The list

I have just returned from my weekly long run. The downsides of getting out of a warm bed, venturing out into the rain and the effort required to push my reluctant body, the result of a break for festive indulgence and minor ailments, are all offset by the joy of spending an extended period in the outdoors, without having to remember anything and with no other objective than to simply put one foot in front of the other. Yesterday, at the same time, I walked to the local supermarket. I wasn’t getting a ‘big’ shop, but even so I had to make a list of the items that I wanted to buy. On the way there, I remembered something that I hadn’t put on the list. Needless to say, once I was in the shop, choosing my listed items and looking at the offers, I came away without the missing item. I am aware that this is a sign of my old age, but there are other factors at play that impinge on everyone.

I am constantly reading that technology is neutral and it is how we use it that makes it a force for good or ill. Both at home and in the workplace, technology has had a double negative impact. It provides more avenues for us to be distracted from the job or situation at hand and it modifies our behaviour so that we are less disposed to concentrate on one task and we actively seek the distractions it can provide. What is my defence against this? The good old list! Anything that needs to be done goes on a list before another distraction comes along and displaces it from the memory. The list can also be prioritised, assisting with the way in which the activities and events are completed. Technology aids the production of the list, which can be carried out on a mobile phone, a PC or that trusty medium that does not suffer from power issues or malfunction: paper.

The good old list is not just an aide-mémoire. At the turn of the year, it was noticeable how the media used lists to report the highlights of the year gone by and to identify the predictions for the year to come. These lists are a source of interest and potentially endless debate, because they represent one viewpoint that is open to challenge and alternative interpretation. Taking my cue from a series of programmes on the Discovery History channel on the ‘Top Tens of Warfare’, I thought it might be a useful exercise to come up with a ‘Top Five of NDT’ to stimulate discussion. The following are my personal thoughts and, as such, are influenced by my own experiences and consequently tend to be UK-centric:

1. Radiography
It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of NDT as a profession: as a well-known NDT colleague pointed out, the first visual inspection is reported in the Book of Genesis! However, radiography was the first NDT technique to find widespread industrial application and formed the foundation for the development of the profession. While increased emphasis on safety has encouraged a move away from radiography, the development of technology will ensure it continues as a major tool in the NDT armoury.

2. Sizewell B public enquiry
Until the instigation of the Sizewell B public enquiry, NDT was mainly based on practical evidence and experience. NDT was put forward as one of the solutions for ensuring that the plant did not enter service with any significant structural defects. However, code-based techniques were shown to be unable to reliably detect these potential defects. As a result, a significant amount of research, which is still applicable today, was instigated, resulting in the PISC programmes and the process of inspection validation, now referred to as inspection qualification.

3. NDT media
Despite my earlier moans about technology, it has had a positive impact on NDT communications. The BINDT publications of Insight and NDT News, coupled with the Institute’s website and social media presence, provide a powerful conduit for the transmission of information to the NDT community.

The Programme for the Assessment of NDT in Industry (PANI) had an immediate impact, with the instigation of a certification scheme for the inspection of shell boilers and the production of a series of guidance documents, but, as a subsequent study identified, the take-up of the output and recommendations was limited. However, since its completion, organisations such as BAM, in Berlin, have performed valuable follow-on work and anecdotal evidence has reported individual companies applying the results to good effect. The reliability of NDT, and more recently structural health monitoring (SHM), is now a mainstream topic and can no longer be ignored.

Until the marketing of CIVA, NDT modelling had tended to be very much the preserve of a small number of specialist groups using in-house bespoke software packages. The publication of CIVA software has made modelling more readily available to the NDT profession. While care needs to be taken to ensure a full understanding of the limitations and applicability of the software for reliable application, CIVA is a positive step for the improvement of the inspection design process.

These are my ‘Top Five of NDT’. What would your top five be? Which ones would you replace and with what alternatives? While I await your correspondence, I can cross ‘complete column’ off my list.

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 Foster Wheeler or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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