In an interview with Level III Inspector and Business Deveopment Manager of Africa Non-Destructive Testing Centre (ANDTC) Hannes Barnard, we find out about Hannes and the fascinating story behind Inspector EISH (our Extremely Important Superhero). Along with a tour of Hannes’s working ground at the ANDTC, he keeps us up-to-date on industry insights and he shares his extensive experience in the industry.
How did you come up with the idea of Inspector EISH?
• My colleagues and I wanted to create a cartoon character with tips and funny snippets that was really made for the NDT guys. The British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) created a similar character called “Inspector Hector “ and we just decided to create something that was South African. I give credit to Keith Cain for the appearance of Inspector EISH as he was involved in the design.
What is the idea behind the “Extremely Important Super Hero” better known as Inspector EISH?
We wanted to create a typical NDT guy who makes mistakes and learns from those mistakes, and who shares them with others. EISH is something that comes into play when the mistake is made. When Inspector EISH was originally created he had no real race or language, he was just an ordinary NDT guy. EISH does not have a future or a past. He is the present and deals with the present! The big thing with Inspector EISH Is that we did not want to include technical information with an article because nobody reads anymore, we wanted to make the information accessible. Inspector EISH is like Bart Simpson - he never gets old!
What do you think about Inspector EISH having his own female counterpart?
I think it’s a great idea! He should definitely have a female partner, someone who will speak to everyone and not only women in NDT. She should give general tips; like how to remove penetrant from clothing and explore issues such as; should RT and UT technicians have the same diets? How do you handle a weekend away without Inspector EISH? NDT is a niche market and nobody knows about it until you get involved in it. Hopefully this female character will open another side to our industry.
What is the relationship between NDT and the general public?
NDT touches absolutely everything in everybody’s life, every day. I always joke with people by saying we think prostitution is the oldest industry but it’s actually not; it’s NDT. Think about it: Genesis is pretty much the oldest book that anybody knows. God created something and he saw that it was good, so the first NDT done was done by God himself!
What does NDT mean to you?
We are the hidden heroes of NDT. In fact everybody does NDT every day; you put on your watch this morning because the strap worked and the time was correct. You needed to make sure the little window wasn’t cracked, so you inspected it. Before drinking your coffee, you made sure the milk wasn’t sour or that there was a fly floating in the cup. NDT just takes it to another level of inspection.
We as humans like to have the best things so we inspect but what we can’t inspect, we get someone else to do. One would expect an NDT guy to run checks on their car breaks, the next time you jump on a plane you would hope an NDT guy inspected the engine. So we really are the ‘hidden heroes’ that is what NDT is.
What is the general role of NDT guys?
One of the quotes I like from American Industrialist Henry Ford is; “Quality is doing the right thing when no one is looking”. NDT guys are always working when nobody is looking. We are a strange group of people doing strange work!
What is your response, when asked what NDT is?
If somebody were to ask me; what is your role in NDT? I would say it is similar to someone fracturing an arm and goes to hospital for an X-ray or a pregnant woman who goes to a doctor for a scan. I do the same thing on steel; we look for cracks and the things that aren’t supposed to be there.
Are there any interesting discussions that happen in the workshop?
We call them ‘fights’ or ‘quarrels’, but they can become heated and big because everybody gets emotional! Everybody believes they are entitled to an opinion or to get angry. The guys don’t really back down, but it’s not about who needs to be right, it’s really just that they believe what they doing for the industry is the best.
What are some of the Challenges faced in NDT?
• Qualifications are a big issue, there is the question of which are the best? There are different qualifications like the SANDE qualification, ANDT qualification, and the Welding Instituteis qualification. Deciding on which is the best qualification can be similar to saying; which is better – a Rolls Royce, Ferrari or a Toyota Land Cruiser? It depends how fast you want to drive, what you want to transport, where you want to go and how many people you wish to transport? The same goes for qualifications, there is no qualification that suits everyone. There’s no qualification that can apply to all fields, each one has its own importance. There should be competition, keeping in mind that it is expensive to do NDT, but students know that they get a return on their investment.
What is your opinion on the application of NDT in Higher Education Institutes?
I like this building the way it is! As soon as you regulate training, you regulate what you can charge for the training, you regulate what people can earn. NDT is not regulated and many individuals in the industry don’t support this, as they prefer everyone to be paid the same. The earnings of an individual should be in line with his/her experience and qualifications. An NDT person goes through a six month course and then two to three years of industry, training compared to a university student studies for three years and spends way less on their qualification than an NDT person.
What is the affordability of NDT training in South Africa?
NDT training in South Africa is expensive compared to a university qualification. NDT however, is cheaper in South Africa compared to the rest of the world. I would really like to see NDT training become more affordable. The more NDT we add to the system, the more value to NDT will add in South Africa.
What is the demand for NDT in South Africa?
There is roughly a figure of 40 Level III Technicians in South Africa. A number of NDT technicians are in demand; locally and internationally.
Who has inspired you in the industry?
For many years there have been a handful of level III NDT Technicians in South Africa. I admire people like Amanda van der Westhuizen from General Electrics (GE) and look to for advice. She taught me to do things the right way, ‘the Amanda way’. Whether I liked it or not, she has made me to what I am today. Wherever Amanda goes she influences people with her outspoken personality and her vast amount of knowledge.
How did you discover NDT?
I was studying through UNISA at the time. My dad was working for a construction company. He was given a contract in Zambia, I accompanied him as a tea boy and in my free time I helped an NDT man sort out films. Three months later the NDT man needed a new tea boy and I was given the opportunity to be his assistant. About a year later I worked in Secunda for over a year, and then I worked for a unit inspection for eight years. Later on I did freelancing where I was introduced to ANDTC. Six months after doing training at ANDTC I was offered the opportunity to work for the company for the past 10 years.
What do you like about NDT?
NDT is good to me, I like the people and the technology. I have had my fair share of experiences and working with expensive technology is what I like most. The amount of experienced gained equals the amount of equipment you break.
What do you like least about NDT?
Having cold pizza and working away from home. There isn’t much that I don’t like about NDT. Petrochemical Testing is the most demanding testing in NDT.
Who has played a big role in your career?
Hennie Fourie, ANDTC’s General Manager, has played the biggest role to my career in NDT. After him I would say my biggest supporters outside NDT would be my wife and father. They have blindly supported me and have driven me to be the person I am today.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Fishing in Botswana or travelling. My favourite holiday destination is Durban.
What is your opinion on SAINT’s representation of NDT in South Africa?
SAINT is playing a great role in the industry as they are creating more exposure for NDT and expressing industry opinions on several key issues.
What is your opinion of women being exposed to NDT?
There should be more women in NDT, women should know that they are allowed to be anywhere and to do what they find interesting. NDT has been male dominated for many years and it’s now open to everyone.
Apart from hard work, what is the secret to being successful in NDT?
Never accepting no for an answer.