Five Questions with HUVR Advisor Dave Bajula

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Posted on July 27

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Five Questions with HUVR Advisor Dave Bajula

HUVR is honored to have a group of outstanding SMEs and industry luminaries (or both) as customers, in the HUVR Partner Network or in the HUVR Advisor Network. Whenever we have the chance, we pick their brain about what’s going on in their particular area of expertise. We decided it was criminal we weren’t sharing these conversations with everyone. As such, Five Questions was born.

ONE: Why did you choose to become a HUVR advisor?

Other than peer pressure? HUVR looks to be getting in front of the “data management problem” and I’m happy to contribute to the betterment of reliable and actionable data management.  Too many times NDT and applicable data are about simply checking the box–too “one-and-done.” Often baseline inspections are performed and then forgotten. It doesn’t have to be that way!   

The data gathered during inspections, both NDT and otherwise, can be used to not only improve reliability but also provide significant cost controls–both in emergency shutdown avoidance and in predictive maintenance–as well as getting maximum life out of equipment and components prior to needed replacements. Equipment is lasting longer: it used to last for 20 years and now 20 years is nothing in terms of the life of an asset. 

I believe HUVR can play an important role in this. 

TWO: How did you get to where you are today? Would you be able to provide a quick overview of your career path?

Oil and gas has been my passion for the last 25 years, and I often say I had an unfair advantage starting out at Ridgewater where the NDT training (and time on tools) is pretty much the best-of-the-best. That said, I had early opportunities to work in multiple industries–Nuclear Power, Oil & Gas, Aerospace, etc.–each with their unique levels of rigor and quality put into NDT.

I became an early adopter and specialist of automated ultrasonics and Advanced UT techniques which led to critical inspection efforts inclusive of development needs allowing me to enhance my skills and overall knowledge not just in NDT but material processes, welding, manufacturing, etc. 

One important thing is to not see yourself as a data collector–you’re performing tasks that involve analysis and strategic interpretation that provide valuable information to the engineers so they can make the best possible decision for the safety of the crew and the performance of the asset.

THREE: What’s the biggest risk/challenge that you see in the NDT space today?

Technician competence–hands down one of the biggest challenges today fueled mostly by the industry’s drive to reduce costs! Every industry is looking for a unicorn process or technology (or both): what can make inspections better, faster and cheaper all at once. Apprenticeship is trending toward the main way people are trained–get out in the field as quickly as possible, but this limits skill level–there are some things you can’t learn in the field. Decisions are much slower without that skill level. People head from a training program, where they are trained to do X, to the field, where they have to do X, but also Y, Z, A, B and C. They are in the hot seat almost immediately.

For instance, the ASNT and other industry training systems may need reworking.  The “minimum hours” may have been adequate in days of old when Level I technicians ALWAYS worked with a Level II or III for quite some time before being certified as a Level II.  However, with the lack of “Level I’s” in the industry the minimum training and experience needed simply are not adequate! 

The technology curve is an entirely different problem. While we are figuring out what specific tools or software can do we are still trying to make a profit and still putting the safety of the community and crews first. It takes time to figure out the optimal way to use new technology effectively in the field. Even though we can do it faster if it’s an iteration on older stuff, there is still a time factor. That doesn’t change much, and adoption isn’t getting that much faster either. But new technology is coming faster and faster. It’s a challenge for humanity more than for energy production.

One thing I see as a big factor moving forward is the remote accessibility. You’ve got data collectors without the skills to interpret what they are collecting, sending info to experts who are often located far away from the site. Like a doctor reviewing a radiology report on the golf course or on a high-def screen at home. I think we’re going to see more of that in the future.

FOUR: In your opinion, what’s the biggest opportunity/reward in NDT today?

Keeping the world safe– literally!   The unsung heroes of pressure vessel, piping and other component reliability many times are in the hands of the “NDT’ers.”  It hasn’t been glamorized to the point the average Joe or Jane knows about NDT, but it’s critically important. Knowing you’re a big part of keeping the community safe while providing a necessary service is a massive reward.

Another reward is traveling the world for NDT. I myself have been to 57 countries and still many more opportunities to go. I have had a lot of fun in South Korea and Taiwan working on nuclear stuff, but I enjoyed Germany and Italy just as much. I don’t think I’ve been to a bad spot.

FIVE: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone starting out in the industry?

It is paramount that you develop a sense of urgency in your dedication to your career, trade and skills.  You’ve got to be available 24/7 and ready to go if you want to continue to learn.  You must put in more time than is required, do more than is expected of you and be prepared to learn a minimum of 5 NDT methods (with Visual being #1)  and be a master level of at least 2.  

Learn about and get certified in as many methods as possible.  Don’t pigeonhole yourself. NDT offers complex solutions to complex problems and the more versatile you are, the more tools you will have to solve those problems.  For example, I don’t consider myself an ultrasonic expert or an electromagnetic expert. I would rather be considered an NDT expert, inclusive of all NDT methods and techniques.

Lastly, H.E.A.R.T is paramount to what we do. Honesty, Integrity, Excellence, Accuracy and Respect for teamwork is critical. Without ethics in NDT and what we do, we have nothing.  Many times there simply is too much at stake to be “minimally qualified” or have “minimum competency.”

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