DIMATE PACS at MiRO: Digital NDT in Germany's largest refinery
"The NDT activities that we hoped would offer the greatest potential for optimization through digitization are those that are performed during the year. Typically these are residual wall thickness measurements on pipes, nozzles and other components. With the introduction of DIMATE and the associated digitalization of the previously analog inspection process, we wanted to identify and exploit the potential in cooperation with our external service contractors. And we succeeded," says Dr. Fabian Kohlbecker, the MiRO project manager responsible for digitizing the non-destructive testing.
Progress enables process update
The decision to proceed with the digitization project was made after the 2021 lockdown, but the idea of replacing the analog and manual evaluation process had already been discussed. "In reality, however, the digital image quality did not meet the requirements for a long time. The functionality of the software solutions was also not advanced enough to really optimize the processes. Enormous progress has been made here. With the functionalities of the DIMATE PACS, we have really been able to noticeably increase efficiency," explains Andreas Gast, head of the NDT department at MiRO. Another highlight is the close integration of DIMATE PACS with the existing inspection management system, which enables a seamless digital workflow. And the close cooperation between MiRO and DIMATE. Because the excellent result was teamwork, as the head of NDT emphasizes: "It was clear to us that an off-the-shelf solution would not be able to map the complexity of our system. Instead, we needed a solution that was flexible and adaptable. We also liked DIMATE as a company because they made it clear from the beginning that they would accompany us on our digitalization journey. The entire team was always available as a sparring partner, offering advice and working with us to design the best process".
More inspection points, more employee satisfaction
The digital process developed by MiRO and DIMATE now works as described below: The inspection order is sent from the inspection management system to the PACS. A coordinator assesses the orders, summarizes inspections where appropriate and forwards them from the PACS to the service contractor. The contractor´s field staff performs the inspections - sometimes using analogue x-ray technology - then digitizes the images using an X-ray film scanner and automatically sends them to the PACS, where the component is also evaluated. In the case of ultrasound examinations or PT/MT inspections, the inspection reports are recorded directly in digital form.
The inspection results are automatically transferred back to the inspection management system. Fabian Kohlbecker: "The evaluation itself is much faster than before. Simply because the manual documentation on the film bag is no longer necessary. We can also access the results much more quickly from all sides. Films no longer have to be carried around the refinery. This also means that we can process more inspection points in the same amount of time than before, which has led to new framework agreements with the service providers".
And his colleague Andreas Gast adds another important point: "Thanks to digitalization and the availability of data, employees can now also work from home. In view of the shortage of skilled workers in the NDT sector, the attractiveness of the workplace and home office arrangements are now a really important point".
AI opens up further potential
Looking into the near future, the NDT experts at MiRO are also satisfied with their choice of DIMATE PACS. After all, the efficiency gains achieved so far are not the end of the story, as the product is constantly being developed further. The integration of AI applications into the PACS is currently a dominant topic that will also be relevant for MiRO. One AI-based functionality, for example, is the automatic, schematic evaluation of residual wall thickness measurements. "The use of AI simplifies the evaluation process enormously because measuring locations are automatically displayed, which can then be measured at the click of a mouse. This allows us to include additional measuring points in addition to the thinnest point and store them in the management system. In this way, we are gradually increasing the transparency and quality of the NDT," concludes Fabian Kohlbecker.
The Mineraloelraffinerie Oberrhein in Karlsruhe is Germany's largest refinery and one of the most modern and efficient refineries in Europe. It refines crude oil into high-quality petroleum products such as petrol, diesel, heating oil, propylene and bitumen - a total of around 14 million tons per year. The shareholders are Phillips 66, Esso, Rosneft and Shell.