Training is Essential for Successful Use of Infrared Imagers

OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Successfully Specified, Infrared Systems Can Deliver a Solid Return on InvestmentPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Quantifying the Bottom-Line Benefits of Infrared Imagers

Front-line maintenance technicians have become much more comfortable with the technology behind thermography and its applications. In many facilities, thermography has become the first step in facilities' condition-based monitoring program related to HVAC, electrical, and roofing systems.

Today's infrared cameras are so powerful and user-friendly that technicians can easily and quickly capture high-quality data. The most challenging aspect of the technology relates to interpreting the image, and here is where additional costs arise.

Because interpreting the data is such a crucial step, training is essential to get the most out of the purchase. To succeed, thermographers must understand image interpretation, the limitations of radiometric temperature measurement, emissivity, and the basics of heat transfer — all important topics covered in Level I thermography training.

Unfortunately, some in the profession believe inexpensive cameras are simple to use, leading many managers to the mistaken belief that technician training is unnecessary. But consider this analogy: A framing hammer also is cheap, buying one does not make a person a skilled carpenter. In the same way, buying an infrared camera does not make a technician a qualified thermographer.

Focus on ROI

So after all of the expense, where is a manager's ROI on a new thermal imaging system? Some of the payback is readily apparent, but other benefits might not be nearly as visible.

One cost that comes right off the top is the amount the department no longer must pay to a service provider to perform infrared inspections. Depending on the vendor, a department might spend one-half the cost of a camera annually on thermography services.

Bringing in a service provider also creates costs. Often, the provider requires an escort or assistance by a member of the in-house maintenance staff, which precludes that person from performing other maintenance duties and, as a result, costs the department time and productivity.

In some cases, a service provider might document every low-grade thermal anomaly but shy away from assigning a priority to these findings. This tactic typically leaves technicians and supervisors to sift through a thick report, wasting time and money trying to determine what action to take. Add to this the cost of re-inspection after performing the repairs, and it is easy to see how bringing an infrared-inspection program in-house can save money right away.

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  posted on 11/21/2011   Article Use Policy

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