Use Your Time Wisely

Establishing a successful CCTV inspection program takes careful planning, attention to detail and plenty of hard work.
Use Your Time Wisely
Jake Zeiger, CCTV operator, prepares to lower an inspection camera into a manhole.

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Pipeline inspection programs vary from agency to agency. Some are very dynamic and achieve remarkable productivity, while others lag. By understanding the characteristics that make up a successful CCTV inspection program, you can identify critical points that can serve as a guide for your program.

Let’s begin by establishing the definition of a successful CCTV inspection program. It is first and foremost based on the quality of the recorded videos and on the accuracy and usefulness of the information gathered. Since critical and costly decisions are based on these factors, it is imperative that the video and data be of the highest possible standard.

Another critical component of a successful CCTV inspection program is the quantity of video inspections produced within a stated period of time. This measurement is most commonly defined by the total number of feet inspected in a day, month or year. It is generally referred to as production.

Most agencies justified the purchase of their CCTV inspection unit(s) based upon projected production. The outlay of capital was deemed reasonable because of the anticipated footage that crews would be able to inspect. Most agencies warranted the purchase by setting timetables to inspect their entire sewer system.

The outcomes of these decisions aren’t usually realized until much later. While most inspection programs reach their stated goals and achieve success, many struggle and eventually fail. For those who fall short, the justification to purchase a CCTV inspection van was flawed. Testaments to this fact are the numerous inspection vehicles that never met their goals and now sit idle in agency yards. Most of these vehicles operated for less than three years before being put out to pasture, and most all of them failed because of a lack of production.

Why do CCTV programs fail?

The number one reason CCTV inspection programs fail is because an unqualified individual is selected as the CCTV inspection operator. The skills required to succeed as an operator are very important and must be thoroughly evaluated during the hiring process. Finding an individual with strong computer and mechanical ability is key. Leadership and organizational skills are indispensible, as is dedication and a can-do attitude. Anyone short of an ideal candidate will doom the inspection program from the onset.

Inspection programs also fail due to a lack of training. Operators must be given the tools to succeed. A few days of factory training and a few days of NASSCO PACP training may not be sufficient. Having a qualified trainer to thoroughly prepare a pipeline inspection operator will increase the chances of success.

Ultimately, pipeline inspection programs are judged by the quantity of feet they are able to inspect. If an agency consistently fails to meet its inspection goals, it is only a matter of time before management deems it a failure and abandons the program altogether. In most cases, a contractor will be brought in to complete the program.

How can we ensure high production levels?

CCTV inspection operators will not succeed without good time management skills. Each day must be a process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities in an effort to increase effectiveness, efficiency and productivity.

I once had the opportunity to observe a low production crew. Even though they arrived at work at 7 a.m., the first pipeline wasn’t inspected until well after 10 a.m. To begin with, there was absolutely no hurry to leave the yard. Once mobilized, there was a rendezvous at the local donut shop that lasted much longer than necessary. The crew finally headed to the job site, arriving at 9 a.m. After taking their time to set up traffic control, there was the realization that the manhole hook was missing, so they returned to the yard to get one. That morning, two sections of pipe were inspected. The crew then went on to exceed their allotted time for lunch and wound up with the same dismal numbers for the afternoon. With a miserable amount of pipeline inspected that day, it was clear that this inspection program was doomed.

Success in any job comes from a sense of urgency in performing the work. This is certainly the case in the field of pipeline inspection. An operator must constantly push ahead in an effort to accomplish as much as possible. Tasks that can be done right away should never be left for later. Ultimately, an effort must be made to fit as much as possible into each moment of the day.

From the moment you clock in to the moment you clock out, you are being paid to perform your work. As a pipeline inspection operator, you are expected to spend as much time as possible inspecting pipe. Any time that is directed elsewhere is unproductive.

Time is often deliberately wasted in order to minimize actual work. The term I like to use for someone who intentionally milks the clock is a “time thief.” As harsh as this may sound, this is exactly what is happening when an employee is avoiding work for which he is being paid.

Using time productively starts at the beginning of each day and must be carried through to the last minute. We must ensure that non-productivity is held to an absolute minimum. It begins with getting out to the job site as expediently as possible. It means planning ahead to ensure everything you need is on the vehicle. It means carrying out your plan in the most efficient manner possible. It means leaving nothing to chance. The bottom line is you must work as methodically as possible in order to maximize production.

You must eliminate non-productive actions. Aimless chatter, private phone calls, texting and Internet surfing are all examples of lost opportunities. Anytime work comes to a standstill, it takes away from your production potential. Operating a CCTV inspection unit is not physically demanding, so there is absolutely no reason to stop and rest or sit with nothing going on.

Time between inspections

You can only be productive when the camera is in the line recording video. In order to maximize production, you must reduce the time spent in between inspections. Whether you are working alone or with a crew, the more effective system you have for getting from manhole to manhole, the higher the production rate will be.

When a survey is completed and the crawler has returned to the access manhole, it must be retrieved, washed down and placed into the van as quickly as possible. At the next location, manhole lid removal and crawler insertion must be done cautiously but urgently. Every action must be performed as expediently as possible in order to maximize inspection time.

Multi-tasking is a very useful way of capitalizing on your time. By performing more than one task at a time, production can be accelerated significantly. For example, while the crawler is being brought back to the access manhole, the next survey can be identified and set up on the computer. This will ensure that the next inspection begins the moment the crawler hits the bottom of the next manhole.

If not managed properly, traffic control can also affect a crew’s productivity. When support staff is available, crew members should move ahead and place traffic control devices ahead of time. This will allow the inspection van to move right in, drop the camera and begin recording immediately. When long continuous stretches of pipeline are encountered, laying out the traffic control devices over multiple setups can help increase productivity.

Your time in the field is limited, so managing it effectively is the key to maximizing the number of pipeline inspections you perform. Achieving high production levels will ensure that your inspection programs are successful and that your jobs remain secure for many years to come.

About the Author

Jim Aanderud is owner of Innerline Engineering, a video pipeline inspection company based in Corona, Calif.


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