services that an increase in inspection efficiency had to be achieved-a borescope inspector’s time spent creating reports is time spent not inspecting.
The urgency to increase productivity was fostered by the GE Energy team’s growth in business; the frequency of inspections began to increase, translating to more time collecting and reporting results. The increased inspections made it impossible to maintain rigor around their data collection process. The team knew it would not be able to handle the increasing capacity much longer and sought a solution.
The SolutionRam Kothapalli, product line manager, remote services for GE Energy, led the search for a solution. He was looking for a digital solution that would capture data through reliable, robust and user-friendly software, while saving time and increasing productivity. After researching various options, Kothapalli and his team selected GE Inspection Technologies’ (Billerica, MA) Rhythm as well as Menu Directed Inspection (MDI) software for their inspection process. “We did not have to choose the GE Inspection Technologies product because they are GE,” says Kothapalli. “We selected them because they provided the best solution and service for our needs.”
GE Inspection Technologies’ MDI runs on the Everest XLG3 VideoProbe, guiding an inspector through each step in the inspection process. While the inspection is being performed, MDI automatically tags an image with data that is used in GE Inspection Technologies’ Rhythm analytical software.
The GE Energy team implemented GE Inspection Technologies’ Rhythm Visual software to provide rigor around the inspection data collection and reporting processes. Rhythm software provides a central database for all inspection data to be stored, accessed and analyzed from remote workstations. The use of MDI has resulted in the reduction of manpower required to collect and report borescope inspections. Now, GE Energy can schedule more inspections with its existing team.
MDI auto-generates a report and imports the data into Rhythm software. MDI provides up to a 70% time reduction in the reporting process, reduces reporting errors, improves data flow for asset management and increases the speed and ease of sharing data. Most importantly, MDI eliminates post inspection reporting with the click-to-report feature, which automatically creates an inspection report in a Word document format. “Building the report as we go ensures that we include the right comments in the right places. Trying to compile the report after the fact is not as efficient,” says Kelles Fleming, lead borescope inspector, Inspection & Life Extension Services.
Using the TechnologyThe inspector inputs data directly on the Everest XLG3 VideoProbe for that day’s work, including information that must appear on the final report such as customer name and site, serial number, inspector name, inspection time and date. The next step is to begin the inspection by selecting the section of the gas turbine.
MDI software also may be programmed to filter only images of interest, for more efficient reporting, or to require images of all necessary parts, to ensure a comprehensive inspection. An inspector may be driven step-by-step through each component until the inspection is complete. MDI software may be programmed with pre-determined access points and component visibility. After selecting the final level, the inspector selects the specific item within that targeted area to inspect (e.g., combustion, transition piece, body). The purpose of the selection processes enables the software to identify and tag images for later reporting.
Once the operator has selected the specific item, the software provides tags for elements that are necessary to inspect. If the inspector discovers something else noteworthy, those images can be saved. Once the item is identified, the inspector then captures an image. That image file is tagged with relevant data and filed within the borescope system. Steps are repeated as required until the inspection is complete.
“This is an important paradigm change for remote visual inspection,” says Bradford Morse, global product manager, software solutions for GE Inspection Technologies. “Visual inspection data today is simply a saved photograph. The analysis of that image happens externally, when a person looks at the image and makes an interpretation, which is written down next to the image in a report, or otherwise communicated to make a determination of equipment readiness for service. Then the report is filed away.
“Trend analysis is a manual and difficult process of reading sequential reports,” continues Morse. “When defects are categorized, quantified and then tagged or associated with the image and stored in an electronic database, the manual process can be automated, which is the real power and benefit of MDI.”
Visual inspection data can become part of the information flow. After all images are captured and tagged, the inspector is finished. Paper reports are automatically generated and data can be fed into a data warehouse or saved as individual files.
The GE Energy team plans to continue expanding the use of MDI software to increase the volume and quality of borescope inspections, improving its ability to manage maintenance and assess reliability and availability of large frame gas turbines.
- GE Inspection Technologies