Where Industrial Bolting and IT Meet

For many years, industrial bolting and IT couldn’t have been further apart. It is only relatively recently that this industry has recognised the potential benefits of the use of IT.

In the recent past, tables, slide rules and good old field experience were the tools of the trade as far as identifying the torque and residual bolt load required for each application. Scarily, going not too much further back than that, some old school bolting technicians claimed they could tell when a bolt was tight by the ring of the flogging spanner when they whacked it with a hammer! Thankfully, these days health and safety regulations and let’s be honest, good old common sense requires something a little less “Heath Robinson”.

Not only do we need to calculate bolt loads, but we need to produce work instructions and joint completion records. On a moderate sized petrochemical plant there can be many thousands of joints of a variety of types and sizes and they all need to be recorded and have a history trail throughout the life of the plant. You can hear the forests screaming from here as we consider the amount of paper necessary.

Over the last decade, the industry has woken up to the fact that information technology, in a number of formats can make a massive difference to the calculation and recording of bolting industrial joints.

Starting, not at the bottom necessarily but certainly at the simpler end of the spectrum is the good old App. There are a few out there and the majority will allow you to put in the bolt size, metric or imperial, maybe the lubricant coefficient of friction and they will calculate the AF size of the nut and the torque or tension load required. They often provide bolting sequences and some a conversion facility too. They are a really useful rough guide and almost exclusively recommend one manufacturer’s tools only.

Next is the basic calculator software that takes things a step further, looks at common flange and seal types and may output simple work instructions and completion sheets as well as a dimensioned image of the joint in question. They may also allow the user to record some basic joint information and again these are generally specific to one manufacturer’s tools. They certainly have their place on the desktop and are quite sufficient for working on relatively small numbers of joint maybe up to a few hundred tops.

Almost top of the tree is the full flange management software package. This is aimed mainly at the operators and first tear contractors and is pretty much the same as the calculator software at the front end but with a much more sophisticated flange management package to support and organise the vast numbers of joints often found in petrochemical sites.

They are often cloud based and multi site, multi user systems and they will record the operator, the tooling the torque and residual bolt load for each of thousands of joints. This kind of software generally also contains details of all well known tool manufacturers and regular updates will be issued as new flange, seal or joint types come on line.

And finally, the pinnacle of joint integrity software that is available.

There is, to our knowledge only one company that have taken joint integrity software to this level and yes of course we are in partnership with them but to keep this piece unbiased and more informative, we will continue to mention no names.

This system is very like the flange management software described above except it is not produced by, or for one particular bolting equipment manufacturer hence no bias. It is a fully live, cloud based system with an extensive team of industry experts working in the background. Some are even involved as deeply as the production of international legislation relevant to the industry so they know about changes well before anybody else does so their clients are ahead of the game.

Their clients can also call them for support and that not just IT support, they can advise and assist with calculations on special or mongrel joints too. The system supports users 99% of the time and they can be confident that there is a real person to call on for those few specials.

The system is updated in real time as new joints are discovered and as clients find them, they are verified and added to the database in just a few days. It is of course all “horses for courses” but this top end package clearly has an important place to play in the safe and cost efficient future of industrial joint integrity.

Now, do remember this piece is written by a bolting industry guy who has been lucky enough to be a witness to the development of IT in bolting over the last fifteen years. We can direct you to free and paid apps and supply you with the best software for you with no bias towards one manufacturer. What we will do however is come along to see you with a geek in tow (sorry guys) who can answer all the technical IT questions you may have. Contact us for more information.