Asset integrity demands special people with special approach.

28/07/2017

Staff responsible for asset integrity should be ‘cup half empty’ types; they should be intuitively sceptical and constantly expect the worst to happen because asset failure can have extremely serious safety, environmental and financial effects. In addition, these people need to possess a highly methodical, risk-based approach to asset management, with almost obsessive attention to detail.

The pressure for ageing assets to perform for extended periods has probably never been greater, so the demand for effective, reliable inspections is enormous. However, there is also pressure for this work to be as fast and efficient as possible in order to minimise down-time. The protection of asset integrity therefore relies on the availability of inspection tools that meet this demand.

As NDT Market Manager at Ashtead Technology, one of Steve Drake’s responsibilities is to ensure that the company’s fleet of rental and sale instruments meet the demands of the asset integrity testing community, so he is well placed to comment on the latest technological developments. “Many NDT technologies are high value items, so it doesn’t make financial sense to purchase this equipment for occasional use. We invest in these instruments so that our clients don’t have to. By making this equipment available for hire, we provide access to the latest technology without the burden of capital cost. But that’s not the only driver behind our investments; in addition to financial choice, we also aim to offer technology choice, which means that we continually invest in a variety of technologies so that customers can select the instrument that best suits their application.”

A further advantage of instrument rental lies with the ability to call upon technology at short notice – when existing equipment is in use elsewhere or becomes unavailable for some reason. As a result, the ability to dip into a pool of rental instruments allows asset inspectors to avoid the costs of over-tooling.

Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI)
Corrosion under insulation has long been an insidious form of corrosion because traditionally it has been difficult to measure and predict without physically removing the insulation. The potential costs of CUI are also enormous, so the launch of the Eddyfi Lyft is highly significant because it provides asset inspection and maintenance staff with a fast, reliable, flexible tool for this vital work.

The Eddyfi Lyft employs Pulsed Eddy Current (PEC) in a portable, rugged, battery-powered NDT instrument with connect-anywhere wired and wireless communications. Designed to improve the speed, ease and quality of inspections with real-time C-scan imaging, the Lyft offers fast data acquisition (up to 15 readings per second) grid-mapping and dynamic scanning modes. Three different sized standard probes and a specialised splash-zone probe enable the inspection of wall thicknesses up to 64mm, insulation up to 203mm thick (fibreglass, plastic wrap, concrete, or other non-ferrous materials), as well as stainless steel, aluminium, and galvanized steel weather jackets.

The Lyft’s unique compensated wall thickness (CWT) tool improves inspection accuracy by quantifying the minimum wall thickness of a specific region in a C-scan, and specialised algorithms isolate a defect’s contribution to the signal to more precisely compute remaining wall thickness.

The potential for CUI is greatest in marine environments, hot and humid environments, and in locations with high rainfall, aggressive atmospheres or steam tracing leaks. Intermittent wet and dry conditions, or systems that operate below the dew point can encourage CUI and some insulating materials may contain contaminants such as sulphides and chlorides, or may retain moisture, or be designed in a way that restricts moisture drainage.

In addition to CUI, applications for the Eddyfi Lyft include corrosion under fireproofing, flow-accelerated corrosion, corrosion blisters and scabs, splash zone and underwater, surface corrosion, and corrosion under coatings and at waterworks.

Corrosion Inspection
The Olympus OmniScan phased array ultrasonic systems are some of the most popular instruments in Ashtead’s entire rental fleet. The OmniScan MX2 for example increases testing efficiencies, ensuring superior manual and advanced UT performance with faster setups, test cycles, and reporting, in addition to universal compatibility with all phased array and ultrasound modules. The MX2 unit is equipped with advanced features such as the ability to use PA and UT channels simultaneously. As a modular platform, the MX2 houses more than 10 different Olympus modules and Ashtead Technology’s engineers are able to advise on the best setup for every application.

The Olympus HydroFORM corrosion mapping scanner employs an ingenious water-column concept that eliminates the need for a wedge, thereby providing the benefits of a phased array immersion-tank inspection. Designed for the detection of wall-thickness reductions due to corrosion, abrasion, and erosion the HydroFORM also detects mid-wall damage such as hydrogen-induced blistering or manufacturing-induced laminations, and can easily differentiate these anomalies from loss of wall thickness.

In applications such as corrosion mapping, delamination or defect detection in composites, bond inspection and crack detection with eddy current arrays, the Phoenix ISL Tracer freehand scanning system calculates and outputs accurate X-Y positional data for C-scan inspections without the constraints of a scanning frame. The Tracer can be used on an inspection area of up to 2m x 2m from a single position, even in difficult to access areas. Importantly, it does not lose position when the probe is lifted off the surface and then replaced, so maximum scan coverage is achieved up to and around obstructions.

The Silverwing Scorpion is a motorised magnetic inspection tool, able to inspect vertical, curved and even overhead surfaces. Designed for cost-effective A and B-scan inspections, the Scorpion is a dry-coupled UT crawler that connects with the UT Lite data acquisition instrument via a 30 meter umbilical cord. Dry coupling removes the need for a constant water supply and a magnet in front of the wheel probe removes the cost and safety issues associated with scaffolding or rope access. When combined with the UT Lite the Scorpion continuously records thickness measurements as it moves over the inspection surface. The recorded thickness information is presented in the software as an A-scan trace, a digital thickness measurement and a B-scan profile.

Steve Drake summarising said: “Every tank, pipe or vessel is different; not just in age and material of construction, but also in build and maintenance quality. The environment can also have a significant impact on the quality and integrity of an asset, as can operational conditions. It is important therefore for inspection staff to deploy the most appropriate instrumentation, which is why our customers find it so useful to be able to select from a large fleet of the latest technologies and to seek our advice when making these important choices.”

#NDT @ashteadtech  #PAuto
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Testing conditions for tank testers.

19/06/2016

In addition to the financial implications of the loss of product, leakage from storage tanks can cause serious environmental damage and represent a grave threat to health and safety. In some circumstances, particularly when the stored materials are combustible or explosive, leakage can result in a major incident involving the loss of life and substantial damage to assets and to an organisation’s brand. Regular inspection of tanks is therefore essential in order to identify any potential for future leaks, arising from corrosion, damage or insufficient material thickness or strength.

The variability in tank type, age and condition means that a wide variety of technologies are required in order to conduct effective inspections. The data derived from this work is used to inform an effective tank maintenance, repair and replacement programme. A rigorous inspection programme therefore reduces risk and avoids downtime; protecting sites from environmental and safety impacts, and the costs associated with decontamination and clean up.

TankInspection_Ashtead

Steve Drake, Ashtead’s NDT Market Manager, believes that the most efficient approach to the maintenance of tank structural and operational integrity is based on a flexible non-intrusive inspection programme. He says: “Routine calendar-based inspections that rely on historical data, such as fabrication material and age, risk ignoring current conditions and environmental factors. In contrast, we have customers using a range of inspection instrumentation that enables the assessment of current tank condition, often without interrupting tank service, so that an appropriate inspection frequency can be determined.

“By employing a range of technologies, inspection engineers are able to ensure that all potential risks are assessed, and that inspection frequency is optimised to minimise costs.”

Inspection also helps demonstrate compliance with relevant standards and codes, and provides reliable data on tank capacity; ensuring safe storage of materials such as chemicals, petroleum products and liquefied gases in both underground and above ground tanks.

A wide variety of technologies are employed for the inspection of tanks, and these instruments are amongst the most popular in Ashtead Technology’s fleet of rental equipment. The company’s customers are able to select instruments for Non Destructive Testing (NDT), providing data for thickness, corrosion, cracks, flaws and weld integrity. Remote Visual Inspection (RVI) instruments are also available to inspect the difficult to access locations that exist inside most tanks.

Tank inspection case study – anaerobic sludge digesters
An Ashtead Technology customer was contracted by a British utility to inspect its anaerobic digestion (AD) tanks. In applications involving potentially explosive gases, an intrinsically safe certified push-rod inspection camera is recommended. Following the development of a customised access point, inspection engineers were able to produce comprehensive images and videos showing the condition of the digester’s roof and walls.

The tanks were fabricated in GFS (Glass-Fused-to-Steel), a material which combines the strength of flexibility of steel with the corrosion resistance of glass. Consequently, GFS is commonly employed in applications with aggressive environments such as those inside anaerobic digesters – high temperature, high humidity, methane and hydrogen sulphide. An intrinsically safe Pearpoint P374 camera system was used to inspect the AD tanks, in conjunction with a digital video recorder.

Commenting on the success of the project, Ashtead’s customer said: “We built a customised ‘launch tube’ on one of the purge points on the roof and attached nylon to the camera tip so that we could video every surface once the probe was lowered into the ‘live’ digester.

“We were delighted with the results of the survey because we were able to demonstrate the condition of the tank very effectively, without having to decommission the digester.

“We were very impressed with Ashtead Technology because they ensured that we utilised exactly the right kit, and it was delivered and collected very quickly, which helped keep our costs to a minimum.”

Vessel inspection case study – chemical manufacturer
A chemical manufacturer in the North West of England had a requirement to inspect a large stainless steel vessel. The contents of the vessel were typically saline and varied between 50 and 100 Deg C, so the site managers were concerned that stress corrosion cracking might be a possibility.

Inspection engineers believed that Eddy Current Testing with the Eddyfi Ectane Surface Inspection System Ectane would be ideal for this application, so an Ectane was taken to the customer’s site to provide a demonstration. To test the Ectane’s ability to detect stress corrosion cracking in 10mm stainless steel, the client provided a test sample for inspection, and a flaw was correctly identified. As a result, Ashtead’s customer was awarded a contract to inspect the vessel and an Ectane was hired specifically for this purpose.

The Ectane is a multi-technology test instrument, and in addition to Eddy Current Testing, it is also able to perform Eddy current array (ECA), Remote-field testing (RFT), Near-field testing (NFT), Magnetic flux leakage (MFL) and Internal rotating inspection system (IRIS) ultrasonic tube testing.

The external inspection of the vessel took around 2 hours and covered a surface area of around 16m2 and the vessel was found to be free from any detectable stress corrosion cracking. Commenting on the effectiveness of the inspection technology, Ashtead’s customer said: “We have been very pleased with the Ectane; eddy current testing worked very well and at just 7Kg and battery powered, the instrument has been well designed for field applications.

“Our engineers wore rubber boots, gloves and goggles, but the Ectane was still simple to operate, partly because it can be run independently of a computer. Once the work was complete, the instrument was connected to an office PC running ‘Magnifi’ software, which is supplied with the instrument, and this provided a quick and easy method for analysing the data and helping to produce reports.”

Specialist tank inspection technology
In addition to a wide range of NDT and RVI equipment, Ashtead’s fleet of rental instrumentation now includes some of the latest technology for fast, effective tank inspection. For example, Silverwing, a leading manufacturer of NDT solutions for storage tanks, vessels and pipe inspection, has appointed Ashtead Technology as its Preferred Rental Partner in the UK. The Silverwing products offer motorised magnetic inspection; the Scorpion for example, can inspect vertical, curved and even overhead surfaces.

Designed for cost-effective A and B-scan inspection on ferro-magnetic structures, the Scorpion is a dry-coupled UT crawler that connects with the UT Lite data acquisition instrument via a 30 meter umbilical cord. This removes the cost and safety issues associated with scaffolding or rope access. The UT Lite is a portable corrosion profiling, mapping and weld inspection system that can also be used in conjunction with the R-Scan; a manual, dry-coupled ultrasonic scanner for a wide variety of assets ranging from 50 mm diameter pipes to flat surfaces.

Other Silverwing additions to the Ashtead Technology fleet include the RMS2 (Rapid Motion Scanner) a high speed (17m2/8 hour shift), high accuracy, remote access ultrasonic corrosion mapping system and the RMS2 ARC accessory for longitudinal scanning on pipe diameters from 24” to 48”.

Summarising the importance of technology selection, Steve Drake says: “Every tank is different; not just in age and material of construction, but also in build quality and operational conditions. The environment can also have a significant impact on tank quality and integrity, as can operational conditions.

“It is vitally important that all potential risks are assessed, which is why we offer such a wide range of the latest technologies; offering customers the opportunity to make sure that they use the most appropriate inspection tools for every tank or vessel.”

@ashteadtech #PAuto #NDT

To Buy, or Not to Buy – that is the question!

14/05/2016
This year marks the 400 anniversary, incredibly on the same day, 23rd April 1616, of the death of two European pioneers in two forms of literature. The first was of course Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra author of the great work of Fiction, Don Quijote de la Mancha, the first modern novel. The second was that great English playwright and poet  Willaim Shakespeare.
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Ashtead Technology hath mused upon the merits of renting equipment and compared them with the advantages of purchase.
The text doth contain a few Shakespearean references, but not too many, for an honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.

Several years ago Ashtead Technology was known as Ashtead Technology Rentals, and specialised in hiring the latest technology for those with a short-term or project-based instrumentation requirement. However, many of Ashtead’s customers had a frequent requirement for the same instrument, so the company now also offers instruments for sale. Nevertheless, the decision on whether to rent or buy is affected by a number of factors, and these are discussed below.

Prelude

tobuyortohire

To buy or to sell, that is the question!

Ashtead Technology supplies a comprehensive range of instruments for Non Destructive Testing (NDT), Remote Visual Inspection (RVI), Environmental Monitoring and Health & Safety.

An Engineer’s Midsummer Night’s Dream?
The dream of every test, monitoring and inspection engineer is to have exactly the right instrument, employing the latest technology, in perfect condition at exactly the right time, in the ideal location. However, these dream conditions only exist for a short while after purchase, because technology moves on and once an investment has been made in a specific technology, customers are less likely to be able to take advantage of newer technologies as they arise.

‘Can one desire too much of a good thing?’
When there is a requirement for new instrumentation, the first thought in most people’s minds (except perhaps the Financial Director’s) is generally to consider purchase. This is the best option when there is likely to be a frequent demand for the instrument, or when it can be shared amongst a group. It is therefore important when making the decision on whether to purchase or rent, to check that a purchase decision is not simply based on a personal desire to take ownership. This is because ownership comes with costs; instruments incur an annual cost because they are written off in the accounts over a few years, and because they generally incur other costs such as maintenance, calibration and storage. In addition, money spent on purchases could have been utilised in a more profitable manner – this is the ‘opportunity cost’ of ownership. For example, the capital could have been used to reduce debt, or it could have been invested elsewhere, in stock, staff, training, marketing etc. As the saying goes: ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ so if a company with an overdraft purchases instruments, one of the hidden costs is the interest that will be incurred as a result of the purchase.

‘Having nothing, nothing can he lose’
Some of the potential problems with ownership are theft, damage and even loss. Renting avoids these issues and ensures that responsibility and therefore risk is confined to the rental period alone. Occasionally, justification for instrument purchase is made on the grounds of shared use, but this can incur problems – if one user has a requirement in Stratford and another Bankside in London; they may need the kit at the same time, or one user may fail to deliver the kit on-time or in the best condition.

As you like it
Those that rent instruments are able to choose the instrument that best suits their needs. This means more than just having access to the latest technology because renters have the opportunity to select the specification/model that best meets their needs. This is where Ashtead’s experienced and highly trained staff are able to offer help and advice. For example, the choice of NDT equipment is influenced by the material to be tested, how thick it is, the type of flaw to be detected, the application, the skill of the operator etc. Similarly, different gas analysers are required for different gases, and different remote camera crawlers are necessary for different drain sizes.

‘Delays have dangerous ends’
Having chosen the best instrument, it is essential for it to be onsite, in the right place, at the right time, ready for immediate work. This is because a delayed instrument or an instrument that isn’t ready for use (because the last user did not clean it down adequately or because it is out of calibration), can hold up work and waste time or extend downtime in production facilities. This is of spectacular importance in the construction industry – often Ashtead Technology supplies an array of inspection equipment when highways and motorways are closed (at enormous cost) to enable the inspection of bridges for example. Under these circumstances it is vital for engineers to have every piece of inspection equipment available onsite that might be necessary, in case it is.

A comedy of errors
In order to avoid the use of inappropriate equipment, or for equipment to be used in an inappropriate way, Ashtead Technology invests heavily in its fleet of instruments so that customers are able to choose the right kit. Some might say that this is much ado about nothing, but testing, monitoring and inspection is serious work, so Ashtead staff receive regular training from manufacturers so that they can recommend the best instruments and give advice on how they should be deployed.

Many customers regard Ashtead Technology as their instrumentation partner – responsible for constantly reviewing the market and investing in technology, so that they don’t have to.

In summary, it makes sense to purchase when there is a frequent intended use and when the hidden costs of an in-house instrument do not outweigh the advantages of rental. With enormous experience across a wide range of products, Ashtead’s staff are able to provide unbiased recommendations on which kit to use and whether to buy, or not to buy.

WS-MdeC

Two literary giants William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes who both died 23 April 1616


Strategies for equipment inspection and maintenance!

26/09/2015
Will Russell, Senior Technician at Ashtead Technology, examines some of the key features of an effective inspection and maintenance strategy, and explains some of the advantages to be gained from renting specialist equipment.

iniucadhThere can be nothing more frustrating than a vital piece of equipment failing to perform when it is needed most. Not only can this result in infuriating delays and unforeseen expenses, but it can also affect production performance, let down customers and damage a company’s reputation. Maintenance is a vitally important component of risk reduction and is most effective when predictive maintenance is employed in conjunction with an effective test and monitoring regime. However, in order for this monitoring to be as effective as possible, it is necessary to utilise high quality test equipment that is itself well-maintained and calibrated. These instruments should be able to perform the latest tests, employing the latest technologies and running the latest software.

Choosing a maintenance strategy
Regular inspection and maintenance does not necessarily guarantee successful avoidance of downtime. It is important that the correct inspection strategy is adopted and that the quality of the inspection work is sufficient to enable proactive maintenance. Monitoring regimes that are either reactive or preventative are more likely to fail. Where it is assumed that equipment will reach a ‘wear out’ date, preventative maintenance may seek to postpone this, often as part of a conservative maintenance schedule. This time-based approach can be expensive in comparison with a functional and condition-based strategy. Reactive maintenance is very much a ‘fail and fix it’ approach, that is inherently expensive, due to high repair costs and the resulting costs of downtime.

Best practice when maintaining equipment requires a predictive and proactive strategy, which not only monitors actual equipment condition, but also investigates any drop in performance and corrects this at source. This may mean that organisational procedures may need to be changed. For example, if a specific component is found to perform poorly, re-design or the identification of an alternative source may be necessary. Swiftly and expertly responding to equipment condition ensures flawless operation, prolongs equipment functionality and improves economic performance.

Instrument strategy
An efficacious and dynamic maintenance strategy is clearly a major contributor to the reduction of risk and therefore to a company’s success, but there are a number of questions to be considered:

  1. Is the inspection regime designed to identify flaws before they are able to affect performance?
  2. Is an appropriate level of technical expertise available to set up and run the latest inspection instrumentation?
  3. Is the inspection equipment well maintained, calibrated and ready for deployment?
  4. How often is the inspection equipment required?

If the test and inspection equipment is not in frequent use, it often makes sense to rent specific instruments as and when they are required. Rented instruments are also employed when specific technology is required or when an urgent replacement to an in-house instrument is necessary. However, there are numerous other advantages to be gained from instrument hire.

The benefits of renting specialist equipment
The financial advantages of renting are well known; equipment purchase can involve a significant capital cost, particularly for the most advanced inspection instruments, so renting provides an opportunity to only incur operational costs when the technology is required. However, a major advantage of renting is that it provides continual access to the latest equipment. In contrast instrument purchase locks the technology at that moment in time and precludes access to subsequent developments. Ashtead Technology therefore works closely with leading manufacturers to ensure that its fleet of rental instruments offers the latest, most advanced technology. Often this new equipment is easier to use, faster, with improved reporting and a higher probability of flaw detection. Similarly, the breadth of Ashtead’s rental fleet means that customers can select the instrument that is best for their specific job. Rented instruments are delivered at exactly the time and location at which they are required, tested, calibrated and ready for work, so there are no issues with instrument maintenance and storage.

Clearly there are myriad advantages to renting over purchasing specialist equipment, but perhaps the most important is the transferal of responsibility for the product’s condition. Renting equipment from a specialist supplier means that not only are instruments cared for by a team of qualified, skilled engineers that have been trained on these specific instruments, but also that expert technical support, advice and guidance are provided. Instruments are constantly evolving, so their maintenance is often best provided by those with specialist training and experience.

Typical test and inspection equipment includes Non-Destructive Testing instruments, Visual Inspection kit including Videoprobes, Borescopes and Robotic Crawler Cameras and Environmental Monitoring equipment such as dust, vapour, and toxic gas detectors, and water quality monitors.

In summary, a clear inspection and maintenance strategy should be designed to avoid downtime and ensure the smooth operation of a plant whilst minimising costs and utilising the latest technology to ensure that problems are identified before they are able to affect production. Ashtead Technology’s business is founded in the belief that instrument rental provides an opportunity to achieve this.


Is hiring instruments a good safety bet?

12/05/2014

Why instrument hire makes occupational safety sense!

Decisions concerning the acquisition of occupational safety monitoring instrumentation are often made by operational staff that may not have visibility of the full financial implications of their choices. This article, by James Carlyle of Ashtead Technology, examines the factors affecting these decisions and explain why a strategic decision to hire instrumentation can deliver substantial and wide-ranging advantages.

Background
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (originally introduced in Britain 1993 in response to an EU Directive) require employers and self-employed people ‘to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety.’  However, the risks arising from toxic gases, dust, explosive mixtures and oxygen depletion can be complex and constantly changing. So, in addition to an initial risk assessment, ongoing monitoring is often necessary to ensure the protection of staff and others.

Employers may choose to conduct their own testing and monitoring, or they may prefer to employ the services of professional consultants to conduct the risk assessments. Either way, the employer of the consultant has to decide whether to purchase the instrumentation or to rent it.

The risks
Before examining the ways in which testing and monitoring should be undertaken, it is first necessary to consider the risks that need to be assessed.

Fire and/or an explosion can result from an excess of oxygen in the atmosphere, for example, from an oxygen cylinder leak, or an explosion may occur from the ignition of airborne flammable contaminants that may have arisen from a leak or spillage from nearby processes.

Toxic gas detection

Toxic gas detection

Toxic gases, fumes or vapours may also arise from leaks and spills, or from disturbed deposits or cleaning processes. Gases and fumes can accumulate in confined spaces such as sewers, manholes and contaminated ground. They can also build up in confined workspaces for welding, flame cutting, lead lining, brush and spray painting, or moulding using glass reinforced plastics, use of adhesives or solvents. Carbon monoxide, particulates and hydrocarbons may also become a problem in situations where the products of combustion are not exhausted adequately. Plant failure can also create gaseous hazards. For example, ammonia levels may increase if refrigeration plant fails or carbon dioxide may accumulate in some pub cellars following leaks from compressed gas cylinders.

Oxygen depletion in workplace air can cause headaches, breathlessness, confusion, fainting and even death. There are many situations in which this can occur; for example:

  • Workers breathing in confined spaces where replacement air is inadequate
  • Oxygen consumption by biological processes in sewers, storage tanks, storm water drains, wells etc.
  • Fermentation in agricultural silos or in brewing processes
  • Certain goods in cargo containers
  • Vessels that have been completely closed for a long time (particularly those constructed of steel) since the process of rust formation on the inside surface consumes oxygen
  • Increased levels of carbon dioxide from wet limestone chippings associated with drainage operations
  • Combustion operations and work such as welding and grinding
  • Displacement of air during pipe freezing, for example, with liquid nitrogen
  • Purging of a confined space with an inert gas to remove flammable or toxic gas, fume, vapour or aerosols
TSI Dustrak

TSI Dustrak

The COSHH definition of a substance hazardous to health includes dust of any kind when present at a concentration in air equal to or greater than 10 mg/m3 8-hour TWA of inhalable dust or 4 mg/m3 8-hour TWA of respirable dust. This means that any dust will be subject to COSHH if people are exposed above these levels. Some dusts have been assigned specific Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) and exposure to these must comply with the appropriate limit.

Most industrial dusts contain particles with a wide range of size, mass and chemical composition. As a result, their effects on human health vary greatly. However, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) distinguishes two size fractions for limit-setting purposes termed ‘inhalable’ and ‘respirable’.

Inhalable dust approximates to the fraction of airborne material that enters the nose and mouth during breathing and is therefore available for deposition in the respiratory tract. Respirable dust approximates to the fraction that penetrates to the gaseous exchange region of the lungs. Where dusts contain components that have their own assigned WEL, all the relevant limits should be complied with.

The financial justification for instrument hire
For most of us, when we need something, assuming funds are available, we buy it. At Ashtead Technology, we challenge that assumption; unless the required instrument is either very low cost or likely to be deployed on a frequent basis, it rarely makes sense to purchase the equipment. There are many reasons for this, but the most important is of course financial, however, operational staff are not always aware of the full cost of purchase, because the detail is hidden in the company’s accounts.

Capital purchases are generally written off in the company accounts over a 3, 4 or 5 year period. This means that the cost of ownership is at least 20% of the capital cost per year and possibly over 33%. However, there are of course other costs of ownership – most instruments require regular maintenance and calibration which itself involves further costs both in terms of materials and labour. A gas analyser, for example, would require calibration gases and associated valves and safety equipment; trained staff would be required to ensure that the instrument is calibrated correctly, and consumables such as filters and replacement gases would be required. The same issues arise with other types of instrumentation; all of which require maintenance by suitably trained and qualified staff. Consequently, the annual cost of instrument ownership can easily exceed 50% of the purchase cost.

Another significant financial cost is the ‘opportunity cost’ of the money that is tied up in a purchase; capital expenditure on equipment represents money that could have been used for other purposes – for investing in raw materials, staff, training, marketing, new premises etc. Alternatively that money could have been invested and delivered a return.

In addition to the financial justification, there are many more reasons to hire…

Renting provides appropriate technology
Once an instrument is purchased, the company is committed to that technology for the next few years and this can be a major disadvantage. For example, if a company purchases a PID gas detector for the measurement of solvents, it may find later that there is also a requirement to monitor methane, and the PID would not be suitable for this, so a second analyser would be necessary; an FID for example. Similarly, the company may discover at a later date that solvent speciation is necessary, which again, the PID would fail to achieve.

The same principle applies to other applications. For example, if a basic infrared camera is purchased and it later transpires that higher resolution images are required, a second more expensive camera would be necessary.

From a corporate perspective, instrument purchase can have negative implications because instruments are often shared amongst different departments and between different sites. However, it is unlikely that one technology or one particular instrument is able to meet everybody’s needs, so it is likely that each person will seek to acquire their own instrument; firstly to ensure that they get the kit that they need, but also so that their access to instrumentation is not limited because it is in use elsewhere. If each person is allowed to purchase their own kit; whilst this might be an extremely costly option, it does at least encourage ‘ownership’ so that the equipment is properly maintained. In contrast, shared ownership often results in poor maintenance because none of the staff take responsibility for ensuring that the equipment is serviced and maintained correctly.

Renting instrumentation ensures that all staff have continual access to a range of different technologies, so they do not have to ‘make do’ with whatever happens to be available at the time they need it. If a company has purchased an instrument, its staff are more likely to use it ‘because it is there’ rather than because it is the most appropriate technology.

Renting provides access to new technology
One of the problems with buying an instrument is that your technology is then stuck in a moment of time; inevitably new instruments are developed that are better than their predecessors, but once an instrument has been purchased it is not possible to take advantage of new technology. In contrast, with the benefits of scale, Ashtead is able to continually invest in new technology so that the rental fleet provides access to the latest technology and customers are therefore able to choose the instruments that best meet their needs.

Renting eliminates storage and maintenance costs
One of the common features of all instruments is that they require regular maintenance and in many cases calibration. This is often a skilled activity that requires training and appropriate equipment. Ashtead Technology’s engineers are therefore equipped with all of the necessary equipment to service and maintain every instrument in the rental fleet. They are also trained by manufacturers, so that all instruments can be delivered tested and ready for immediate use. Storage can also represent a cost for the larger pieces of equipment, especially if it is not possible to store the instruments in the same location as the main users.

Technical support from rental companies
Instrumentation is constantly evolving; newer instruments are usually more accurate, more sensitive, faster, lighter, and easier to use. However, the array of instruments available can be bewildering so it is often helpful to discuss options with an Ashtead Technology engineer before making a choice, and then after the instrument is delivered, many customers value telephone support during the setup and operation of the instrument.

Summary
The basic premise behind Ashtead Technology’s business is an intense focus on providing customers with exactly the right equipment at the precise moment that they need it. We therefore seek to become our clients’ instrumentation partner; saving them time and money, and ensuring that they always have access to the best available technologies. This is achieved by:

  • Continually searching the market, looking for the best technologies from the world’s leading suppliers
  • Utilising expert knowledge and buying power to ensure that our fleet of instruments includes a broad selection of the best available technologies
  • Manufacturer training for our engineers
  • Investing in the equipment, spares and consumables for servicing, calibrating and maintaining the entire instrumentation fleet

We invest in these measures so that our clients don’t have to.


Instruments down the drain!

18/11/2013
CCTV hire supports excellence in drain services

With more than 40 regional drain cleaning service centres across Britain, Metro Rod provides a 24 hour service to anyone with blocked or damaged drains, pipes, toilets, sinks etc. To support this capability, the company and its franchisees maintain a fleet of the latest equipment such as tankers, high pressure jets, excavators, pipe liners and CCTV surveying equipment.

InpsectionFamilyTo ensure a fast and effective response to all customer requests during periods of peak demand, many of the franchisees take advantage of Ashtead Technology’s equipment rental fleet. For example, Ryan Davis is the owner and manager of the Metro Rod franchise for London East Central. With many years of experience managing Metro Rod in this area, Ryan has established a highly trained team of engineers supported by heavy investment in equipment such as a 3,000 gallon tanker and the latest CCTV drain inspection equipment. However, Ryan says: “Occasionally we need to undertake drain surveys in different locations at the same time, and we also receive enquiries that necessitate more specialised inspection cameras, so if our own equipment is unavailable, it is very useful to be able to hire the best instrument for the job.

“Ashtead Technology maintains a comprehensive fleet of the latest inspection tools including robotic camera crawlers and push-rod cameras and videoprobes, so we are able to quickly supplement our own equipment as and when we need to. This helps to ensure that our customers receive the best service possible.”

Metro Rod’s customers range from domestic customers with a blocked pipe or drain, to large water utilities that rely on a rapid response to any problems in the water and wastewater distribution network. In addition to emergency response, Metro Rod also provides routine preventative maintenance services to a wide range of organisations. For example, the south London franchisee provides ongoing service to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, including a major service in June, immediately prior to the Championships.

The ongoing operation of many industrial processes relies on the effective discharge of effluent, and any problem in this waste stream can limit or even halt production. Metro Rod’s national network of local teams means that the company is able to provide a fast and effective solution to blockages and related problems in pipes, drains and culverts.

“This ability to respond quickly to customer requests is a key feature of our business,” says Metro Rod’s Marketing Manager Ieuan Nicholls. “Our teams are highly trained and experienced, and they are equipped with the latest equipment to ensure prompt resolution of any problems.

“The facility to rent inspection equipment during periods of high demand means that we can ensure that we have the right kit on the ground for every job.”

Ashtead Technology’s Jay Neermul agrees: “It would not make financial sense for any company to purchase the volume of inspection equipment required to meet the highest level of need, because, by definition, a significant proportion of this equipment would lie unused, depreciating for much of the time.

“We have invested in our wastewater inspection fleet to meet increased demand, and have recently ordered more of the latest crawler units and pushrod cameras. We are therefore delighted to be able to partner with Metro Rod’s teams to ensure that they have exactly the right kit, wherever and whenever they need it.”