A drone flies over Vallourec plants

08/02/2018 - Innovation and R&D, United States
The goal: improve safety, maintenance and planning.

If you're a fan of Mary Poppins, you are aware of the song lyric "Up in the atmosphere, up where the air is clear… let's go fly a kite…"

Using the latest in drone imaging and technology, VAM USA and Vallourec Star are going up to the highest heights legally allowed to take photos of their respective sites.

Rick Dyke, a technician at Vallourec Star maintenance, submitted an idea to the idea box called "Big Opportunity Idea Tracker" to invest in a drone camera in order to inspect hard to reach places in the mill prompted the purchase of a unit at Vallourec Star. Coincidentally, VAM USA was also experiencing benefits of drone use for safety and security.

Photos were initially taken for general use in presentations and archival needs.  Brian Snyder recognized another opportunity.  "This exercise gave us some great photos which we labeled and shared with the Youngstown Fire Department.  It's good communication with the local first responders, and allows them to be better informed if they ever need to access our site.  The photos have been added to our emergency action plan."

Pat Harmon, a supervisor at Star maintenance, completed drone training.  Its initial use has been for outdoors, checking, for example, roof weathering or infrastructure erosion. However, Pat also sees the potential for indoor capability:  "Using a drone inside the mill will allow us to see hard to reach areas.  That's an excellent tool for finding equipment failures and identifying wear and tear for parts replacement or potential breakdowns." Vallourec Star's maintenance team is now training on indoor drone operation, the next step in fully utilizing drone capability for the mill.

*Big Opportunity Idea Tracker – spreadsheet that allows Vallourec coworkers to submit their ideas and explain their benefits

**HSE – Health, Safety, Environment