Recently, like many people do, I had my annual health physical including having lab tests and analysis, an examination and a consultation with my doctor. Sounds like a good idea right? From this annual practice, we can all learn about: the general condition of our personal health; what the critical indicators are telling us; and what we need to watch for and improve upon. 

On the opposite side of this general inclination are those who may choose to avoid annual health physicals altogether. This decision may be attributed to the cost or time or possibly a fear of prescriptive health care. However, if individuals only seek medical attention when they are very sick then it may be too late to do anything about it. The results of which could be: painful (or even fatal) outcomes; extensive and expensive treatment; and the loss of productivity or income. This possibility is why many insurance companies are opting for reimbursement for annual physicals to reduce their risk of exposure and costs for those they insure.   

In this same vein (pardon the pun), industrial facilities including their process, mechanical and electrical equipment and systems, buildings and structures all need physicals or Condition Assessments for the same purposes of learning: about their general condition; what the critical indicators are telling us; and what we need to watch for and improve upon. And like our personal health: without prescriptive physicals or Condition Assessments, industrial facilities can face the same results of: painful outcomes; extensive and expensive repairs or replacements; and the loss of productivity or income. 

In our twenty years in business, Pearl Engineering has been called in to provide urgent engineering solutions for numerous emergency conditions in industrial facilities. And the majority of them could have been avoided if prescriptive Condition Assessments and Repairs had been done. These have ranged from underground pipelines failing to 300’ tall stacks that were near collapse. And these emergencies have all resulted in painful outcomes; extensive and expensive repairs or replacements; and loss of productivity or income. Further, they can also lead to being potentially fatal with the possible closure of a facility by the owners or investors 

Like a health physical, the Condition Assessment of components of an Industrial Facility may also include testing and analysis, physical examination and consultation.  

One example of Condition Assessment may be of a Concrete Floor Structure in an aging operating industrial facility. For this example: 

  • It is about 70 years old and probably wasn’t designed originally the current loads; 
  • It has constant tow motor traffic on it carrying large paper rolls across it; 
  • It has significant deflection when the tow motors race across it at high speeds; 
  • It has experienced extensive wear including: 
  • Cracking on the top surface; 
  • Spalling (or flaking off) of the bottom surface resulting in exposed rebar.  

(Note: we have seen actual examples like this that the client hung sheet metal to the underside of it to collect the concrete surface pieces falling off to prevent them from hitting people in the basement below!)  

Does this sound familiar as it is very common? We have seen numerous floors experiencing these types of conditions and firmly believe that they don’t fix or heal themselves.  

Eventually in this slab’s condition, the bottom surface spalling will become significant enough that there will be no concrete surface on the underside of the rebar which will eliminate the bond of it to concrete above it creating an un-reinforced concrete slab. This will cause the concrete to crack even more and eventually it will fail. We have seen towmotors break through and fall through floor slabs like this. It is real. But if so, the first thing that happens is that the aisle is blocked off which may prevent the towmotor traffic carrying the large paper rolls to their destination, which may stop production of that process line. So again, does this sound familiar or a possibility in your facility? 

So what can a Condition Assessment do to prevent such a failure that could result in injury or a loss of life, extensive repairs or the loss of production? Well, first it can identify the potential mechanisms of failure and address them proactively. 

For this example, this Condition Assessment would include: 

  • Physical examination of the floor slab and support beams for the definition of the wear; 
  • Possible 3D scanning or surveying for determination of permanent sag or deflection of it; 
  • Mapping of the damage and wear characteristics; 
  • Potential core sampling and testing of the concrete for it’s actual compressive strength; 
  • Review of the existing design drawings for what the floor structure was designed for; 
  • Analysis of the floor structure for the actual loads impacting it; 
  • Specification of repairs to the floor structure which may include crack injection; surface repair; rebar replacement; corrosion inhibitor methods; 
  • Design of strengthening methods such as addition of carbon fiber, additional rebar, slab thickening; the addition of intermediate floor beams and/or reinforcement of existing floor beams for the actual loads. 

With the installation of the repairs and reinforcement this floor can adequately support the actual loads imposed on it and be safe for continued life and operation of the facility. 

Please let us know if we can help you in such a way.