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CR and DR with IR (Supplies and Services)

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Putting the “X” in Xperts this week, Pieter Medema of IR Supplies and Services joins Dr. Bill Cardoso and host David Kruidhof, to share his expertise in all things NDT and NDE.  Pieter provides background on IR, Creative Electron’s newest partner, and how the organizations complement one another.

IR Supplies and Services is a Canadian distributor of NDT equipment and supplies, now including Creative Electron.  Founded by NDT radiographers to supply and support the important work of these unsung heroes of infrastructure.  Key to their success is the fact that they service everything that they sell, making customer support central to their mission.

Do you find yourself Googling “what’s the difference between NDT (nondestructive testing) and NDE (nondestructive evaluation)?” Ever wished you knew the difference between CR (computed radiography) and DR (digital radiography or direct radiography)?  Have you puzzled over why some cling to film radiography over the many benefits of CR and DR?  If so, enjoy this video, and put your mind at ease.

Reach out to us directly with any question.  Register for upcoming Fireside Chats with the Xperts and view our archives here.

 

Transcript:

David Kruidhof:
Time for another Fireside Chat with the Xperts, and today we have a special guest with us, Bill Cardoso. Again, welcome back. Also, have here-

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
He doesn’t mean it, Pieter. He doesn’t mean it, just being sarcastic.

David Kruidhof:
… And also, we have Pieter here from our new partner in Canada, IR Supplies and Services. Pieter, welcome. Why don’t you introduce yourself, and IR to us and our viewers.

Pieter Medema:
Perfect, yeah. My name is Pieter Medema and I’m with IR Supplies and Services. We’re a Canadian distributor of NDT equipment and supplies. Basically, we were founded in 2005 by two gentlemen who had previously worked in the field as NDT technicians for years, basically, they had a vision. The two that I mentioned are Rob Muschket and Brian Sargent, their vision was to start a company that would offer a better equipment solution for the NDT industry. Basically, at the time they had issues, they need it to go to 10, to 15 different suppliers to get all the equipment they needed and they wanted to diversify and become a one-stop shop for all your NDT needs. So that was kind of their reason for starting. Basically, they started out really small out of a small shop, now they have two full service locations, one in Edmonton and the other in Burlington and Ontario.

Pieter Medema:
Basically, we still run the business the same way with the vision of Rob and Brian. We always look for new suppliers that can definitely help us fulfill all our client’s needs. Now, the business is run a little different because now we also have a marketing manager we’ll add, we have a little more structure. So basically they’re keeping us honest and remembering our branding to remember to say, “IR,” and that was required. Anyways, that’s a little history of IR, and my position with IR is business development and I handle a lot of the technical side of things.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
So in 2005, when the company started, what customers was it serving? What kind of vertical?

Pieter Medema:
Actually, they started as just basically industrial radiography because that’s what Rob and Brian were, they were radiographers. So they wanted a better vision for the industrial radiography, but now we serve as basically all six methods. That’s why our branding now is IR, we don’t really want to be only in the RT field. We’re kind of a one-stop shop for basically all six methods.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
All your inspection needs.

Pieter Medema:
Correct.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Very cool.

David Kruidhof:
That’s non-destructive testing, right? How do you use that term versus are you talking about these six different methods? In our industry non-destructive testing or NDT, it seems like it has a lot of different means to different people. So what does that mean to you?

Pieter Medema:
Non-destructive testing basically or non-destructive evaluation, they’re basically meaning the same things. Really the main difference is non-destructive evaluation was more of testing the actual properties, physical properties of, and fractured toughness and other physical characteristics of it. Where NDT kind of that’s a term more broadly used, I would say now, because basically the main thing when you’re doing NDT testing, you want to not do destructive testing. So you’re using, you can actually inspect it and once it passes the test, you can actually sell it as well or use it in service. Basically, NDT basically is the silent hero because we make sure and the industry makes sure that your airplanes are safe. Your bridges, you drive over every day are safe and secure. Your pipelines are safe, when they inspect them, they can check for corrosion.

Pieter Medema:
There’s lots of things and they’re basically the unsung heroes in everyday life, because before I started in the NDT industry, I had no idea that existed. That’s kind of what NDT means to me. They’re kind of the unsung heroes and doing this inspection methods without actually having to stop the gas go into your house. They can inspect it to make sure it’s safe without stopping the service. Or closing a bridge, they can just do it basically when the vehicles are actually driving over it as well.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. I mean, it’s actually a great and very timely comment with the recent events that happening in Mexico with the subway, it crashed and killed 24 people. I mean, so far probably the number of deaths will increase, hopefully not of course, but it’s a good reminder that the importance of NDT in keeping the essential infrastructure of this country and in Canada and all over the world function properly. Of course, it’s too soon to tell there’s many investigations going on right now, but it’s been well-documented that an infrastructure not only [inaudible 00:06:41], but here in US as well, I don’t know who Canada is. But has been neglected and you should be properly inspected in regular times. So that things like this don’t happen again.

Pieter Medema:
No, absolutely. Also, that one, two years ago in Paris, in France, the bridge going from France to Italy, that collapsed as well. The investigation showed that their intervals were way too long in between when they actually did the inspection.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. Is this part of the services that you provide, the inspection of infrastructure?

Pieter Medema:
No, we don’t offer the actual service of doing the inspection. We actually supply to the companies that actually do the inspection work. So we’re basically do business to business sales. We actually sell to the companies that do their inspections and we also service all the things that we do sell. We would calibrate units or your DRD, direct reading dosimeter, also your survey meters. We would sell the equipment, but we’d also calibrate it and service it if it did break down.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
If a company in Canada gets a contract to inspect bridges and they need equipment, they call IR and you guys can hook them up with everything they need for X-ray inspection and all other types of methodologies, like whatever methods they’re going to be using for that inspection. Now, we’ve got to ask, it’s COVID time. So I got to ask, how are you guys being impacted? What changed? What didn’t change? What improved and how does it change this NDT world with COVID?

Pieter Medema:
COVID has slightly impacted our industry. However, we are, what do you call that? A needed field, so you can’t really just close us. We’re kind of a supermarket, people need to eat. With NDT, you need to be safe, so the work must continue. We’re basically, the NDT industries like a frontline worker basically. It has impacted us to a degree more so I would say, out West. Out east, We’ve still been pretty busy doing work and safely keeping our distance. If we’re in the office, wearing our masks staying the recommended distances. But in regards to a drastic decrease, I wouldn’t say it was a drastic decrease, it just shows you that you can still work and be safe at the same time.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. And work with X-rays, we know quite a bit about social distancing. We practice distancing from those sources on a regular basis. Now, perhaps one of the deepest impacts we’ve had was in the oil and gas. With airplanes basically grounded for weeks and people not commuting to work anymore for weeks or months, that has I think impacted the industry as a whole and those shock waves propagate all over the world. How’d you guys feel that in up in Canada?

Pieter Medema:
Like you mentioned, the oil and gas sector has really been impacted, also not really just because of COVID but also some of the new administration coming in, in the US canceled a major project, that impacted a lot of jobs. That’s why more of the Western Canada is more of an oil, gas sector, where up here in Burlington, we’ve been very busy with the nuclear industry. So automotive industry, aerospace industry, because the planes like you mentioned are grounded, it’s a perfect opportunity to have them all inspected. When pre-COVID the planes would fly 23 out of 24 hours basically, and that one hour the maintenance has to be done. Your inspections needed to be done, all that kind of stuff in a short span. So I think our Ontario location has been quite lucky in that regard because we’re very diversified in the industry that we’re helping out, because Western Canada doesn’t have any nuclear power plants like we do in Ontario.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. Western Canada is more, we’re less diversified because quite a bit of far new ventures and startups in Eastern Canada, right?

Pieter Medema:
Yes, yeah. For sure.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Very exciting ecosystem for new companies. And a lot of some American companies moving up to Canada to gets started at somewhat easier access to funding. Again, at some level depending where you are in US, you have lower competition for talent right up in Canada. I mean, and especially in Eastern Canada, you have top-notch universities produces top engineers, software engineers. So it’s a cool quite a place to be. As you look up, look towards the future of IR, what are some of those segments that you are looking at penetrating? No pun intended. Well, actually, intended.

Pieter Medema:
Yeah. One major industry that we’re really excited about, especially with having a supplier as a Creative Electron, you guys really fill a need that we had, because basically we were only able to sell things just off the shelf, this is what we have. Bringing you guys on board, we’re actually can customize a client’s solution and needs, which really is broadens our opportunities, especially in Eastern Canada for the automotive industry, which really we haven’t even touched yet.

Pieter Medema:
It’s very exciting to have a supplier as you guys, being able to customize a client’s needs. Before I would say, “Well, this is all we have. Unfortunately, we can’t customize it. It’s either this model or this model or nothing in between.” We’re now having Creative Electron, you guys will actually come in, help the customer, ask, “What do you guys need? What do you want? How can we make your life easier?” I believe there’s going to be a lot of markets that will be opening up with having this relationship between Creative Electron and IR.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. We’re really excited about, it was quite a bit of opportunities. Now, one of the reasons why I think this engagement is very successful is the fact that IR has quite a bit of depth in your technical team, to provide services and provide not only you are what are called distributor plus, plus, and not just a distributor. Like catalog, they sells a product and I’m done, “You have a problem? Call whoever made this thing.” Why don’t you tell us more about your business model, and how IR has been able to… And how that has been a propeller for your success?

Pieter Medema:
Yeah. So with IR, their vision is everything we sell, we will actually service. If a customer has an issue, we believe that the customer is number one. Of course, we always want to have satisfied customer. The more happy clients you have, the better it is everyone. We always go over and above. Basically, like our competitors, they would sell a product and anything happens if it’s outside of the warranty period or anything, they would refer them to the manufacturer. Which I’m talking from experience if I bought something… That’s one of the main reasons I like this one manufacturer that I go do my shopping at, it’s a Costco, any issues you go back, they look after you.

Pieter Medema:
So our philosophy is the same, customer has an issue, we will actually deal with the manufacturer or the customer. We don’t pawn them off on anyone because we personally know how that feels. We want to give topnotch service and that’s really what propelled IR into a different atmosphere, because our clients like dealing with us because they know what to expect from us. They have an issue they get looked after. So basically, any products that we sell, we want to make sure the supplier understands that and we want to help the customer out by any means necessary.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
I think that’s an important philosophical differentiation as a company that when you start a company, you have to make that decision and one of the key decisions you make is if you’re going to be a transactional company or relationship company. In a transactional company is a catalog company, you go ahead, you buy a product. If it doesn’t work out, not my problem, figure it out. In the relationship company, you don’t, you have a… In a catalog company, those companies sent you go wide and shallow, while relationship company, you try to go, it’s narrow but much deeper into the relationship with the customer, right?

Pieter Medema:
Absolutely, yes.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
And you have customers that you develop and they become partners, I mean, that’s what we have. We have customers and we like to call them partners because we have off the shelf products that we sell, a product line, it’s TruView product line from the Cube to the Prime to Fusion, Parts Counter and now, the new Flex, these are products you can buy almost off the website. But that we really from that service perspective, and from a perspective also off solving somebody’s pain, right?

David Kruidhof:
Yes.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
We want to be involved in and understand what that pain is. That’s why our sales team is we have PhDs, we have engineers and sales teams. So when you call, you’re not going to be talking to someone who’s going to look at a catalog and say, “Oh, you need part 5120,” and that’s it. I don’t really know what it does, but I think you need 5120 because somebody told me, that’s what you need, right? We have people who can have a conversation with our partners or customers, and understand what they need, what they’re looking for. Those are not always the same. What they need and what they think they need, or what they want and what they can afford. These are all different things. In our jobs to figure it out and converge into one solution that they’re going to be satisfied and come back later. For us, most of our customers come from word of mouth, it’s just referral.

Pieter Medema:
Yeah. That’s the best type of advertising. You please someone, they tell one person, you displease someone, they tell 10 people.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Exactly. Or nowadays you go on Twitter and you can tell a million people, right?

Pieter Medema:
Yes, yes. Yeah, true. That’s only if you’re Trump.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
I know you guys you have this different modalities and inspection and I know some people watching this might not know, but film for radiography still exists, right?

Pieter Medema:
Yes.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
And people are still using it. Explain to me why, because a lot of people don’t understand that, right?

Pieter Medema:
Yeah, no, absolutely. Basically, I think the main reason people are still using film is the average age basically for the radiographer in Canada is basically about 58 years old. It’s basically the price, I guess, just convert to digital is still pretty steep. Reason being not too many people have done it other than the big companies. Not going to incur the upfront costs, but really the upfront cost is going to be nothing if you’re looking five years down the road, because your return on investment is probably at the moment two years, basically.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Oh, wow.

David Kruidhof:
Oh, wow. Not bad.

Pieter Medema:
Basically, the price of film, your chemicals. So there’s basically film, it’s still flexible. It’s reusable? No. Where with CR the phosphate plate is flexible or the CR plate, I guess, you call it, their reusable. The capture speed versus film and CR, with film it’s one, CR it’s 10 times. Processing speed for film takes anywhere from eight and a half to 10 minutes to develop your film, for CR you scan it through the machine, two minutes and you’re done. Basically, your exposure latitude with film is 40 to one, with CR you’re looking at probably 10,000 to one. Dark room, you would need for film, where for CR you don’t need a dark room. You just need low lights. You have your chemical expense, where CR you don’t. Your image sharing with film, you got to put it in an envelope, send it with Purolator, send it to someone, make sure they get it, and hopefully it didn’t get bent or damage. Where with CR and DR, you could just email it or use Dropbox to share it, right?

David Kruidhof:
Yeah.

Pieter Medema:
The main key one, I would say, is your retrieval of an image. Let’s just say to store a film, you need to store it as specific temperature and humidity, right? And that costs money. Where digital storage is a lot cheaper, but to retrieve something from 10 years ago for film, you have to send them two or three or four people that you’re paying hourly to go search in boxes and months and day. It does take cost, time, and money to actually locate something, where digitally you put in a search parameter instantly you have it. That’s the main benefit of it. But there are so many more to digital, you have your onscreen measurements, you’ve got your zoom in on a region. Where with film you’re on a viewer, looking in on the regular one-to-one size. Where with digital you can zoom in, you can also put annotations on a digital image.

Pieter Medema:
You want to get rid of it, you just delete the annotations. You have an audit trail, right? Because with the medical field there, they switched over 25 years ago, we’ll just say. And we’re using the same kind of audit trail, which the medical field with DICOM with the NDT version is called DICONDE, which is the non-destructive evaluation ending of it. So the audit trail is good, where you cannot… The image is locked, you can’t change anything, where a JPEG or a TIFF file you can definitely change. That’s why you need the raw data, which is in DICONDE format. You can have comprehensive reports. You also have the color options. There’s a lot of pros, like way more pros than negative. The one negative is the upfront cost, but really your return on investment is pretty quick. And it does change depending how big your company is actually.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. I just noticed we have about five minutes left and I’ll have to get you invite you back because I have a hundred questions and now base on the download you just had.

David Kruidhof:
I got Bill to watch the time, this is exciting.

Pieter Medema:
Yeah. There you go.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Well, I was like, “Well, how many questions can I pack into five minutes?” But let me start with this one, are there customers out there? They come to your customers because your customers are the inspection companies, right? The companies that go to the airport or to the refinery and they bring the equipment, and they provide a service to those customers. Now, are there customers that say, “I only accept film. I do not accept any digital format for my inspections, for the inspection of my product?”

Pieter Medema:
Well, most customers nowadays are asking for a digital copy, but the people will still shoot the film. And then what they do is they actually take the film and they digitize it with what’s called a digitizer. That’s a less expensive way of giving the customer what they want because they want the digital copy. I would say, it’s about 70, 30 now, most customers, 70% of them are asking for a digital report or a digital copy of the actual inspection method.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
So they add a stamp that CR already has, which is the scanning basically or the film or the plate, right?

Pieter Medema:
Correct. Because you’re getting digital right away with CR, but you do have to buy the CR equipment, which is a lot more money than the digitizer.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Let me, before we get any further, can you give me the one minute explanation what’s CR in DR is? For the people on the call who might not know what we’re talking about exactly.

Pieter Medema:
Sure, yeah. So CR basically is a flexible plate. Like film, you still have your cassette, you still have to scan the actual CR plate or imaging plate, you call it. And CR is an acronym for computed radiography. DR is some people call it digital radiography, some direct radiography, basically it’s a plate that’s not flexible. Basically, with CR you can go down to basically 25 microns, where DR right now with, I believe 98 microns is the lowest you can get to, or the bigger size panels. Basically, CR is more weld quality and DR is more information shots or shadow shot.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Correct. And the smaller panel is going to go 50 microns but you can get a 43 by 43 centimeter. It’s going to be around 75 to a hundred micro or larger than that. I appreciate that because people sometimes don’t realize that the imaging plate for CR doesn’t have any electronics, doesn’t have any battery or anything like that. It’s just a passive film that registers the X-ray photons. And then that plate has to be scanned on this special machine with a laser, reads that image and then deletes the image from the plate and then it can reuse it, right?

David Kruidhof:
Right.

Pieter Medema:
Correct.

Pieter Medema:
The main issue with that now is to try not to damage the actual plate because those plates are expensive. Many, you get a scratch on it or something, and you’re doing actual weld quality is no longer usable the plates.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
… That’s a good point. It’s a very good point. So when customers are looking at the transition, are they going CR or they are going all the way to DR? How do you see that transition happening?

Pieter Medema:
It all depends on the actual type of inspection they do. If you’re just doing info shots, there’s no need to go CR, but if they’re doing info shots, which is like a shadow shot then, and weld quality, then CR is a good match for you. If you’re just doing shadow shots, parts of that is looking for defects, then you’re a DR is probably the way to go. It’s a lot of qualifying you will have to deal with the customer to see which one is better for them. Which that’s why it helps to actually have many more options, especially with Creative Electron that you guys actually have the DR solution. But you guys also do other software applications to help the customer actually detect flaws.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. We can learn artificial intelligence, machine learning, you can do tomography. It takes that to the real time world, or anything’s possible. I can see, I can tell where time now, Pieter, we’ve been doing this for a while and David gets restless when he see it like this. He means that it’s time to go.

Pieter Medema:
There we go.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
I don’t have to check my watch anymore, I just look him and he’s going to like, “Can you stop talking for now?”

Pieter Medema:
There you go.

David Kruidhof:
I got to distract you and interrupt your thoughts well. Yes, it is 10:30, so we do need to wrap it up. Pieter, it’s been really good to have you. Really enjoyed the conversation, learned a lot.

Pieter Medema:
Perfect, likewise.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Likewise.

David Kruidhof:
… We’ll have to have you guys back on again sometime soon.

Pieter Medema:
Yes, no problem.

Dr. Bill Cardoso:
Thanks for the time, Pieter.

Pieter Medema:
Give it a shout, anytime. Okay, thank you so much.

David Kruidhof:
Awesome. Thanks, see you.

Pieter Medema:
Bye, now.

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