The testing app from the Arctic Circle
“When I go to Outokumpu, I don’t need paper and pencil anymore – and the customer gets his results delivered digitally,” says Vakkala. This is possible through an app called VALTO360 (see infographic). “Before VALTO360, inspections were an analog-only matter. We had simple spreadsheets and the customer had to wait at least a week for results.” The app, which runs on any smartphone or tablet, allows measurement results to be captured digitally on the spot. But what makes VALTO360 so special is its 360°panoramic images: As with Google Street View, systems can be captured and mapped using special cameras. The tester can thus move virtually through the system on his/her mobile phone and receive measurement points and instructions that he/she can compare with the real environment. This makes work immensely easier, especially on large sites – as in the 14-hectare cold rolling mill in Outokumpu with around 850 measuring points. “When testing, we are usually on our own – there is no map yet. That made it almost impossible for us to change the tester,” says Vakkala.
Who would have thought that Lapland would be so loud? The rolling mills roar, the exhaust blows and heavy-steel rollers drive to their destination on automated cars accompanied by loud warning tones. Equipped with earmuffs and safety clothing, DEKRA’s test engineer Tiina Vakkala and Juha Raitanen, an expert in non-destructive testing of materials, set to work in the cold rolling mill of the Outokumpu Stainless Oil plant in Tornio, Finland. Every three months, the chemical pipelines and storage tanks in the cold rolling mill must be checked. Using a map on her smartphone, the engineer navigates to the first destination. Here, her gaze wanders over a labyrinth of pipes, pumps and valves until she discovers what she was looking for: a small QR code sticker. While Raitanen unpacks his ultrasound machine to measure the wall thickness of the hydrofluoric acid tube, Vakkala scans the code with her cell phone. A window for the measuring point appears on the display. Here, Vakkala can not only view the data of prior inspections, but also immediately save the newly measured value. They are already setting out for the next measuring point.
Before VALTO360, inspections were an analog affair.
Customers also benefit from the app: Not only do they receive their results faster, but they can also extend the program to include individual applications.
The 36-year-old Finn has long had the vision of a digital assistant. “But what I imagined was just not commercially available,” she says. For this reason, Vakkala rolled up her sleeves and developed VALTO360 together with the agency Systems Garden. The app not only makes life easier for testers, but also benefits customers. Not only do you receive your results faster, but you can also extend the app individually. “Moreover, we continue to develop VALTO to incorporate additional customer needs,” says Vakkala. In Lapland alone, there is massive interest: Three customers are already using VALTO360, while the fourth is being set up.
The program runs on any standard terminal – Internet access and security clearance provided.
Augmented Reality: With the Hololens in the Steel Mill
VALTO360 has also caught the attention of the headquarters in Stuttgart. The large office of Andreas Grasse and Sebastian Rolf is an oasis of calm compared to the Finnish cold rolling mill. Grasse and Rolf are part of the “Digital Innovation Lab”. Their Mission: To promote and push forward IT-technological innovations at DEKRA. “In March 2018, we were in Finland to come up with new ideas for the app in an international workshop,” explains Grasse. There, he used one of his “favorite toys”: The HoloLens, or so-called “mixed reality glasses”, which are controlled by language and head movement. In the future, it could become a terminal for VALTO360. The tester receives all the information – e.g. measuring points – directly into his/her field of view and can control the glasses via gestures. “There is also the option of connecting a colleague from outside to the HoloLens. This person would then see the same on his/her computer screen in the office as the tester on site. Together, they can then discuss a problem or share hints,” explains Grasse.
There is major Interest in this Development
Grasse and Rolf are convinced that VALTO360 will be met with great interest also among customers across the Finish border. This is already the case in Sweden: Jörgen Backersgård, Director of Business Innovations at DEKRA, works with his team to connect VALTO360 with another application called SAFEHUB – a so-called “Field Service Management-Software“. It is a platform that enables test engineers, among other things, to plan their work, execute it efficiently, and communicate with customers and the backoffice. “As we combine VALTO360 and SAFEHUB, we greatly increase the value of both systems,” says Backersgård. The market launch is only scheduled to take place in Scandinavia, as the strong market position and customer base of DEKRA facilitate
introduction. “The first contacts with customers are extremely positive. I believe that we will have over 500 customers within a few years”, Backersgård states convincingly. At times, Tiina Vakkala is somewhat surprised at the enormous interest her web application has stirred: “I’m thrilled that VALTO360 has been so well-received,” she says. “It’s fun to keep developing the app and provide new solutions to customers. I’m curious to see where the journey may lead us.”
With Tiina Vakkala and the new testing app on an inspection tour
View from the top: The factory area of Outokumpu Stainless Oil in Torino covers 600 hectares. There are 50 kilometers of pedestrian and cycle paths on the complex.
Direct jump: Engineers scanning the QR code with the mobile phone will see the corresponding input form to enter measured values.
Easier orientation: Using a “Google Street View” like feature, test engineers can easily navigate the layout.
3 Questions for Joakim Wikeby
From Finnish Lapland to the whole world: The demand for VALTO360 is already high. Joakim Wikeby, Service Division Industrial Inspection, speaks on the other plans to launch the web application – and explains what its service division can do to help.
VALTO360 attracts great interest from Scandinavian customers. How do you assess demand in other regions?
Internally, we have already received requests from many countries. But VALTO360 will be offered first to our existing customer base in Scandinavia – and will continue to grow from that point.
What would be the next steps to market VALTO360 in other countries?
First of all, the app has to be flexible enough to integrate different data sources or systems – and it must adapt easily to different services. If we want VALTO360 to be commercially successful in other countries, we need to involve the key people in the regions as early as possible.
To what extent is TOM 2020 helping to drive this innovation?
The focus of the Service Division is to a large extent on innovation and technical development. Innovative projects such as VALTO360 benefits from this, because the global distribution of this new service is expected to be more advanced than before.