Dexterity, diligence and an equipment inspection from 2,100 miles away

Inventive remote solution satisfies Enbridge’s quality standards, supplier’s COVID-19 safety protocols

April 17, 2020

Valves. Pumps. Transformers. Pipe steel.

Enbridge’s Vendor Inspection Services (VIS) team usually crisscrosses North America non-stop, performing onsite inspections to ensure the equipment produced by our suppliers passes muster before it’s used in our energy infrastructure network.

In the era of COVID-19, though, many suppliers are currently preventing outside personnel from entering their facilities for health reasons. It’s a scenario that demands dexterity on top of diligence—and, in this case, a remote inspection from more than 2,100 miles (3,375 kilometers) away.

“Overall, we are more stringent than much of the industry with respect to inspections. And we’re generally not in favor of changing the way we do inspection—because, among other things, consistency builds success,” notes Andy Duncan, an Edmonton-based quality manager with Enbridge’s Projects group.

“But what we’re finding right now is that some vendors are telling us: ‘Because of the pandemic, we’re completely closed to visitors, so your inspectors can’t come onto the premises.’ ”

Given current health protocols, Enbridge’s VIS team, led by Bryon Gaskin, has been working with vendors on a case-by-case basis and coordinating with Supply Chain Management (SCM) leadership on an enterprise approach. In some instances, a separate facility is established for onsite inspections. In others, if Enbridge’s need is not critical, the inspection is simply put on hold until the supplier relaxes its COVID-19 rules.

And sometimes, an above-and-beyond approach is required. Last month, when an ultrasonic flow meter produced in Pennsylvania was needed for Enbridge’s Woodland Capacity Expansion project in Alberta, a quick solution was required—with an extra dose of ingenuity.

VIS team member Tomek Klebek and his manager Alain Ouellet consulted with their Projects counterparts to determine requirements and timeline—and, in short order, developed a plan that included a live video link, an open telephone line, and real-time access to a shop worker on the floor in Coraopolis, PA. All preliminary verifications, including equipment calibrations, were reviewed and accepted in advance.

The result was a seamless remote hydrostatic inspection—with the refrigerator-sized flow meter being put through its paces on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, and the inspector watching and directing in Edmonton.

“From our side, the vital aspect to all of this was for the remote inspection plan to meet the specification—not just the intent—in place of our usual procedures,” says Klebek. “During the inspection, we were able to capture critical video sequences and ask questions of the supplier’s representative when we needed to.”

Ultimately, this bit of quick and detailed thinking ensured that the VIS’s plan met all regulatory and company requirements—and that Enbridge was fully confident in the quality of the final product.

“The end result,” says Ouellet, “is a product that remained on schedule, and shipped on time, meeting project quality requirements as well as the vendor’s unique safety protocols during COVID-19.”

He adds: “This remote inspection was a great trial run for occasions when in-person inspection just isn’t possible—and our teams need the material.”