Measuring or surveying?

Our vision on Commissioning methods

Often the request is “we want to digitize our reports and automate our processes, but we need to be able to write down findings in an unrelated / unstructured way and documents must be traceable.”

Actually they just want a blank “Word” document. Why?

Opinions and methods about digital reporting vary a lot. This manifests itself, among other things, in the way questions are formulated during a test or inspection. Closed-ended or open-ended questions, or in other words a question to measure something or a confirmation that a law or standard is complied with. Specific versus general.

In our opinion, you should always ask closed-ended questions and formulate specific requirements for each component and system. After all, you want to guarantee life cycle management, both for long-term and short-term projects. Long-term projects are often risky and require a high degree of accuracy. In recurring or similar short-term projects, it is again efficient and effective to standardize questions as much as possible. You can reuse them over and over again and compare the outcome.

Various companies use reports where the report provides an overview of which requirements and specifications must be met. They refer to a number of pages with (current) laws and standards. The Surveyor walks around and “surveys” based on personal knowledge of these laws and standards. The outcome is then a (free format) report of findings based on open-ended questions and known assumptions.

If you survey, in my opinion the value of the findings depends too much on the competency and skills of the Surveyor. After all, this expert can overlook something. In addition, standards and laws are subject to change, so findings are not fully comparable or reproducible at a later point in time.

Because of this way of inspecting and recording, the technical history of components and systems is hardly transparent. Items are not specifically tested or recorded at component or system level. You have to go through all available documents to find historical data (engineering, FAT, SAT etc.). It is merely a snapshot that serves only the actors and not the life cycle management of a product.

A side effect of “assessment” is also that, in the case of residual points, traceability in terms of coding and location can lead to errors and inefficiencies.

In case data is recorded on components and systems, it is often done by including a matrix in a Word document in which numbers or measured values ​​are captured. The recorded data vanishes into “digital paper”. When a database is used, its purpose is often limited to organizing documents (document control system) and not to monitor underlying data.

Is such an inspection not too expensive in relation to the goal? After all, the application, reliability and utilization are very limited. In the context of big data and data analysis it is useless.

The underlying reason to choose inspection (as opposed to measuring) often lies in the fact that inspections in the various phases of the life cycle, engineering, production, commissioning, operation and maintenance are carried out by external parties. Each party carries out a specific phase and expertise in its own way.

It would be better if the different inspections of the different phases contribute to improving the life cycle as a whole. Inspections must therefore be part of the entire life cycle and not be separate or serve only one party or activity (for example, the annual independent inspection).

All tests, inspections and surveys for all phases should therefore already be defined in the engineering phase by the Product Owner for data control in upcoming phases. During engineering, the full set of questions to cover all phases must already be aligned by stakeholders and certifying bodies. The Product Owner is therefore ultimately responsible for requirements, test-questions and also for the tool used to cater for inspections and certification.

The more precise engineering can formulate test-questions, the more junior a (certifying) Surveyor could be. Specific questions support digitization, automation and reproducibility. When optimizing your inspection process through digitalization and automation, a shift to an inspection system in which you can use sample testing could become feasible. After all, more data will become available for all phases on components and systems, which enables this. More data also increases the learning capacity in your organization and provides information for retrospective, which in turn should ensure that your life cycle process improves (fail fast – learn faster).

Test-questions, testing, residual points and solutions must therefore all be interlinked and historically approachable by all actors. With an integrated and multi-user system you guarantee quality.

However, most commissioning tools are focused on document control in relation to phases and test planning, instead of data control on components and systems in relation to a life cycle process. Why?