What are you actually getting for your audit dollar?

In one of my many ill-fated attempts to learn Chinese I came across a text book trying to explain the difference between a Chinese word and an English word. Whilst my continued lack of proficiency in Chinese is a testament to how much of the book I actually absorbed, I did remember this graphic from that text and the point it was trying to make.

Every Chinese character is a word in its own right with information laid out strategically that allows us to glance at the word and understand its meaning. We can glance at the 3x3 grid and instantly know there are 9 dots in the grid.

Whereas in the English word we have to work along the word and if we miss a single character it can change the meaning. It is much harder to know that there are also 9 dots in the line at the bottom of the image.

How accurate is the data you are paying to collect?

If you are like me then you had to run your finger along the row of 9 dots above to accurately count how many were there, and maybe you had to do it more than once to check the result. But what if it were not dots that we were counting, but seemingly random arrangements of characters that we had to ensure were transcribed correctly.

Consider the example of a Rosemount 3051S Scalable Coplanar Pressure Transmitter, which typically has a MODEL number like the following 24 characters:


How did you go with that one? Again, if you were like me you had to run your finger along that model number lots and lots of times. 

Now consider that the equipment might have been exposed to harsh environments for many years and the name plate could be scratched or covered in dirt & grime making it difficult to easily read the data.

Consider also that the equipment might be in a hazardous environment with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius and you are wearing personal protection gear including safety glasses and gloves. You might also have had to climb ladders and maneuvere yourself into difficult to reach places just to get to the equipment. 

When you consider all of the above, how accurately do you think you could write down, or key in, those 24 characters on the Rosemount 3051S when you are in the field and get them exactly right. Remembering of course that if you don’t get them exactly right that your spares and maintenance strategies are compromised because you would be planning for a piece of equipment you don’t actually have.

It should come as no surprise to learn that most people don’t get it right. When we review the results of audits that people have carried out using traditional field data collection means and compare that with what we get from the ORDITAL solution we are finding more than half of the model numbers and serial numbers are wrong. We are also finding similar numbers of the makes no longer exist as the entities described on the name plates.

By far the most expensive part of any audit process is getting the person to the equipment. Once you have invested in doing that then you want to make sure you are collecting accurate data or you have just wasted your money in sending the auditor out in the first place – and what we are seeing suggests that is what traditional audits are delivering.

“The ORDITAL solution ensures that the data from your equipment name plates reliably makes its way back to your asset databases.”

Maximizing return on your audit dollar

As discussed above, it is difficult to write down or key-in accurate information during a field audit. The most expensive part of the process is getting a person to the equipment. So rather than having them spend time writing down or typing data that has a very high probability of being wrong – get them to take photographs of the equipment and name plates - and let ORDITAL do the rest.

Taking photographs rather than transcribing information in the field has many benefits:

  • The most expensive part of the process is having a person physically walk around the assets. If they can just take photos and move on you are minimizing the cost of the most expensive part of the process.
    • A photo provides an accurate record of what was seen at the site at a specific point in time and gives us a way of certifying what was installed at a location at a particular point in time.
  • If we’ve geo-tagged the photograph we can also spatially analyze the equipment to provide another level of verification.
  • We can employ the ORDITAL solution to reliably extract equipment attributes from the photographs and use the ORDITAL reference database to link the make on the name plate to a current operating company & brand to provide guidance on possible obsolescence.

The ORDITAL solution allows you to minimize your audit costs by reducing the time required for someone to be physically on site, but then reliably generates quality data for upload to your asset databases.

If you integrate taking photos of your equipment and its name plates into your standard work process such that any time anyone inspects or maintains equipment they are taking photos then you can remove your biggest cost – getting people to the equipment – and continuously be certifying that your physical and digital assets are in sync.

Stephen Crampton