Taking Current CCTV Inspection Technology to the Next Level

Longtime CCTV operator discusses the 'human factor' in ensuring productivity and efficiency during pipeline inspections
Taking Current CCTV Inspection Technology to the Next Level

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Respected throughout the industry, Jim Aanderud has many years of field experience as a CCTV pipeline inspection operator and is very familiar with today’s technology. He joined Innerline Engineering in 1999 as operations manager and is now president and owner of the company.

Once again, Aanderud will be a guest presenter at WWETT 2016 in Indianapolis, where his educational session, Step Up Your Game! Taking Current CCTV Inspection Technology to the Next Level, will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 17, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., in rooms 231-233.

His presentation will look at the pipeline inspection process from the most basic level and proceed into approaches and techniques that will be helpful for all, even the veteran operator. The goal is to help prepare inspection crews to meet and exceed the demands of the pipeline assessment industry.

Q: First, how did the concept for this session originate?
A: My background is in CCTV. I’ve been lucky enough to have what I would consider the best job in the world, which is a CCTV inspection operator. It may sound funny, but it’s the truth. I’ve never had a job that was more satisfying, where your day just flies by; it is all consuming, but a very satisfying job.

So I sat in the truck for a while. I know what it’s like. This year, I really wanted to concentrate on the operator inside the truck and talk about how operators can basically raise the level of their work, whether you’ve been doing it for 20 years or for six months.

To me, there are two things that are the most important, in my opinion, in inspecting pipe. The first one is obviously being able to provide good information and what that entails. Information has to be accurate. You have to have a good picture. You have to know what you’re looking at and be able to convey that information that you’re finding in the pipe properly. And the second one is justifying the cost of the equipment, which means you have to be productive: quality of video means accurate and useful information.

That’s it kind of in a nutshell. We’re not talking about panorama or anything like that, just standard pipeline inspection. Everything from what we do during the inspection process to how we’re treating equipment. Little tips. Big picture, but also small picture … how to be more efficient and effective. Really anyone can benefit from it.

Q: Do you feel it’s important for operators and technicians to know the latest trends in CCTV inspection or is productivity more about the person using the equipment?
A: The industry has changed somewhat, but it’s still kind of the same. When we go to the WWETT Show, we see all these neat, new pieces of equipment, but the truth is still at least 80 percent of the equipment out there is your basic, standard pipeline inspection equipment. There are bells and whistles, and there are things out there that are kind of neat. Maybe some contractors will slowly merge into that, but right now 80 percent of the equipment that’s out there is stuff that’s been purchased over the last 5, 10, or 15 years.

So the migration to new technology is slow. With that being said, you can have an inspection van and you can purchase new technology with your existing van, but overall we’re still talking about the same thing: We’re talking about the human factor of inspecting pipeline and that means productivity.

Yes, productivity is about how many feet you can inspect in a day, but it’s also about how do you maintain your equipment? You can’t be productive if you’re not taking care of your equipment. Attributes that an operator has to have. I think it’s a very neat position, because you’re taking a blue-collar position and you’re incorporating a huge white-collar aspect to it. There are really two compartments on a van. You have the backside with all the dirtiness of a manhole and then you go into a compartment and there’s a computer — it’s like a white-collar office. Finding that person that can straddle those two is not as easy as one might think. So I think that the process of the type of person that you select for that position is what makes or breaks the success of company or agency. People need to understand what type of individual they need to have in that role to be successful.

Q: What if my municipality is just now considering getting into CCTV inspection. What can a newbie take away from this session, even if I’m just “window shopping” at the moment?
A: Well, I’m not going to compare brands. But what I’m going to talk a lot about is finding the right people. So if you’re thinking about it, I think that discussing the type of individual you want is very important. I think you’re going to find out what’s needed to be successful. What kind of production do I need to justify this cost? I absolutely believe that anyone considering this will walk away with some valuable information.

Another big part is that when you get into the CCTV inspection business, you’re entering a relationship with the manufacturer. It’s not like buying a refrigerator, you put it there, and it lasts for 10 years, and then you get another. You’re constantly dealing with the manufacturer. You’re constantly having repairs — things like that — so you need to make sure you have the support.

The support is different in different parts of the country by different manufacturers. You have to do your research. That’s one thing people don’t realize. When you’re interviewing companies that sell equipment, you have to find out what your repair turnaround time is. Will you come out to my facility? Will I have to mail the equipment to you? These are critical questions to ask.

Q: What are some of the questions you always get from attendees?
A: Usually they’ll come up and ask me what’s my recommendation for a manufacturer (laughs). But I always point them back to the research that needs to be done. They also want to know what’s a realistic number (length of pipe inspected) I can expect my crews to do? What’s a number? Under what conditions? Sometimes, they’ll ask me about the financial aspect … what the equipment costs. Would I recommend a purchase if they’re just starting out. Sometimes they ask me about operators. I’ll get some international people ask about the brand that they’re considering and whether that’s something that would work for them. They’ll ask about the new technology. Software, definitely. That’s another big part of pipeline inspection, is the type of software you’re using.

Q: So would you say the WWETT Show is a good opportunity for operators to do the homework you talk about?
A: It’s an excellent show, because you’re being exposed to every manufacturer out there that matters. The truth is, there’s probably only a few in your area that are effective. But you’re going to see at least a dozen manufacturers out there, so you’re able to compare different types of products and kind of get a feeling for what’s coming out. What’s the future of the business? Talking to contractors and interfacing with them is huge, because you’re finding out what works for them. People have different techniques with different types of equipment. A lot of people work in ice and freezing weather. Will I have a problem with fogging in the line, and how do I deal with that? That kind of stuff.


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