The future for NDT is bright. Can we make it brighter?

When you look at the history of NDT you can see that, like most disciplines or industries, it has cycled between periods of buoyant activity and periods of stagnation. Sectors within the profession have their own cycles, which are not always in phase with each other and so it is not often that everyone is down or everyone is up at the same time. Without wanting to tempt fate, it appears that NDT is doing quite nicely at the moment: there is a lot of activity. What is more, with the proposed infrastructure projects within the UK, technological developments in techniques and the growing interest in the challenges presented by structural health monitoring (SHM) and online monitoring, the future for NDT is looking bright.

This bright future has been described in a recent Materials Knowledge Transfer Network report, entitled: ‘A landscape for the future of NDT in the UK economy’. The report contains a lot of valuable and pertinent information and, if you are interested, then you can download a copy from the BINDT website[1,2] or attend the BINDT Conference in Manchester and listen to Tony Dunhill, the Chair of the Working Group, who is presenting a talk on the report.

Yes, you guessed it and here it comes: But! Well, there wouldn’t be a column if I didn’t have something to say! There are a couple of pieces in the report’s text that have caused me a little disquiet and frustration at our industry. These relate to the barriers to growth identified by the report. Those of you who have my back catalogue of columns to hand will easily be able to see that I have written any number of ideas and suggestions regarding inspection design (or the lack of it) and validation, the slow uptake of new technology and the issue of intellectual property in NDT and ownership of procedures. I was also sure that I had written about the issue of standards but evidently I haven’t, which means I can keep going for at least one more month!

So, whilst I agree that the barriers listed are real barriers that need to be addressed, I disagree with some of the phrases that are used in the report. In my opinion, these barriers are there because of the historical development of the NDT profession, which we continue to allow to persist in the 21st century. So, as I insist on saying to my colleagues, much to their chagrin, these are not barriers or problems but opportunities. All we need to do is to start thinking creatively as to how we can get around them. We need to start by asking:
  • Why are these barriers really there?
  • How do other similar industries cope?
  • What actions have they taken that NDT could benefit from?
  • What new ideas or approaches could be introduced to stimulate the profession?
The good news is that I am not going to preach the answers to these questions to you. Instead, we, the editor and I, are turning this month’s column really interactive. On Wednesday 10 September 2014 at 17.05 at the BINDT Conference in Manchester, you have the opportunity to come along and tell us your answers to the above questions. Or you can just voice your opinion on how the profession should progress going forward. Or suggest that one idea that could lead to a brighter future for us all. Hopefully, I can give a full report in next month’s NDT News.

For those of you who are unable to attend the conference, you can always email the editor or myself with your answers, suggestions and comments, which I will endeavour to introduce into the discussion. Alternatively, socially-connected readers can post or comment on the BINDT Facebook page or tweet @bindt and really test our interactive capabilities. That will be worth watching!

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of AMEC or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

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