Boosting the value of vibration monitoring
The potential for improvements is found in analytics and in the quality of measurement
Vibration monitoring is a growing business sector, but in many countries the increased demand for relevant expertise and services has not resulted in increased consultancy fees.
“One reason is definitely the widespread perception of vibration monitoring as a mainly hands-on profession”, says Carl Lind, a Swedish senior consultant and educator. “Many consulting companies, building contractors and property owners tend to underestimate the importance and potential business value of sophisticated measuring and analysis techniques, which is unfortunately reflected in the negotiated fees. At the same time the consultancy companies themselves, enjoying the ever increasing demand for basic monitoring services, may not find it worthwhile to invest in upgraded services and related premium renumeration.”
Through the past 20 years Carl Lind has cumulated a wealth of experience from the Nordic construction industry, increasingly focusing on the environmental impact of blasting, excavation, packing, piling, and drilling. After establishing an independent consultancy firm in 2017 he has provided basic and advanced training for more than 600 participants in this highly specialized field.
One specific area of interest is vibration analysis (signal- and frequency content) to check that all sensors are installed correctly. Among consultants as well as customers, there is a tendency to be overly careful, in other words setting the vibration limits too low. Vibration analysis can be used to increase vibration restrictions in buildings, enabling blasting and other construction work in a more time and cost efficient way.
Understanding the data – and presenting them right
“Vibration consultants are encountering a wide range of expectations. On the one hand the dialogue with property or project owners and construction company executives require business-mindedness as well as practical knowledge and considerable social skills”, says Mr. Lind. “At the same time, the rapid evolution of digital monitoring and analytics technology calls for a more ‘academic’ mindset and skills.”
Modern digital monitoring systems are largely automized and easy to manage in the field, Conversely, to reap the ultimate benefits of this new technology, you also need to interpret and present the valuable data in the most effective way – both orally and in written reports. Which sometimes involves rather advanced engineering and mathematics. Says Carl Lind:
In general terms, the engineers and technicians that attend my courses and seminars already possess considerable monitoring and measuring knowhow. The main potential for improvement is almost always analytics, understanding and applying the data in the right way. Having said that, there is usually room for improvement also in the practical measuring work, and in the ability to develop a best practice adapted to the commission or situation at hand.
“In terms of training I therefore find it most meaningful to make a clear distinction between ‘measuring technicians’ and ‘environmental consultants’. The former conducts the actual measuring and should also master basic evaluation and reporting of data. The environmental consultant obviously needs to know all that, but should also be able to apply high-quality measuring capability in the context of qualified construction, foundation and other knowledge, standards and so forth. He or she must also be able to communicate this knowledge effectively, both in writing and in front of a high-level audience.
Adding value through cost efficiency and quality assurance
One key issue is what knowledge and skills will be needed in the foreseeable future. From a business point-of-view, neither the construction companies, nor the consultants can afford low quality. And sub-standard analytics is also bound to affect quality assurance. Another vital aspect that may call for further investment in training is standardization. According to Carl Lind, the documents generally applied in the monitoring industry today don’t provide all the answers:
The real key issue is how you, as a consultant interpret the relevant standards. A wide range of standards are applied in various parts of the world. In Sweden there are currently five standards, each summarized on a mere 10 pages or so, which leaves plenty of room for flexibility – and, unfortunately individual interpretation. The unavoidable uncertainties are also reflected in the steadily growing interest for training and knowledge testing. And ongoing discussions regarding the business potential for upgraded services.
International or local quality standards?
Two issues implicitly related to training are standardization and certification. From the 1940s onwards, largely based on the heritage of Mr. Alfred Nobel, the Nordic blasting know-how was also instrumental to the evolution of pioneering vibration measuring and monitoring techniques. To this end, Sigicom was founded in 1981.
“Today, the most advanced knowledge is also found in other parts of the world, especially North America and Australia. But the Nordic region is in pole position when it comes to the widespread use of web-based remote and automated measuring systems in combination with web applications for analysis and presentation. The region is clearly benefitting from the deeply rooted insights and industry-wide maturity established in the early years.”, emphasizes Carl Lind. “The potential for harmonization between the Nordic countries is good. But the considerable variations around the world currently makes it difficult to establish truly international standards in a meaningful way.”
Conversely, Mr. Lind does not see any immediate potential for certifications:
“Vibration analysis requires hands-on measuring skills as well as in-depth understanding of relatively complex physics and math. In other words it is extremely multi-faceted, and the industry maturity varies considerably around the world, including various forms of best practice. There is a wide range of challenges to deal with in terms of knowledge and international standardization before we should even begin to discuss formal certification. Right now we are in the process of webifying knowledge checks, implemented after completed courses. We think that´s a more realistic alternative than certification.
Carl Lind M.Sc