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First movers benefit from remote surveys for CMC in COVID-19 conditions

Remote surveys for certification of materials and components (CMC) provide a valuable, cost-saving and eco-friendly alternative to on-site surveys. During the last months this service has proved successful in mitigating the impact of the novel coronavirus on business continuity.

In early May 2019, KAESER KOMPRESSOREN SE, one of the world’s foremost suppliers of compressed air systems, was among Germany’s first companies to opt in favour of remote surveys for CMC. After the first remote compressor test had been successfully completed, KAESER and DNV GL signed a remote survey agreement. More than 50 surveys have since been carried out remotely at KAESER.

The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the uptake of remote surveys

For the compressor manufacturer, being an early adopter primarily meant benefitting from the obvious time, effort and cost advantages of this approach. But when COVID-19 struck roughly a year later, an unexpected additional benefit of remote materials and components surveys emerged: KAESER was able to continue performing certification surveys while other companies had to go into lockdown and postpone these procedures. Companies which had embraced digitalization early were suddenly at an advantage.

Kerstin Martin, Head of Customized Product Team at KAESER, clearly sees the benefits for her company: “We greatly appreciated the flexibility and efficiency of the remote survey option even before the crisis, but the COVID-19 pandemic certainly accelerated our use of digital platforms and made remote surveys a real necessity for us. DNV GL is paving the way for the shipping industry to embrace digitalization in day-to-day operations, and we are grateful to be able to utilize their extensive digital competence to overcome the restrictions imposed by this new, challenging situation.”

Karsten Hahn, Manager Product Certification at DNV GL – Maritime in Germany, adds: “Due to the long travelling distance between our offices and the customer’s factory in Coburg, the remote survey for CMC allowed us to remain efficient and offer the service even during the lockdown while all our colleagues were working from home. At the same time, the ‘new normal’ offered us the opportunity to improve our services in line with ever-changing customer expectations.”

More than 100 clients have been onboarded for DNV GL’s remote survey service for CMC in Germany since it was first introduced, and 1,160 in-country remote surveys have been carried out since March 2020. In addition, ad hoc remote services without any special agreement are being conducted for several customers. The service has also been used for non-complex periodical assessments of time-limited certificates, such as type approvals and Marine Equipment Directive (MED) certificates.

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Kaeser’s compact compressed air station was one of the first to be surveyed remotely in Germany by DNV GL.

Timely action prepared the ground

DNV GL embarked on its digital journey half a decade ago. One of the key initiatives of this broad strategy has been to provide customers with a growing range of opportunities to carry out surveys remotely. Certification of materials and components (CMC), added to this programme in 2019, offers manufacturers a flexible solution to reduce the time and travel costs associated with these surveys, especially where the distance between the customer site and the closest office of DNV GL inspection experts makes on-site visits costly.

The remote survey service for CMC means a DNV GL surveyor visit at the customer site is not required. Instead, it is sufficient to provide an adequate online connection or video streaming link and some skilled staff at the customer site. A dedicated team of DNV GL surveyors will review the relevant equipment documentation, then instruct the customer technicians to perform certain tests while monitoring and guiding the procedure by live video. The entire survey can be performed remotely, which not only reduces disruption of operations on the customer’s side but also helps decrease the carbon footprint by avoiding travelling whilst increasing safety.

Adopting the remote option in Japan

Remote surveys for CMC were introduced in Japan in spring 2019, with seven Japanese companies taking part in the trial stage. “Since the launch of the service more than a third of Japanese customers have taken advantage of it,” explains Stian Sollied, Area Manager Japan, DNV GL - Maritime.

“Due to COVID-19, the demand for remote surveys has increased noticeably,” says Takenobu Inoue, Senior Surveyor in Japan at DNV GL - Maritime. “At the beginning of the year, the utilization rate was about ten per cent of all surveys of materials and components. After the state of emergency was announced on 7 March, the number of enquiries about remote surveys increased sharply. By April, the utilization rate had risen to 30 per cent, and further growth is expected in the future.”

Saving time, cost and storage space

Taiko Electric, supplier of products and services to the maritime industry with a strong focus on environmentally sound solutions, has been among the most avid users of this service since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“To comply with the government recommendations aiming to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, we had to restrict the access of non-employees to our facilities. DNV GL’s remote surveys for CMC provided us with the opportunity to continue surveys as usual. The remote inspection was carried out as soon as the production phase was completed, which helped us save time and storage space for our products,” says Hirokazu Yokouchi, General Manager of the Quality Assurance Department at Taiyo Electric Co., Ltd.

Being prepared for a smooth survey process

DNV GL also experienced an early uptake of its remote survey services for CMC in South Korea. More than 5,500 remote surveys for more than 60 Korean customers have been successfully conducted since the launch in 2019.

JOKWANG I.L.I CO., LTD, a Korea-based company primarily engaged in the manufacture and distribution of valves, has not only been appreciating the benefits of the remote survey service for CMC during the global pandemic.

“Compared to on-site surveys, the inspection time of remote surveys can be adjusted according to the customer’s needs whilst also reducing the time required to complete the inspection. The cost of the service is also reduced as there is no business travel fee charged,” says Ji-Heon Gang, QC Engineer, Quality Management Department of JOKWANG I.L.I CO., LTD.

When asked how other manufacturers should best prepare for such surveys, Gang suggests: “Since the survey is run remotely, the inspected company should ensure that the correct documents are provided and that the environment is set up to facilitate the smooth running of the survey. So good network conditions and test preparation is key for the successful completion of the inspection. The experience gained through DNV GL’s remote survey process helped us to gain more competence and to be better organized and prepared for other audits.”

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The demand for remote surveys for certification of materials and components (CMC) has seen a significant boost worldwide during the corona pandemic. DNV GL has been offering this service, saving travel time and costs, to manufacturers since 2019.

More flexibility in the production process in China

The first remote CMC survey in China took place at Zhangjiagang Hengtong Annular Forging Manufacturer Company in September 2019. Similar to Japan and Germany, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to an increased uptake of that survey option by Chinese manufacturers as a result of lockdown rules imposed by the government.

Even after the measures were lifted in March 2020, remote surveys continued to appeal to many local companies due to the flexibility and cost-saving benefits. As of today, more than 90 customers across China have adopted this service.

“Compared to the traditional survey, remote surveys not only save the company costs but also make the survey schedule and the production process more flexible due to the absence of travel arrangements,” says Nie Jindi, Quality Manager of Wärtsilä CME Zhenjiang Propeller Co. Ltd.

High quality level of remote surveys ensured

“Our priority is that the same quality level of physical surveys is achieved with the remote option,” explains Qing Wen Zhu, Regional CMC Production Manager for Greater China at DNV GL - Maritime. “To ensure this, we performed a feasibility study of all candidates for remote surveys in our region based on their general quality level, the availability of suitable digital infrastructure at the site, and the type of surveys and products. Based on the outcome of this analysis, an implementation plan for the region was prepared in order to perform the remote surveys in a structured, systematic and aligned way.”

The training of the surveyors is key to a high-quality service. Remote survey for CMC workshops are frequently held in the region for the surveyors to share experiences and expand their skills.

Digital competence key to success in a changing market

“The quality of the remote survey also depends on suitable hardware and software tools,” says Zhu. “We are continuously working with IT experts to explore new applications and means to conduct remote surveys which can fit different purposes and environments. For example smart glass is already under evaluation with pilot testing.”

Remote surveys for CMC can be requested through DNV GL’s open digital platform Veracity and are performed by the local production units. This means this service can be offered around the clock, anywhere in the world. In addition, it means remote surveys are carried out in the customer’s local language, which improves communication during the process.

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  • DNV GL
  • Kaeser Kompressoren SE
  • Danil Evskyi – shutterstock.com aodaodaodaod – shutterstock.com
  • Kaeser Kompressoren SE
  • freevideophotoagency – shutterstock.com

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