Image Sources: Olympus NDT, Carl Zeiss IMT, and Atlantis NDE

In January of this year, the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) conducted a member survey to ascertain, in a general sense, the satisfaction of its membership with existing programs, products and services. And, further, to identify those programs, products and services that members think the society should be providing. For readers not familiar with ASNT, the society provides a forum for exchange of nondestructive testing (NDT) technical information; NDT educational materials, programs and events; and standards and services for the qualification and certification of NDT personnel. ASNT promotes the discipline of NDT as a profession and facilitates NDT research and technology applications.

ASNT is the largest technical society for NDT professionals; as such, the society’s membership is a microcosm of the NDT industry. At the time of the survey, ASNT’s 9,661 individual members resided in 86 countries; 69% of the membership lived in the United States and 31% outside the United States. A secondary but significant use of the data is recognizing those things that reflect not only the membership but also the industry at large. It can be said that while taking the pulse of the membership, ASNT was also getting an important read on the perceived challenges faced by the industry today and in the foreseeable future.

To better understand the survey’s results, here are a few words regarding the survey process and overall response. The Web-based survey was open for participation from Jan. 11, 2008, through Feb. 14, 2008. An e-mail inviting members to take the survey was sent on Jan. 11. It went to the 7,940 members for whom the society had e-mail addresses. This was 82% of the 9,661 individual members at that point in time. In addition, the invitation with a link to the survey was posted to ASNT’s Web site homepage. The final result was 2,043 total responses to the survey, which was 21% of the total membership. This is a strong response rate.

The 21-question survey assessed member satisfaction with ASNT events, publications and member benefits.

With regard to events, which included section (chapter) meetings, committee meetings, refresher courses and conferences, members rated their satisfaction with technical content, location, site accessibility, cost, facilities and presentation quality. Results here show the overall satisfaction with events.

Respondents were then asked to identify other technical areas that they would like included in ASNT events. Input was provided by 320 individuals. Redundant responses were categorized accordingly. Those with notable frequency include:
  • Technician-oriented presentations
  • NDT workforce-related programs
  • NDT business oriented programs
  • Code and standard related programs
  • Programs on method applications and techniques
    · Infrared and thermography
    · Visual testing
    · Digital radiography
    · Phased array
  • Joint events with other organizations
  • User industry-specific programs
  • Training programs
    Certification and qualification programs
A similar satisfaction scale was used to discern member satisfaction with ASNT publications. Included were ASNT periodicals, handbooks, personnel qualification and certification documents, and study and training materials. Results here show the overall satisfaction with publications.

Participants were asked to advise ASNT of technical areas not addressed in current publications. There were 309 responses. Note that many are the same as they were for the event input. Those with notable frequency aligned into like categories:
  • Method applications and techniques
    · Digital radiography testing
    · Ultrasonic testing
    · Thermal and infrared testing
    · TOFD
    · Visual testing
    · Phased array
  • NDT workforce related articles
  • Technician-oriented content
  • User industry-related articles
  • Code, standard and compliance content
  • News-oriented articles
  • NDT career articles
  • Additional training publications

Two questions of particular interest were the open ended ones that asked “What are the biggest challenges facing you today as an NDT professional?” and “What new challenges are you expecting as an NDT professional?” To the first question there were 1,302 responses and to the second 1,090. Here too were found concerns regarding sustaining the NDT workforce, keeping up with advances in technology, management’s support for and recognition of NDT program significance, navigating complex certification and qualification requirements, adequate training resources, and economic uncertainty.

Specifically to the question, “What are the biggest challenges facing you today as an NDT professional?” listed according to the volume for each (highest to lowest), ASNT members’ responses could be grouped into the following categories and subsets of interest:
  • Workforce issues
    · Inexperienced workforce
    · Recruiting
    · Lack of technically proficient workers
    · Pay
    · Retaining qualified individuals
  • Technology related
    · Application of new technologies in-service
    · Adequate information regarding emerging and new technology
    · Time required to understand new technology
  • Management and internal business environment
    · Budget to support programs and equipment
    · Undervalued
    · Perceived as expense burden by organization
  • Certification and qualification
    · Acquiring points for recertification
    · Dealing with program complexities
    · Passing ASNT exams
    · Relevant exams
  • User industry-specific issues
  • Training related
    · Accessible training facilities
    · Cost and time for training
    · Quality of programs
  • Economic concerns
    · Offshore outsourcing
    · Supply chain changes
    · Customer expectations
    · Funding for research and development
  • Public and industry awareness of nondestructive testing’s significance to public safety
To the question, “What new challenges are you expecting as an NDT professional?” the categories and subsets were the same. The shift was in totals for each category. One could conjecture from this that while people do not anticipate current challenges being resolved, they do suggest a change in what will be of most concern. With the subsets the same, the categories in order of volume were:
  • Technology related
  • Workforce issues
  • Certification and qualification
  • Management and internal business environment
  • Training related
  • User industry-specific issues
  • Economic concerns
  • Public and industry awareness of nondestructive testing’s significance to public safety

As the ASNT membership does at large, the survey respondents too represent a cross section of NDT professionals in job types and the industries in which they work. Qualitatively, the survey’s results appear a fair representation of the NDT industry. So what do the responses from these six particular questions indicate? While four questions were specific to ASNT events and publications, the other two were inquiries regarding current and future challenges to the NDT profession at large. Significantly, the responses for each of the four open ended questions were similar in subjects and concerns. The survey indicates that ASNT members are focused on: workforce development issues; management’s support for NDT programs; the speed at which technology changes and ability to determine impacts and relevance to specific industries; adequate and qualified resources to satisfy training needs; understanding certification and qualification program compliance; and economic unknowns. These six issues were reiterated in other question responses as well.

While taking the pulse of the membership to see how the organization can better serve its members, the society gained insights about the challenges facing the nondestructive testing industry. There is indeed food for thought.

For ASNT the specific six issues and topics discussed here will be provided to committees and staff as subjects for programs, events, and publications for exploration and development. For other NDT related or user organizations, professionals and businesses, these results should be included in conversations about direction and market needs.

As with all such surveys, accounts of results can cover a variety of topics and indicators. For Quality Magazine's NDT readers, particular areas of value and interest were chosen to include.NDT