A CAREER IN INSPECTION

"Safety" and "Reliability" of any product is of utmost importance in today's world. Any product, whether a washer or an aircraft, is expected to satisfactorily perform a specific function for some minimum period. To achieve this result, the designer studies the load requirement, operating environment, etc. and prepares his product design. However, a product could prematurely fail during service due to several factors such as wrong design, mistakes during manufacturing, exposure to unexpected loads in service, changes in environment, etc. This premature failure can lead to simple stoppage of work or to a catastrophe. In all such cases, there is an economic loss and sometimes loss of life also.

In order to minimize, and where possible, to avoid such unexpected failures, "QUALITY ASSURANCE" and "QUALITY CONTROL" are of utmost importance. Broadly speaking, "Quality Assurance" means setting up a proper manufacturing sequence such that only good products will be produced and "Quality Control" is the program of checking or monitoring the functioning of various manufacturing steps. These "Quality Control" checks could be simple Visual Inspection involving appearance check or dimensional measurement or it could involve using sophisticated NDT tests such as Radiography or Ultrasonic Testing.

Today, it is expected that all personnel involved in the manufacturing industry as well as operators of various types of plants (power generation, petrochemical, etc.) and users of major industrial products are well aware of Inspection fundamentals. Right from the designer to the maintenance engineer, the knowledge of Inspection is becoming indispensable. In the early days of industrialization, such knowledge was gained by experience only. However, it is well established now that proper knowledge can be efficiently acquired only by undergoing professional, organized training including both theory & practical and "hands-on" experience in the field. Also, it is not enough just to acquire the required knowledge and skill, but it is equally important to "prove" that the acquired "knowledge and skill" can be used properly. This "proving" requirement has led to various "CERTIFICATION" programs for specific sets of inspection skills.

The most popular inspection certifications available today are:

  • NDT Inspector
  • Welding Inspector
  • Vessel Inspector
  • Coating / Painting Inspector
  • Lifting Equipment Inspector
  • API 510 - Pressure Vessel Inspector
  • API 570 - Piping Inspector
  • API 653 - Above Ground Storage Tank Inspector(ASTI)
  • API 1169 - Pipeline Inspector (General Pipeline Construction Inspection)

As regards job opportunities, maximum scope is for the "NDT Inspector" followed by the "Welding Inspector". The most popular certification scheme for NDT Inspector is a program recommended by a professional body from USA. This American program is well accepted in many parts of the world, including Middle East, where many job opportunities are available. Under all certification schemes, certification is available in individual NDT methods.

The NDT methods in maximum use are:

  • Visual Testing
  • Radiographic Testing
  • Ultrasonic Testing
  • Liquid Penetrant Testing
  • Magnetic Particle Testing
  • Eddy Current Testing

It is obvious that the job opportunities increase in proportion to the number of different certifications an individual has. In India, Training and Certifications are offered by several Institutions and even by many individuals. One should choose the training organization carefully based on the faculty, equipment and market acceptability.

Historically, the inspection field has expanded due to development of new technologies and products. In the recent past, this pace has accelerated leading to exponential expansion of the inspection applications. This, in turn, has led to a shortfall of inspection personnel all over the world. With globalization taking place in all spheres of industrial activity, inspection as a career has a golden future.