Build a Better Inspection Team

Establishing a successful CCTV inspection program takes careful planning, attention to detail and plenty of hard work.
Build a Better Inspection Team
Reducing time spent between inspections is key to maximizing production. 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.

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Pipeline inspection programs vary from contractor to contractor. For some plumbing contractors, inspection efforts are focused on small-diameter inside lines and are simply a part of diagnosing the problem before beginning repair work. Others have a crew or crews dedicated to inspection work, typically focusing on lateral lines and larger sewer lines. 

For the latter, it is critical to understand the characteristics that make up a successful CCTV inspection program. While the principles apply to all inspection work, they are of utmost importance when you send a dedicated crew out to inspect pipes every day. 

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 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 contractors justify 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. Achieving these daily footage goals would justify the expense of the vehicle.

The outcomes of these decisions aren’t usually realized until much later. While most inspection programs reach their stated goals, 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 being offered for sale by contractors. Most of these vehicles operated for only a short period of time, and most of them failed because of a lack of production.

For a contractor, a pipeline inspection van must be able to make enough money to pay its expenses and to also generate a reasonable profit. Since its income is directly linked to the amount of pipe it inspects, a priority must be placed on production. If footage goals are not met, the unit will eventually fail.

Why do CCTV programs fail?
Unqualified operators are the No. 1 reason CCTV inspection programs fail. 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. Anyone short of an ideal candidate will doom the 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.

How can you 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. 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, they inspected two sections of pipe. 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.  

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. 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.

By planning ahead, you can take deliberate actions to ensure all time is used to its fullest. A lack of planning results in wasted time as work comes to a halt while the next step is deliberated. 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
Reducing time spent between inspections is key to maximizing production. 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.

Multitasking is a very useful way of capitalizing on our 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 manhole.

If not managed properly, traffic control can affect a crew’s productivity as well. 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 companies run profitably for many years to come.



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