14/10/2020 - DigitalThe COVID-19 pandemic presented Vallourec with the challenge of organizing remote working for teams while upholding its high-quality service for clients and licensees. We leveraged strong teamwork and innovative technologies to find new ways of doing business that saw us through lockdown and revealed benefits that will long outlast the pandemic.
Distancing yields unexpected benefitsAlong with the rest of the world, Joe Hill had never heard of COVID-19 when he first presented his idea for using RealWear at Vallourec’s annual Winnov’ in-house innovation event in 2019. He just saw the device’s potential advantages in remote assistance situations.
Knowing our Oil and Gas industry customers are looking for ways to reduce costs, I was searching for a safe and fully connected remote meeting solution. I did a lot of research into software and other connectivity apps, and I came across a couple different options that we tested: HoloLens—a mixed reality set of smart glasses—and RealWear’s Intrinsically Safe (IS) hardhat model.Joe Hill Director of VAM® Field Services, US
RealWear on the rigThe RealWear connected hardhat has both a visual component and a built-in mic that picks up a wearer’s audio while deadening background noise. It enables offsite personnel to follow an onsite inspector’s line of vision, giving them information, indicators and documents remotely and in real time.
RealWear and HoloLens for remote mill inspectionsFor customers who want to conduct remote mill inspections, both HoloLens and RealWear are options. Damien Barbier, Thermal Expert Manager - Europe/Africa Region, has found these to be efficient solutions. Working at the Vallourec Service Center, he has already used these devices with one of our key customers. “I made a complete tour of the center, and our customer could see all relevant checkpoints right from his office,” Barbier says. “We got great customer feedback.”
Meet Remobot, our in-house solutionEdson Viveiros, CAPEX and Continuous Improvement Manager at Vallourec Tube Alloy (USA), has taken remote assistance a step further with his new Remobot. The small robotic device combines wheel-mounted full-motion arms with a stand equipped with a connected tablet. Vallourec is using the cutting-edge robot along with RealWear to offer efficient, safe and cost-effective solutions to the challenge of conducting audits, inspections and product line reviews.
It’s the result of teamwork and perseverance. We created 15 prototypes before we built Remobot, adjusting everything from camera angles to the communication system. We have already received extremely positive feedback from our pilot client, and now we’re working on adapting the technology for other applications: remote third-party inspections, expert maintenance in engineering, internal and external audits, and shop tours for customers. We can also deploy RealWear and Remobot for Gemba walks, streaming to a multidisciplinary team from different business units. This way, we can brainstorm and benchmark to continuously improve operations.Edson Viveiros CAPEX and Cotinuous Improvement Manager at Vallourec Tube Alloy
Now, on our side, if there’s a part of our facility that has proprietary technology or a specific need for data protection we can simply switch off the camera until we’re in a zone that is safe for viewing. It’s an excellent mitigation solution to ensure business continuity despite COVID constraints.Samuel Lecerf QHSE and Industrialization Director
Rising to the challenge of licensee supportCOVID-19 brought new challenges to certify the network of VAM® connections licensees who manufacture or repair Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) pipes and accessories. However, remote technology enabled us to continue monitoring and helping licensees so that we could maintain the trust VAM® users place in our network.
It did take longer than usual due to the iterative nature of the process. While it does mitigate travel constraints, we still can’t perform all the steps that we would usually be able to, such as quality and appraisal audits.Philippe Deletombe Quality Manager for VAM® Services
These tools cannot replace all our regular systems. But properly used, they can provide useful assistance to improve reporting and enhance exchanges with our licensees and candidates.François David VAM® Services General Manager
Great teamwork leads to benefits across the board
As soon as possible, we wanted to leverage the benefits of these remote technologies in all relevant situations. And there are many such situations! That’s what makes this move toward remote assistance so exciting. It comprises not only a variety of use cases, but it also involves great collaboration among teams from throughout our group.Frédéric Brandelet Group Industrial Digital Solutions Manager