The measurement app from the Arctic Circle

Dec 07, 2021
City folks would consider it the epitome of idyll: the wooden house with the white window frames, the neighboring stables, and the large garden. Around it — nothing but woods. The home of DEKRA Inspection Engineer Tiina Vakkala in the Finnish town of Keminmaa is surrounded by peaceful tranquility. "I enjoy the peace and the space here — my closest neighbors live 1.5 or 2 kilometers away," she says. "It did take some time to get used to the solitude out here, though.” The fact that Tiina has electricity at all in her isolated hut is mainly due to her persistence. One day, she got tired of the generator and asked the local energy provider about the possibility of extending the electricity grid to her. "They kept putting me off, but I didn't give up," she says.

From materials testing to Inspection Engineer

Tiina is a fighter who doesn't give up easily. That's how she ended up at DEKRA: "I started out as the assistant of an NDT inspector. Later I obtained the certificate to carry out nondestructive testing myself, but I wanted more." So she began studying while working and graduated with a bachelor's degree in engineering. In 2008, she finally started working as an Inspection Engineer for pressure equipment at Polartest Oy, which was acquired by DEKRA the same year.

Digitization expert with her own app

What Tiina particularly likes about her job as an Inspection Engineer is that no two days are the same. Especially not since the Finn joined forces with a digital agency to develop an app called VALTO360º. She had had a vision of a digital helper for a long time. "But what I envisioned simply didn't exist on the market," she says. As a virtual navigation and reporting tool, VALTO360º offers an easy work process management by means of an intuitive visual interface. The system is implemented using a digital twin of the real environment created from floor plans, 360° images and 3D models. Similar to Google Street View, the plants can be photographed with special cameras and then mapped. All relevant information is added into the images as Points of Interest (POI) icons and into the physical space as QR/RFID stickers. This allows the inspector to virtually navigate through the plant with their smartphone or tablet and see measurement points and information that they can then compare to their real surroundings. This makes work much easier, especially in large plants like Outokumpu. The cold rolling mill is 14 hectares in size and has around 850 measuring points. "Before VALTO360º existed, inspections were an analog matter. We had simple spreadsheets and customers had to wait at least a week for their results," Tiina says.

Inspection without paper and pencil

With the help of a map on her smartphone, she makes her way to her first destination. Here, she lets her eyes wander over a maze of pipes, pumps, and valves until she finds what she's looking for: the small QR code sticker. Tiina scans the code with her smartphone. A window for the measuring point appears on the screen. Here, she can not only view details of previous inspections, but also save the last measured value. "When I do inspections at Outokumpu, I no longer need pens or paper — thanks to the measurement app, customers receive their results immediately and digitally," explains the Inspection Engineer.

See, share, supervise

What started as a small idea has turned into a real innovation with huge potential for many industries. After four years of development, VALTO360º is much more than initially planned. The tool is now not only used for inspecting industrial plants, but also in construction, real estate, or even hospital maintenance. In other words: wherever there is a lot of space and object information that requires attention and review. “We have identified the product’s potential and included add-ins for various industries. Thanks to a flexible API interface, VALTO360º is capable of much more. But the main thing is that we have achieved what we were aiming for at the outset: time and money saved by all parties”, explains CIO Eero Sutinen.
Global Boiler Works Oy (GBW), a Finnish engineering and manufacturing company, is one of many customers who appreciates the benefits of VALTO360º — especially, that all data can be managed independently. The system supports the company for example in product development and production in various aspects of mechanical and metal engineering and is also used in cooperation with the University of Oulu for education and research purposes. “We have a variety of operations and machinery that require great care and precision, as well as information and data that must be readily available. For us, VALTO360º is an operational tool that enables us to share necessary information with various parties without any intermediaries and helps the users on site receive the information they need. Furthermore, it helps people to learn independently about safety issues, various premises, and any fittings. Thanks to the tool, the maintenance is carried out really smoothly these days”, says CEO Marko Jokinen.
Now, VALTO360º is through to the next round: the product development portfolio contains further integration potential and modules for Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP). The team is also working on implementing Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). In the future, customers will be able to virtually walk through and inspect the plant using VR glasses.

When I do inspections in Outokumpu, I no longer need pens or paper — thanks to the measurement app, customers receive their results instantly and digitally.

Tiina Vakkala, Inspection Engineer for Pressure Equipment at DEKRA