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Benedikt Kürwers from PTH

The beautiful town of Hamminkeln on the Lower Rhine, near the German-Netherlands border, is not really known as the Silicon Valley of North Rhine Westphalia. Nonetheless PTH GmbH, located here, is a good example for the digitalization story of the NDT industry.

For twenty years PTH GmbH has been a classical dealer in NDT accessories, focused on radiographic examination. Sales of x-ray film, x-ray equipment and all the accessories continues to be a strong business line. “It can be expected that the analogue film business will decline in the coming years. Analogue x-ray will soon be obsolete – as it is already in other fields, especially in medicine,” according to Benedikt Kürwers, CEO of PTH GmbH. His customers, mainly service companies in the testing sector, support his thesis. Kürwers estimates that the demand for digital x-ray solutions such as storage film or flat panel detectors has doubled in the past five years. “Companies expect a competitive advantage when they are among the first to offer their customers the advantages of digital NDT”, says Kürwers.

Accordingly he has adapted PTH’s business to make the firm fit for the future. New personnel were hired to advise their customers on hardware and software issues and naturally digital equipment was adopted in the product range. Now not only imaging plates, flat panel detectors and high-resolution displays are offered but also the appropriate software. Then another strategic decision was taken – to enter a partnership with DIMATE GmbH. “We want to deliver to our customers as much as possible from one source since we think that we are best able to shape the digital processes. Naturally that also includes intelligent software solutions for management of test reports and images,” says Kürwers.

Not all dreams come true

For the time being, Benedikt Kürwers and his team are not yet to fulfil all digitalization wishes: “We cannot digitalize everything that is x-rayed in the industry. In contrast to healthcare, for example, our clients do not work in air-conditioned, dust-free rooms, but have to deal with dirt and all kinds of weather. Technical limitations also impede the propagation of digital workflows: it is simply hard to x-ray a round pipe with a flat panel detector, that task requires more work.” Unlike in healthcare, where the change from analogue to digital x-ray came rapidly, the digitalisation process will take longer in NDT – but it will prevail.

The advantages of digitalisation for the industry are clear. Take revision safety for example. Intelligently administered digital data are available at the click of a button – including information about the measurements taken. Moreover current images can be compared with prior ones – also a quality characteristic – and assessed simultaneously by several users. In addition, the measurements are easier and faster digitally, image manipulations done with a mouse click. Finally digitalisation saves money: “Major customers can attain six-figure savings in x-ray film whereby the investment in a digital solution is already amortised in a few years”, according to the PTH managing director.

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