A Pandemic Transformed Quality Control
The pandemic was an extraordinarily disruptive experience for project owners, engineering firms, and fabricators. Employers have a duty of care to their workers and all people on their premises, particularly during a pandemic. As a result, all businesses were compelled to enforce their version of safety measures such as; social distancing in their shops, sanitizers at the door, plexiglass shields between desks in open-air offices, and the use of online applications to collaborate.
Some jobs proved to be particularly challenging. One such example is the role of the quality control (QC) professional, who would typically be repeatedly dispatched to the fabricator’s facilities to inspect work in progress and confirm that as-built assets match the designs. In a world of manual measurement tools like tape measures and spirit levels, and 2D drafts on paper, the only realistic way to conduct the inspections are to travel to the shop where the build is taking place.
What we learned from the pandemic
Travelers are a transmission vector for viruses, and health authorities reacted by closing international borders; even borders inside some countries were closed. Health insurance for traveling became unavailable, expensive last-minute pre-departure tests mandatory, and multi-day quarantines imposed on both sides of the border.
Assuming the QC professional could travel to the fabrication shop, they would likely find those shops are tightly confined spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained, and meeting spaces are limited. In addition, ventilation may not be up to a healthcare grade. The QC professional then climbs or crawls around the asset to use the tape measure and works collaboratively with the shop team.
The industrial logic to dispatch professionals to a supplier for inspections is predicated on the lack of viable alternatives. For QC inspections, shops now have a technology-enabled alternative that eliminates the need for travel with its associated costs and health concerns and fully enables social distancing protocols, and delivers a vastly superior QC outcome.
“Bring the shop to the quality control professional when your quality-control professional cannot travel to the shop.”
Forward-thinking fabricators are embracing 3D scans of as-built assets to improve the quality of their work and, as a side benefit, provide for a safer workplace. In addition, owners and designers capture cost savings by avoiding the need to send costly QC staff on the road and can boost the productivity of their quality control team by bringing the shop to them.
A laser scanned image captures an infinite number of measured points of the as-built asset, and that 3D image, as a virtual object, can be loaded to a database accessible through a simple browser. One such database is Glove Systems’ powerful 3D Fabrication control platform, Glove Fit. Glove Systems goes far beyond the limitations of today’s conventional measurement methods and represents the next generation of software-enabled fabrication quality control.
This application enables images to be scaled up or down, allowing for zooming in/out, a point-to-point measurement is taken from any two or more points, and complex angles and surfaces are confirmed. Additionally, shops can take 3D scans repeatedly throughout the build cycle to maintain tight control over the asset.
Now the QC professional can inspect the as-built asset from the safety and security of their workplace or home, virtually and without scaling ladders or crawling around heavy assets and equipment in dimly lit shops. The 3D scan can be accessed anywhere with internet access as a cloud-based image, allowing for more nimble and cost-effective suppliers. 3D scans from one shop can be mated with scans at other shops working on sub-components of a larger asset, or mated with scans of the installation site, to confirm interfaces. Using augmented reality viewers, QC inspectors can visualize the as-built precisely in a visual context and at the same time as other inspectors, suppliers, designers, and owners.
There is simply no other single tool that simultaneously lowers costs, improves productivity, and improves the quality of work while maintaining a healthy and safe work environment. As a result, quality control and inspection work are about to change dramatically and for the better.
Click on the image to view the 3D scan and inspection
Authored 2021: Mahdi Sharif and Geoffery Cann, Glove Systems. Updated 2022: Anne Gabrielsen, point3DTags: digitaltwin, Fabrication, GloveSys, manufacturing, point3D, qualitycontrol
Categorized in: Articles
This post was written by Ross Semplice