How robots can enable next-generation asset inspections

How robots can enable next-generation asset inspections blog

From smart devices to drones, robotics has established a large presence not only among consumers but also in various commercial industries. Australian businesses in water, power utilities, oil and gas, and other facility maintenance industries are increasingly incorporating robotics in their operations. 

One of the most revolutionary uses for robotics is in asset inspections. Instead of doing everything manually, robots equipped with powerful sensors and cameras are making asset inspections more efficient than ever. Here are several ways robotics is leveling up asset inspections: 

Improved worker safety

The biggest drawback of traditional asset inspections is that they put asset maintenance workers’ safety at risk. Field staff are exposed to dangerous conditions like tall structures, high-voltage transmission lines, toxic chemicals, falling debris, insufficient oxygen, and more. Miserable wet and hot weather, where there’s a risk of slipping and heatstroke, is also par for the course for an asset maintenance worker.  

In contrast, robot-based inspections remove the risks related to traditional asset inspections. Robots can traverse hazardous environments and operate under adverse weather conditions, so technicians don’t have to expose themselves to danger when inspecting assets. For example, technicians can use drones to survey power lines and towers without risking electrocution or fatal falls. 

Plus, robots and drones are perfect for automating the repetitive and backbreaking tasks involved in inspections. This saves asset maintenance workers from suffering chronic and debilitating injuries that put them out of work for several months, if not years. 

Wide selection of inspection robots

Today, there are plenty of robots and drones available in Australia that can meet an asset maintenance company’s inspection needs. Some have strong water protection systems to navigate flooded pipelines, while others have sensors optimised for detecting gas leaks. Businesses can choose robots based on the type and quality of data these collect, flight times and max altitude, and data transmission rates. Given the growing number of robot models available, companies may be able to automate their entire maintenance inspection tasks in the near future. 

Faster inspections

Unlike traditional inspection methods, robots and drones can survey a large area within minutes instead of days. All technicians need to do is make sure the drone is fully charged and deploy it to the right location. Robots can even be programmed to gather data at specific locations, positions, and times on a daily basis. This beats the alternative where field staff have to spend hours setting up heavy access equipment and clearing the area just to execute the inspection. 

High-quality data collection

Robots and drones equipped with high-resolution cameras allow maintenance workers to collect rich data on assets that would otherwise be inaccessible or unsafe through traditional inspection methods. In fact, manual inspections may compromise data quality because it’s difficult for field staff to capture photos of asset defects and collapsed structures from multiple angles.  

Beyond taking pristine images, some robots can even collect other important data such as thermal imaging, geolocations, gas emissions, corrosion, radiation, and water contamination levels. All this data helps maintenance workers assess an asset and plan their maintenance tasks before coming on-site. 

Streamlined data analysis

Inspection data collected by robots provide technicians with an asset’s status. This data can then be fed into a field workforce app like WorkBuddy for analysis. From there, managers can evaluate the kind of maintenance services required and dispatch the most qualified technician for the job. The best part is, since robots capture data in a digital format, sharing relevant information to the maintenance technician in charge is painless. This allows maintenance workers to make smarter, data-driven decisions on-site. 

Reduced equipment downtime

Manual asset inspections require equipment to be shut down to prevent damage and injuries. For instance, technicians must temporarily drain pipelines so they can visually assess the water infrastructure conditions thoroughly. The problem with this is that operations come to a screeching halt during inspection and people will experience reduced water services. 

However, by implementing robots and drones, asset maintenance workers can remotely conduct inspections without disrupting normal operations. As mentioned, these autonomous machines can venture into dangerous conditions without a problem. 

Lower operational costs

Drones and robots can significantly reduce the costs associated with asset inspections in several ways. For one, it’s easier to conduct routine inspections because robots are easy to deploy and don’t require shutdowns for assessments. This enables organisations to proactively identify and fix infrastructure issues before these cause further damage and require expensive repairs down the line. 

Additionally, organisations don’t have to hire costly access gear such as aerial work platforms and industrial ladders for inspections. Instead, they only have to procure an optimised robot or drone for their inspections, which cuts overall equipment insurance costs. 

What’s more, less human intervention is required for robot-based inspections. That means organisations don’t need to employ and dispatch a large team of asset maintenance workers on the field, thereby lowering labour costs. Consequently, with a smaller team to manage, companies can save a fortune on workers’ compensation and income protection insurance costs. 

When it comes to asset inspections, implementing field force mobile apps like WorkBuddy can improve business efficiency even further. WorkBuddy is a cloud-based platform that enables technicians to track assets, generate insightful inspection reports, and automate work orders anytime, anywhere. Request a free demo today to learn how WorkBuddy streamlines asset maintenance processes. 

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