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Michael Neiser from Applus RTD Deutschland

As a global company with more than 20,000 employees and annual turnover of EUR 1.6 billion, the Spanish Applus+ RTD deals with the big players in the automobile, aerospace and energy industries. Here in Germany, where Dr. Michael Neiser directs the business from offices in Bochum, large refineries in Cologne and Gelsenkirchen are among the clients. Obviously, digitalization has become a concern in daily business – even if not to the degree that Michael Neiser would like.

The Digital Twin

“Currently we are working at the Cologne and Gelsenkirchen offices in NDT with digitalized images and DIMATE software in order to manage and archive the image files and test reports. However the images are currently digitalized afterwards, that is by scanning. Parallel to that we are testing the use of digital detectors to be able to work directly with digital methods,” according to Michael Neiser.

The advantages of this digitalization are obvious and can be summarized as “process acceleration”: Image quality can be assessed directly with digital x-ray. There is no film developing time. The tester can read digital images anywhere and the data itself can be archived more easily and securely. This offers an increase in process quality since digital data can be retrieved at the click of a button, it does not get lost and the assessment of the data becomes more transparent.

These are only interim stages on the way to the big goal for the Applus+ RTD Deutschland managing directors: the Digital Twin, meaning predictive maintenance. Using digital data, computations are performed which can predict when a part has to be inspected. This procedure is especially interesting to operators of large industrial plants, as Michael Neiser emphasizes: “A plant like a refinery in Cologne comprises some millions of test points. To know in advance which parts with very high probability will not exhibit defects saves the operator enormous amounts of money – without violating his operator duties.“

Operators of large industrial plants are beginning to create digital plant twins where every inspection point is marked and assigned a test value. Before an inspector makes the effort to x-ray a point in the real world, he looks at the prognosis grades in the digital twin. Michael Neiser expects that concept of the digital twin to prevail throughout the industry. That will present the NDT service with the demand to provide the necessary data, interfaces and workflows. “Testing will remain the core business. However, the data that results from the testing will become increasingly important to the operator. The sector has to prepare to stand as supplier and process service for these data,” he concludes.

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