Speeding up asset inspection

13 June 2022

PFE relies on thermal imaging cameras to help accelerate site inspections and reporting, and to deliver consistent reporting quality to its customers.

UK-based PFE, specialises in offering inspection and reliability services for the industrial sector. 

The company has been using thermal imaging for more than 15 years for mechanical, electrical, and process-related inspections. One of the more specialised types of inspections offered by the company is furnace inspections, for which it uses a FLIR Exx-Series pistol-grip camera.

The most tangible output that the company can offer to its customers are reports, so these need to be of consistent quality and to help ensure this PFE employs on FLIR Thermal Studio software with routing functionality from the FLIR Route Creator plugin. 

“We used to go on site for our inspections, combining the use of a thermal imaging camera with some kind of clipboard or electronic tablet,” explained Jake Ford, reliability & mechanical engineer at PFE. “For every asset and every image taken with our thermal camera, we used to jot down numbers and comments on a separate device. This was not only unpractical, but it also took twice the time we spend on inspections today. Now have been able to cut our inspection time in half.”

The FLIR Route Creator plugin, allows users to create pre-planned routes for their inspections. Routes can be downloaded to any FLIR thermal camera that has employs the on-board software, and then run from the camera itself. This means inspectors no longer need to carry two separate items, which is much more practical and helps them stay organised when surveying large or multiple locations. Above all, it ensures they do not miss any assets or inspection areas.

Inspection routes are not always linear – the engineers do not always follow the same order. They often skip certain assets and need to go back and forth on different moments in time. With a simple clipboard or tablet, the risk of missing assets from inspections is much higher. When Inspection Route is active on the camera, the progress in the pre-planned route is always clearly visible and the software tells the user exactly which assets are left to do. “A typical furnace inspection used to take us about four hours. Now, we can easily complete it in two hours,” continued Ford. 

Reduced desk time
The time at the desk needed to compile the report is also significantly reduced as users just need to open the file generated by Route Creator, and the images are already assigned to an asset. This makes the analysis and reporting much faster and easier.

“Desk time often used to involve working with spreadsheets or comparing thermal images with other files. This was a cumbersome and slow process, and prone to errors. With Thermal Studio, the reporting part has become a much cleaner, smoother and more consistent process,” said Ford. 

“As a small business, it is important to be conscious of our time,” concluded Ford. “FLIR Thermal Studio allows us to be faster on site. In terms of health and safety, that’s already a plus, because the less time our inspectors need to spend near hot furnaces, the better. More generally speaking, it also means that we can do our job in less time and be more cost-efficient compared to our competitors.”

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