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Nicolas Korte from ETABO

ETABO covers the field of power engineering and plant services – and demonstrates how enterprises with courage and flexibility can defy structural change and become fit for the future. Founded in Bochum in 1974, ETABO constructed pipelines for industrial facilities for decades. After the decline of heavy industry in the Ruhr region, business focused almost entirely upon new construction of coal power generating plants in NRW. No crystal ball is needed to see that this business line is finite too.

Since 2010 it has been a private company, after changing hands among several investors. The owners took Nicolas Korte and Alexander Kluge, two experienced managers, on board who then commenced the unique restructuring of the firm. Today ETABO earns 100 per cent of revenues in businesses that did not even exist when the company was founded – foremost plant services such as NDT. The customer base grew from 25 to 500 and the locations expanded from one in Bochum to a total of ten throughout Germany.

Digitalization as the next step

“Digitalization has become more important to us since 2015. For instance, we are interested in artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Every year our trainees conduct a new digitalization project. This was how our contact to DIMATE GmbH started. We then quickly realized that we are surfing on the same wave,” explained Nicolas Korte.

The same wave, that is the digitalization of x-rays in NDT. Even ETABO still inspects welding seams in pipelines using film, the films are then archived. Digitalizing this step is necessary for Nicolas Korte, but by no means sufficient: “If we are clever, then we will succeed in combining the digitalization of the testing process with the potential of artificial intelligence so that we can automate the testing procedure. ETABO has undertaken the first experiments in this direction also with DIMATE as software partner. However the technical equipment for deployment of NDT still has to be optimized.”

“Another challenge is to generate acceptance for digitalization. The pipelines that we weld are subject to extremely strict regulations which still require visual inspection with analogue films. Yet the advantages of digital inspection are obvious: greater objectivity for the tests, intelligent archiving, and the compilation of a database that ultimately enables so-called predictive maintenance. Hence we are optimistic that also the formal obstacles to digitalization will be removed,” concluded Nicolas Korte.

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