UltraAnalytix® NDT a game-changer for Australia’s water industry
UTComp’s licensee in Australia, RPC Technologies, is a global leader in the design, engineering and manufacturing of glass reinforced composite (GRP) solutions throughout Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
We chatted with RPC’s general manager of asset services, Glen Jameson, about the impact of the UltraAnalytix® system on assessing the condition of FRP/GRP assets in Australia’s public water utilities, mining and chemical processing industries.
Q: What impact has UltraAnalytix NDT had on the industry and your customers? How is it different from what you were doing before?
A: The introduction of UltraAnalytix® into the Australian market has been a real game changer. I think the key difference is that it provides the ability to take a deeper dive into our understanding of FRP assets for our clients, to produce quality data that demonstrates where they are in the lifespan of their assets and to assist them in making sure that we get the best value for money for them in the long term. By making sure they understand where they are, in terms of service life, and how they need to manage their assets into the future, to extend that life to its maximum.
For RPC Technologies, it was a simple choice to pursue water utilities as our first choice for introducing UltraAnalytix. We had a deep knowledge and understanding of the industry within the business and we felt we could add maximum value for our clients by providing UltraAnalytix inspections for their assets. From there, we’ve moved on to the mining and chemical sectors, obviously both big users of FRP, with distinct needs in terms of remote sites and asset management plans that may be more focused on production than they are on maintaining the assets. The advent of UltraAnalytix has meant that we can give them real-time data to demonstrate what they need to do to keep those assets running and to keep the plants running at optimum capacity.
Q: Is there a particular UltraAnalytix NDT inspection job that stands out for you? Why?
A: I think one that sticks out very, very clearly in my mind is a water treatment plant in Victoria, a state of Australia, where we discovered through the use of UltraAnalytix that there was a breakdown in the corrosion barrier of a tank that was only about nine or 10 years of age, and the potential for that tank to fail in a catastrophic sense was real and quite high. If that tank had been taken out of service due to a failure, that whole plant would have would have had to shut down for an extended period of time while the tank was replaced. By being able to review the tank with UltraAnalytix, determine that there had been a breakdown in the corrosion barrier, and provide advice to the client about how we could reline the tank in situ, we probably saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars in replacement costs. Instead, we were able to reline the tank in situ and bypass it for just a week while we got the tank relined and back in service. The value to the customer was enormous. The value to that marketplace in terms of ensuring the community didn’t have any interruption to their water supply was absolutely huge, and the reputational value to the water plant operator and their client, which was the state government, was strongly enhanced through our actions.
Q: Is there an example of an assessment that clearly shows the value of the UltraAnalytix system in terms of insights for the customer compared to other methods?
A: We had another tank, this time at a water plant in Sydney, that contained hypochlorite used in the disinfection process. Because of how the operators were using the tank, the hypochlorite was causing significant damage to its inside surface. By working with the operators, we were able to change the way they use that tank, the way they charged it and used the substances within it, to reduce that damage and extend the life of the tank.
The water industry is unique in terms of the way the industry is driven. We work very closely with water utilities, who are typically either government departments or contractors to government, and their aim in life is about serving their communities. It’s not about profit, it’s not about money. And so, their skill set is very different compared to a commercial enterprise, and the way they approach their assets from that point of view can be quite different. It’s all about quality of service; it’s all about the quality of water. In Australia, we have a standard called the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines which they’ve all got to adhere to. Public health and safety are paramount in terms of the way they operate their assets and making sure that the vessels and chemicals they work with are used properly and contained properly. Protecting the environment and protecting the consumer is paramount in everything they do.
Q: What’s it like working with UTComp as an UltraAnalytix licensee? What impact has it had on your business?
A: Dealing with UTComp has been an absolute pleasure. We seem to have a couple of curly questions for them every few weeks. Jeff’s ability to deal with the technical answers, making sure that we’re supporting our customers effectively, and Joanne’s ability to shape a commercial product and bring the product to market, has been exemplary. Their support to us as a licensee has been without peer. I don’t think we could ask for any more out of a relationship. We’ve found as we’ve matured as a business in terms of our knowledge of the asset maintenance end of the market, Jeff and Joanne have very much come along for the ride. We’re now moving into an era where it’s a two-way street, where we’re presenting opportunities back to UTComp to share, not only with them but their licensees around the world. We consider ourselves to be part of the UTComp family, and frankly, I couldn’t imagine our asset maintenance business without them.
Q: Are there any new developments for your business that you’d like to share?
A: We operate quite a unique model, but RCP Technologies is primarily a manufacturer. We manufacture FRP for all sorts of applications, both in Australia and Southeast Asia. We feel this end of the business makes us a more holistic company. Being able to maintain the assets we build, and others build, means that we work with our client through the full life cycle of their equipment. We don’t use our asset maintenance business to pitch for new work, we use it to sweat the assets, and add value for our clients. That means that we very much look for opportunities to do further research, and work with our clients to go on that journey of a deeper dive of understanding. Right at the moment, we’re spending a lot of time, effort and money in the desalination industry, coming up with some exciting opportunities to work with desalination facilities, both in Australia and overseas, in making sure they’re getting the best value for money and running their plants.
Q: What new developments, challenges or opportunities do you see ahead for the industry in general?
A: RPC Technologies is a manufacturer, but that’s not the end of the story. Being a manufacturer means that you respond to a tender, you build an asset on behalf of a client, you move on. We want to be far more than that. And UltraAnalytix gives us the tools to make sure that we’re working with our clients on a whole-of-life basis, that we work with them to maintain their asset, and we work with them in terms of their asset management plan to know when the right time is for that investment to be renewed. We can now do that with a high level of data and a high level of integrity, that the answers we’re giving clients are not based on a sales outcome for us, but are based on a net asset life answer for them. That’s an absolute game changer in terms of the way FRP is viewed in the marketplace, and the value that UTComp and RPC bring to the marketplace.