Service Matters

What to Look for Before You Buy an NDT Inspection System

By Connie Hanzlik / July 15, 2021

During her long career, Kathy Scott has seen first-hand the benefits of considering service when selecting a non-destructive test (NDT) inspection system. “Over the 29 years I’ve been in the industry, the one thing I hear from customers over and over again is the importance of excellent service,” Scott said.


As Service Sales Director at YXLON International/Comet Technologies USA Inc., she has learned that service and support should rate nearly as high in the decision to purchase a system as the system itself. The right service package will help:
 
  • Reduce downtime
  • Improve inspection quality
  • Provide operational safety
  • Minimize operating costs
  • Prolong system life

Define the Right Service Plan from the Start

When an organization is thinking about buying an NDT inspection system, Scott will many times accompany the sales staff to fully understanding the organization’s needs. She can recommend and tailor the right service plan for their specific needs. For example, a lab will have different service requirements than a manufacturer using automatic defect recognition on a 24/7 production line.

“I'll meet with a potential customer and show them different service options, ask many questions, and try to anticipate the support they will need during installation and for the long term,” she said. Scott puts in the same amount of effort when working with a repeat customer, even on systems they have purchased before because needs and systems change.


Image 1. Depth of service offerings should take high consideration

Service is key to getting the most out of any inspection system, and to continue to enhance the ROI of capital equipment into the next decade or longer. Here are some important value-added services to consider:

Installation and Setup

To ensure reliable system operation, the service team should handle the installation and set-up of any NDT inspection system. Not only are these experts better equipped to handle the installation itself but relying on them will also enable any product warranties. During installation, service engineers should help train internal operators on proper system implementation. Thorough training courses will enable rapid familiarization with the new system and ensure better inspections down the road. Basic training sessions should give workers the ability to configure and operate the imaging software with certainty, and to set up program flows per the application’s specifications.

Production Support

The service team should also be able to provide immediate support for limited production runs or other time-sensitive tasks. At a basic level, this includes the ability to easily provide help online or via phone. There will be times when in-person on-site support is necessary. The NDT partner should be able to quickly send an expert to the installed system location.

The NDT partner should offer customer relationship management software to view customer historical data and use the data to identify trends on the stability of the system. This enables the service expert to suggest needed maintenance, upgrades, and spare parts inventory. Some go an additional step and are transparent with the customer about this data.

Some NDT partners are digitalizing the service processes, which involves creating so-called digital twins, or exact digital representations, of the inspection systems. These simplify the work of the service teams by creating a basis for predictive maintenance.

Ongoing Maintenance and Repairs

Preventive maintenance is key to the longevity of any NDT inspection system. Maintenance checks are usually scheduled annually or biannually, although the partner should be able to conduct visits at whatever intervals are required. Having the service team assist with preventive maintenance at regular intervals will help to:
 
  • Increase system lifespan
  • Ensure and preserve operational reliability
  • Guarantee operational safety
  • Avoid costly damage and downtime


Image 2. Designed for the cabinet to open fully for ease of service in mind (Yxlon Cougar EVO - nondestructive testing of electronics shown)

Maintenance is not just about preventing major problems, but also about dealing with normal wear and tear. Scott says “It is good to have a spare parts package worked into a service plan. Look for consignment inventory with a ‘pay as you go’ model or other custom options. ‘Pay as you go’ enables the customer to stock parts inhouse that are known to have a shorter life span, to be used and invoiced individually, as needed. Also, for continuous operations like a production line, having a service team with a deep well of knowledge and ability to help remotely or to arrive in person quickly can be a critical resource.” “For 24/7 operations, part availability is the number one thing that I hear about,” said Scott. “Having service engineers who quickly respond by phone, in person or virtually is a close second. With consignment inventory and reliable service response times, customers can stay on track with their production goals.”

Another very important decision option that should be made available is whether to purchase minimal or ‘bumper-to-bumper’ warranty options. A minimal warranty may be the best choice financially, but it may need to be enhanced with additional service options as time goes by.

Upgrades and System Improvement Options

Because businesses likely will not look the same five years from now as they do today, ongoing upgrades and system improvements can help companies using non-destructive testing (NDT) stay competitive. Keeping technology up to date will help quality managers to not only improve system performance and efficiency, but also help to extend the product life of their systems. Service plans should include regular hardware and software updates.

By the way, by purchasing an upgradeable system, a manufacturer can potentially save money down the road. For example, adding computed tomography (3D) capability to an existing 2D system rather than buying a new system may save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
 
Further/Ongoing Operator Training

NDT partners should be able to train workers on enhanced use of the NDT inspection system. This requires a close relationship with the partner, so the service team recognizes opportunities for improvement. The best and most relevant training happens onsite at the customer location using the customer’s own parts.


Image 3. Training is needed at different stages of system life including system installation, employee turnover, after updates/upgrades, etc.

Virtual training, like basic and special opt-in webinars with experts in non-destructive testing, will help to upskill current workers and to train new employees. The more workers understand about their system, the better they will be able to improve quality and manage issues on their own. For example, workers may receive training on how to replace parts and do other basic maintenance, decreasing downtime.

Service Matters for Inspection Systems

Supported by the right service plan, organizations will be positioned to get the most value out of their sizable investment in a digital radiography or computed tomography inspection system. According to Scott, “When customers find a good service plan from a reliable partner that actually delivers on those promises, then they know their needs are truly taken care of.”


Kathy Scott is Service Sales Director for Yxlon / Comet Technologies USA Inc.

YXLON has a full suite of service offerings including remote and on-site service, consignment parts inventory, training, updates and more.
If you have questions please contact us: service@yxlon.com.
 
Download the pdf here.

Read the article on Quality Magazine July issue here.