Arungalai Anbarasu, CT&SO, discusses the company's philosophy on digital transformation and how it’s creating peace of mind for manufacturers post-COV...
Although the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are beyond dispute, one positive aspect has been a renewed openness to digital transformation and its possibilities. Waygate Technologies is a staunch champion of its effect in the non-destructive testing (NDT) and industrial inspection arena. Originally GE Inspection Technologies, the company eventually rebranded itself in 2020 but still maintains its rich industry heritage with over 125 years of world-leading excellence - a combination of 1.700 employees operating globally as part of the Baker Hughes corporation. Using cutting-edge data analytics, Waygate Technologies seeks to augment productivity, boost competitiveness, and provide clients and their customers with the peace of mind they require.
Naturally curious and exploratory at a young age, Arungalai Anbarasu, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, says that engineering provided her with the perfect outlet for exploring these passions. “My Master's thesis (at the Georgia Institute of Technology) was actually on non-destructive testing,” she explains. Joining GE in 2005, Anbarasu quickly developed professionally, “I started to understand why business strategy is so important for a company, which made me take on different roles in the company, from finance strategy to operations, technology, business management, and finally the role I find myself in today.” When the company became Waygate Technologies, she relates that capturing the brand attention once afforded to GE was challenging. “GE Inspection Technologies (GEIT) enjoyed such a strong presence in the NDT industry. We retained the people and the culture, so we rebranded in a way that our customers would still recognise us and our services. Ultimately, we provide them with a gateway to innovation, so that, I believe, was the reasoning behind our new name.”
In terms of more recent challenges, Anbarasu cannot deny that COVID-19 has presented a significant operational hurdle. However, she caveats this with a sense of optimism regarding the development of tech within NDT. “I almost see this as the beginning of a new digital revolution towards ‘Industry 4.0+’. I think a lot of this will continue beyond COVID too, with legacy customers becoming more accepting generally; they used to prioritise face-to-face interactions during an inspection, but these days we've been convincing them to do it virtually. Although the pandemic has driven us apart physically, it has brought us together virtually.” Furthermore, two of Waygate Technologies’ flagship digital products - InspectionWorks Connect and Insight - are geared for meeting the core challenges introduced by COVID: the former allows users to connect a handheld borescope or ultrasonic testing (UT) device to remotely located experts, while the latter allows operators to analyse and upload data independently from anywhere.
Having these tools, and many others, illustrates what gives Waygate Technologies an advantage over other companies in the space, “We have one of the broadest product portfolios available,” Anbarasu states. “That world-leading breadth across visual, ultrasound, x-ray, CT, Eddy current, portables, handhelds and cloud services puts us in a really unique position.” Observing that a global shift away from single-unit data to larger connected ecosystems of information that unlock value exponentially is taking place, she positions the company at the head of this new trend in NDT and industrial inspection. “We pride ourselves in helping our customers both detect defects and avoid them altogether; detecting is important, but if we can avoid a fault from occurring, I think that’s far more valuable to them.” In a way, Anbarasu says, our approach is comparable to the best healthcare: its testing identifies problems early, before they have an opportunity to develop into something more hazardous.
However, fundamentally guiding Waygate Technologies’ digital transformation journey is a desire to move beyond simply selling ‘product solutions’ and instead focus on envisioning, creating, building and selling digital inspection solutions. As such, the company has established a four pillar philosophy: 1) Focusing explicitly on developing collaborative partnerships, both with customers and vendors; 2) Shifting away from building products featuring software to true software products; 3) Employing a new commercial presence in the market that will enable the execution of its goals; and 4) Evolving hardware and manufacturing rhythms to drive a steady customer expectation of software releases and updates. Leveraging Waygate Technologies’ storied heritage and not allowing traditions to stifle innovation will be crucial, particularly as the company transitions from being a device-centric to a data-centric inspection company. Clearly, a cultural shift will be integral; “That is a much larger challenge, though, because you're trying to convert people from their long-held beliefs. This needs to be achieved through the right capital investment, training commercial teams and expanding our digital presence in different geographical regions.”
Far from being a strictly internal evolution, though, Anbarasu makes it clear that Waygate Technologies’ digital transformation will have direct benefits for customers. “Consider this: a borescope built by us can enter the combustion chamber of an aircraft engine through an approximately 1cm diameter port, travel to a location and capture an image with its own light source and stereo camera, measuring, in 3D, depths of defects down to the several microns. This is then taken to an exponentially higher value for the customer when Waygate Technologies deploys automatic defect recognition algorithms built on the cloud, delivered on the device. This enables the operator using the instrument to make ‘plane-side’ decisions, thus saving millions of dollars lost in downtime. This is truly incredible technology, and that’s just one example,” she enthuses. “Waygate Technologies delivers peace of mind with emerging technologies,” Anbarasu adds. “These are truly enabling our customers to have full confidence in our solutions’ ability to safeguard them from a quality perspective.” One of the company’s core digital initiatives, InspectionWorks|Ecos, offers an integrated, blockchain-powered data management solution, enabling unified inspection insights across a customer’s entire ecosystem and the complete lifecycle of their assets. Already highly anticipated for its perceived high value and market necessity, Waygate Technologies believes that leveraging this new data solution could be transformative for modern industrial inspections.
Already serving the aerospace, defense, automotive, electronics and energy industries, Anbarasu intimates that, although these will remain the company’s core markets, Waygate Technologies is interested in branching out further. “Inspection data is everywhere and in every process; it can be a very powerful tool for customers to drive productivity, quality and safety,” she says. “We will continue to serve these traditional markets and also explore growth areas like medical devices, other forms of transportation and the pharmaceutical sector. At the same time, we will strive to partner with clients in new technologies like electric vehicle (EV) batteries, hydrogen and 3D printing.”
Data, Anbarasu states, will be the key to this expansion and Waygate Technologies’ broader digital transition. “I don't think the abundance of data is an issue; I think there’s no longer a debate on whether data is valuable and whether it feeds digital transformation. However, what’s now critical is the infrastructure around data: simply digitising all inspections is only the starting point; it is when this data can be tied to the asset being inspected and then cross and counter referenced that its value starts rising exponentially”. Further, she indicates that ‘infrastructure’ refers just as much to corporate ethics as it does to equipment, viewing Waygate Technologies’ position of social responsibility, particularly in the post-COVID-19 world, as equally substantial. “We are trying our best to help out where we can, such as inspecting ventilators, and digital transformation can be a force for good in achieving that goal,” she concludes. “Everyone needs to unite, follow the rules, and beat COVID.”