MSCC5

Opportunities to improve the UK pipe inspection standard (MSCC5)

Opportunities to improve the UK pipe inspection standard (MSCC5)

MSCC5

Introduction

If you work within the UK water industry, you will be very aware of the MSCC5 (Manual of Sewer Condition Classification Fifth Edition). The first edition dates back nearly 40 years now, and in that time, many hundreds of thousands of miles of sewers and pipes by thousands of different contractors of all shapes and sizes have used the code to create a standardised output.

 

Is history holding back the future?

The Water Research Centre (WRC) first published MSCC back in 1980, and since then, other countries have adopted the idea behind a standard. This led to the creation of the European Standard  BS EN 13508-2:2003+A1:2011, which has allowed the different codes to use a common language. 

 

This alignment now presents a challenge with updating MSCC so it can keep pace with the technological changes. The need to align with the European Standard means many stakeholders will need to agree to any changes. However, there is a real need to update the standard, given that the current manual is still referring Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT) screens and their calibration. Is there anyone out there using these screens now? 

CATHODE RAY SCREEN

MSCC5 references the calibration of Cathode-Ray Tube screens. Does anyone else still use these screens?

The first opportunity to improve the standard is to consider what the future of pipe inspecting coding might look like and how MSCC can support the future. We feel that using AI and modern software techniques is the first step in modernising a sector that has not changed significantly in the last 40 years. 

car manufacturing with humans

Can the pipe inspection industry be modernised to deliver the benefits generated by the latest manufacturing plants?

How could we look at things differently?

So, what could a new coding standard look like in 2022 if we were designing it from scratch? If you look at computer software these days, it is a lot simpler than it used to be. Less is more now, and even the most complicated programmes have simple user interfaces to help speed up workflow and productivity. Gone are the days of needing to install desktop software and then updating it physically.

So how can this be applied to sewer surveying and classification, given that there are different types of users, from Water companies to small drainage contractors?

 

We need to think about why we are doing the survey and what is the result we want. The purpose of the standard is all about making an informed decision about investment in repair, maintenance, or renewal in line with its condition, serviceability, and budget available. Does the current coding standard meet the requirements? If yes, does it do it with simplicity in mind? This factor is essential when training people on how to code and survey? With so many codes and conditions to learn, this can extend training requirements and take years for operatives to gain all the experience needed to code the surveys to the exacting standards. Are contractors doing this, and is it possible to audit it accurately – probably not! 

 

By simplifying and determining the key elements that make up the investment decision, we could remove a lot of unnecessary work and time and use enhanced technology to fill in the gaps speeding up workflow and productivity and saving money. The delivery of this outcome could start with a single document containing the coding and scoring requirements. Currently, MSCC5 includes the codes, and the Sewer Risk Manual holds the scores to determine the condition grades that typically drive the investment need.

 

Coding observations

Do the current set of codes consider all likely defects on the network? Is coding of infiltration, H2S attack and Hydraulic overload accurate and in a way that informs decisions on the action necessary. We don’t currently have a condition grade that reflects the degree of infiltration associated with an asset.

 

Abandoned surveys require a comment in the remarks section to explain the root cause for the survey being abandoned. This approach is not helpful when you own a survey company and are looking to minimise the number of abandoned surveys and increase your productivity. How do you determine the value of providing the crews with longer cable lengths to minimise the number of ‘out of cable’ abandonments? In other countries, they have specific abandoned codes related to the defect before. For example, the Australian manual has ‘Survey Abandoned Collapsed Pipe’.

pipe inspection abandoned

How many abandoned surveys occur due to insufficient cable length? 

 Open and displaced joints always cause much debate and can be confusing 5-10% of diameter gets a score of 40, but 1.5 pipe wall thickness receives a score of 2. Typically, a pipe wall thickness equals 10% of the internal pipe diameter, so how can this be made more consistent?

Condition Assessments

We have a situation where we have two different types of condition assessment criteria in the UK. There are two scoring systems; the DRB Drain Repair book grades A, B & C (for domestic properties) and the SRM (Sewer Risk Management grades 1-5) on some software systems. Whilst they map against each other, it seems questionable to have two different approaches. It is essential to have accurate data to make informed decisions, and having one standard will make that accuracy more consistent. This further help simplify the training and reduces the costs for survey company owners.

 

Furthermore, is it also possible to be more scientific about the likelihood of further deterioration or collapse? Given that we have years of data, is it possible to develop a more accurate way of assessing risk on specific pipe lengths? Could this allow us to plan repair and maintenance more productively and head off issues at an earlier stage with a more cost-effective repair? We suspect the disparate data storage capability of the incumbent software applications for pipe inspection coding means this will be difficult. However, VAPAR’s central database of pipe condition assessments allows this type of data to be easily accessed and could be the key to unlocking a faster and more cost-effective solution to surveying and condition assessment.

Final thoughts

Technology plays a massive part in all our lives; whilst CCTV camera technology has advanced exponentially over the past ten years reporting systems have remained static. The traditional processes are still heavily manual and require extensive training and experience to keep the data collected consistently. But are we now at crossroads in terms of the old and the new?

VAPAR‘s AI platform is now able to generate MSCC5 compliant outputs. The development work to comply with MSCC5, plus the standards used in Australia, the United States and New Zealand, has provided us with a unique perspective.

VAPAR’s modern and unique capability to combine AI and human inputs to produce a fast and accurate output provides an opportunity to match the latest CCTV camera technology. Updating the MSCC standard is one part of the puzzle that will significantly improve how we do things for the customers using piped networks.

vapar platform ai and human

Vapar provides the capability to combine AI and human inputs to produce a fast and accurate output and provides an opportunity to match the capability of the latest CCTV camera technology.

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Basics of Sewer Manholes

Basics of Sewer Manholes

Picture of sewer manhole

What are manholes?

Sewer manholes or also called maintenance holes are formal access points within the sewer pipe network that provide maintenance teams a chance to get access to maintain the sewer pipe network. They can come in many different shapes and sizes depending on how deep they go into the ground and what the surrounding ground conditions are like.

Why do you need manholes?

Once a blockage or a break in the sewer pipe is confirmed through a CCTV inspection, maintenance teams need to get access to remedy the issue. Without the presence of manholes, any remediation would be complicated and expensive.

Where can you find manholes?

The spacing of the manholes depends on a couple of factors. If a sewer pipe is running in a straight line in an area where access is not an issue, then they are usually placed every 80-100 metres (260-330 feet) along a sewer pipe. This spacing is determined by the practical length of water jetting equipment to reach the full length of pipe, regardless of whether the water jetting was done from the upstream manhole, or the downstream manhole.

That being said, manholes can also be built at shorter or longer lengths. For example, if the pipe needs to have bends in it, the design engineer might want to install extra manholes to account for the risk of blockage at the change point in the flow of sewage.

Manholes can also be placed within the network at irregular locations when the pipe network runs under a highly urbanised area. Placing manholes in the middle of roads, or in the middle of someone’s property is not advisable.

There are serious safety issues with placing manholes too close to live roads and having a manhole under a concrete floor slab doesn’t really serve anyone either. For this reason, the configuration of the network and the spacing of manholes might vary to account for the above ground infrastructure.

Drain spotting

You can identify the presence of manholes by the manhole covers on roads, footpaths and even in parks. The manhole covers themselves can come in many different shapes and sizes also, although most are round. They are usually made of metal to withstand the weight of heavy vehicles.

There is a great #drainspotting hashtag that you can browse to see what others have contributed from all over the world. Perhaps on your travels, you might feel compelled to contribute some interesting manhole designs and locations and help educate others on the weird and wonderful world of our underground sewer networks.

sewer points
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Image of drone camera for sewers

Types of CCTV Pipe Inspection Cameras

CCTV Pipe Inspection Cameras – An explanation of the different types of camera hardware

The inspection of sewer and stormwater networks is commonly completed using a camera that records video footage from the inside of underground pipes. The photos and videos collected during a pipe inspection can be used to assign a condition grade to pipes through the identification of structural and service defects. Councils, municipalities, and water authorities use these condition grades to prioritise pipe maintenance (e.g., clearing roots and debris) and repair (e.g., patches and lining). 

Access to pipes is usually obtained through maintenance holes or pits which can be located within roads, kerbs, public space, and private property.

A variety of different camera equipment is available to record video footage for defect analysis and scoring. Common camera types include:

Crawler Cameras

Crawler cameras are robust remotely controlled inspection robots that traverse through a pipe on wheels. They typically have a strong light source to illuminate the inside of the pipe and are connected via a cable to a vehicle on the surface that supplies power and transmits the video back to a vehicle computer for recording. The robot is controlled by an operator on the surface who directs the crawler’s progress through live vision fed back to their computer monitor. They can adjust for speed and direction, and often have the ability to pan, tilt and zoom the camera lens; leading to the term PTZ camera (they are also called tractor cameras in some regions). Crawler cameras are the most common type used for pipe network inspections throughout the world.

Fixed Zoom Cameras

Fixed zoom, or pole cameras, do not need to travel along the pipe to collect video footage. They consist of a fixed high-definition camera head attached to a pole that is lowered from the surface to the base of the pipe at surface entry locations. Using a combination of strong zoom, focus adjustment, and lighting; a video is recorded as the camera zooms in and the field of vision extends through the pipe from chainage zero to the end of pipe or bend. With a combination of optical (20-40x) and digital zoom (10-15x) they provide a fast and robust way to collect a condition overview of a network.

Image of pole camera for sewers

Push Rod Cameras

House connection branches or sewer laterals present unique challenges when collecting condition footage or diagnosing a problem. Their small diameter and frequent bends mean the larger camera hardware is unable to enter and travel through these smaller lines (typically < 150mm diameter). Push rod cameras are designed for tough and tight conditions. Appearing as a coiled cable on a real with a slim camera head, they can be inserted and controlled manually with imagery fed back to a control unit. The use of skids is sometimes employed to keep the camera head and vision steady and centred.

Pushrod camera for sewers

Inspection Rafts

For large pipes that cover long distances, an inspection raft may be the only choice to collect imagery from within a pipe. These are often used for outfall tunnels where they can be sent downstream and caught with a hook or net at location that could be many kilometres further down the pipe. They are usually designed to stay upright and balanced.

Image of push raft camera for sewers

Drone Cameras

With rapid advancement in UAV technology, the industry has seen an increase in the use of drones for pipe inspection over the last few years. Drones have some distinct advantages in certain situations, including; large pipes with high flow where a crawler may not be able to enter and raft would traverse along the pipe too quickly, and longer pipe inspections where equipment weight or cable length is prohibitive. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and if it becomes a more mainstream option for pipe networks.

Image of drone camera for sewers

Manhole / Maintenance Hole Cameras

There are now a variety of dedicated cameras available for collecting photos, videos, and 3D scans of the vertical shaft that leads down to the benching and pipe channel. In the past this has been completed by visual surface or confined space entry inspection, using a regular camera, or with a crawler as it is lowered down to complete the main pipe inspection. Newer camera technology has been specifically designed to collect more detailed information with much higher resolution than ever before.

Manhole maintenance camera

Jetter Nozzle Cameras

Jetters can be used by operators to clear sediment, obstructions, fats, oils, grease, and roots from pipes. Some hydro jetters on the market include a nozzle camera that can be used to help guide the camera through the pipe, locate specific issues and even steer into lateral pipes. The camera is also able to collect video footage following its cleaning run through the pipe to collect information on the effectiveness of the clean and provide an indication of the condition of the cleaned pipe.

Image of Jetter nozzle camera for sewers

VAPAR.Solutions is designed to process and score video footage from a wide variety of camera systems, providing a single cloud-hosted location for all your inspection videos, images, reports and decisions.

About the Author Mark Lee
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Too many engineers, not enough data analysts?

Too many engineers, not enough data analysts?

“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom”

Clifford Stoll

One of the significant changes for utility providers in the 21st century is the massive increase in data that is now available and streaming into organisations. It wasn’t so long ago that engineers were hand drawing pipe long sections and calculating maximum flows without the aid of hydraulic models, or even a computer. Those days are gone, long gone; the new breed of engineer now has access to a wide array of software programs, intelligent devices, and predictive tools that are all generating gigabytes of data for consumption:

  • Hydraulic models
  • Digital twins
  • Artificial intelligence processors
  • 3D LiDAR mapping
  • Telemetry and remote SCADA Systems
  • Digital flow meters
  • Leak detection loggers
  • Overflow and pressure transient sensors
  • Multi-camera inspection robots

The result is the availability of more data than organisations have ever had in their history, and it continues to accumulate at a faster and faster pace each year. What hasn’t changed so quickly is the traditional skills that engineers are taught during studies and the types of roles that organisations create to look after their assets.

Turning data into information, and then using that information to make smart decisions and gain improved understanding of assets requires a different skill set than traditional engineers may be used to. Not only is more data coming in, but it needs storage, user access, and interaction among different software programs. Organisations that can successfully accept the substantial amounts of data and efficiently cleanse, analyse, and integrate it throughout their processes have a distinct advantage in providing services that return value for money and meet the objectives for their community or customers.

Taking advantage of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and integration options that are often market supplied and understanding the methods of detecting trends, risks and insights is a smoother process when organisations have data analysts on board who can be the key player to ensure engineers are working with information and knowledge and not just data.

Has there been enough discussion in the industry about the creation of these targeted positions and then attracting and keeping data analysts? Opening a dialogue with sector leaders and obtaining human resources buy-in that positions like this are essential, may be a different challenge, but one that is going to be worth taking on.

Click here to read more of such interesting content

Roy Liao smiling for photo

Meet the latest addition to our team: Roy Liao!

Meet the latest addition to our team: Roy Liao!

After completing his master degree with the University of Wollongong, Roy joined VAPAR to work on backend developments of our platform. We are very happy to have him as part of our team. To share a little more about Roy, we asked him to answer some questions that illuminate the personality behind the talent.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to join VAPAR?

RL: I worked in the software industry for over 15 years. Before joining VAPAR, I was an IT coordinator with Ladakh, a wholesale fashion company. In my work, I have managed, supported, and developed the customer relationship management networking system and worked across teams internationally. After that, I decided to switch to the water industry and join VAPAR as a Backend Developer. VAPAR is an exciting, growing company that aims to change the industry with new AI technology. I am proud to now be a part of that.

Where did your interest in the platform come from?

RL: Protecting the environment is everyone’s responsibility. Using AI technology with the support of Python can help automate the detection of a broken pipe underground. This aim of the platform attracts me to join this industry and work hard to achieve the result. As a backend developer in VAPAR, the platform can help save the environment more than ever.

What are your interests outside of work?

RL: I usually spend my leisure time walking along the beach with family or swimming around. Playing Ping pong also helps me relax after a busy day.

If you could go back and relive a moment in your life, what would it be? 

RL: I would stay with mom more and maybe chat about my childhood when she used to care.

For more information about the latest developments at VAPAR, you can connect with Roy via our Contact page.

Nathan banner

Meet the latest addition to our team: Nathan Muggeridge!

Meet the latest addition to our team: Nathan Muggeridge!

Starting his career in water engineering, Nathan’s passion is to collaborate with different people and explore technologies to create change that leads to a positive outcome for all, which includes VAPAR’s customers. We are incredibly proud to have him join our team.

To share a little more about Nathan, we asked her to answer some questions that illuminate the personality behind the talent.

Tell us a bit about your background?

NM: At age 14, I knew I wanted to become a water engineer; I loved spending time in and around water (still do) and had a motivation to build things (still do). This led me to a 20-year career in the UK water section that has covered a multitude of roles and sectors; working for large consultancy to produce hydraulic simulation models, setting up my own consultancy business that delivered projects ranging from the development of a £100m investment plan for London’s sewers to establishing multi-million-pound sewer maintenance contract.

Other experience includes extending the life of a start-up by 3 years, initiating and implementing a multi-award winning behavioural change programme and product managing a number of software solutions. For the last 2 years, I have been working for National Highways, helping establish their Strategic Investment Planning capability, which saw the team grow from just me in Feb 2019 to over 100 people involved in creating the multi-billion pound renewals investment plan for 2025 to 2030.

How did you come to join VAPAR?

NM: I joined VAPAR as I wanted to help build something new again and do it using new technology. I’m motivated by using new technologies to drive changes that lead to positive outcomes, and this is ultimately the purpose of VAPAR. Furthermore, my previous experience has been based around infrastructure asset management. I wanted to expand this to include digital asset management, using data and new technologies to drive better investment decision making.

Where did your interest in Asset Management come from?

NM: Like so many people, I hate seeing waste and Asset Management provides a logical mechanism for minimising wastage. Plus, I like how the principle is transferable from sector to sector, and most sectors involve some form of gravity pipework.

What are your interests outside of work?

NM: Spending time with my family, road cycling, mountain biking in the winter, paddleboarding in the summer, walking the dog and sailing. Other interests include helping to coach a local swimming club for a couple of hours a week and listening to business or comedy podcasts.

What advice would will you give anybody for a better tomorrow?

NM: Be curious and comfortable with change. The world is always changing, and you should be changing to make it better.

For more information about the latest developments at VAPAR, you can connect with Nathan on Linkedin here or reach out to us via our Contact page.

Manju Mani smiling for picture

Meet the latest addition to our team: Manju Mani!

Meet the latest addition to our team: Manju Mani!

Starting her career in civil engineering, Manju’s passion for advocating simple solutions to global problems drew her to the field of marketing and eventually to VAPAR! We are proud to have her join our team.

To share a little more about Manju, we asked her to answer some questions that illuminate the personality behind the talent.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to join VAPAR?

MM: I hold my Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering and MBA in Marketing. I have worked in sales for four years, which helped me learn a lot about consumer perspectives and expectations practically. I believe in honesty and integrity, which won me customers and results.  

Amanda and Michelle are my inspiration to join VAPAR. I love how these girls are slaying it in the tech/engineering industry! They are incredible role models for me, and I am sure I can learn a lot from them.

Where did your interest in Marketing come from?

MM: As a kid, advertisements always caught my attention. So being creative is very important to me as it helps me stand out from my peers and gives me the satisfaction of being different. Also, I am a people person, love to help people with solutions for their needs in both personal and professional life.  

What are your interests outside of work?

MM: I love to sing and rap. Oh yes! I can rap Eminem’s Rap God fast bit! 😀  

If you could go back and relive a moment in your life, what would it be? 

MM: Any day with my mom is good as gold.

What is that one piece of advice you will give anybody for a better tomorrow?

MM: Be appreciative of others. It is the easiest positive emotion.

For more information about the latest developments at VAPAR, you can connect with Manju on Linkedin here or reach out to us via our Contact page.

Xun - Headshot

Meet the latest addition to our team: Xun Yu!

Xun Yun posing for a photo
Data Scientist Xun Yun

After completing his PhD with Griffith University, Xun (or Alex) joined VAPAR to work on new developments in the computer vision and AI space and we are very proud to have him as part of our team. To share a little more about Xun, we asked him to answer some questions that illuminate the personality behind the talent.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to join VAPAR?

XY: Before joining VAPAR, I was a Machine Learning/Computer Vision Research Engineer with Griffith University. In collaboration with Australian Bay Lobster Producers Ltd (ABLP), I developed and deployed new artificial intelligence technologies that optimize farm production [read more here]. After working in academia for around 8 years (including my PhD study), I decided to make the jump to industry and join VAPAR as a Data Scientist. VAPAR is an exciting, growing company that aims to change an industry with new AI technology. I am proud to now be a part of that.

Where did your interest in deep learning come from?

XY:  Deep learning really shines when it comes to complex problems such as computer vision, natural language processing, and speech recognition. As a researcher in computer vision and image processing, I have witnessed how deep learning dominates over classic machine learning in the last 10 years. I strongly believe, with the trend of digital transformation, more and more traditional industries will be reshaped by deep learning. 

What are your interests outside of work?

XY: I usually spend my leisure time reading books or playing basketball. Watching movies and listening to music can help me unwind from a stressful day.

If you could go back and relive a moment in your life, what would it be? 

XY: Well, it would be my university days when I met most of my best friends.

For more information about the latest developments at VAPAR, you can connect with Xun on Linkedin here, or reach out to us via our Contact page.

04_NEELAH_01 (4)

Meet the latest addition to our team: Neelabh Singh!

Meet the latest addition to our team: Neelabh Singh!

Prior to Vapar, Neelabh worked in both environmental services and in banking sector as a full stack developer. His passion is in design, optimisation and delivery.

Neelabh holds a master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence from University of New South Wales in Sydney and a Computer Science degree from RV College in Bangalore.

Getting to know Neelabh more, here are some things we found out about him.

Why did you join VAPAR?
I have always wanted to join an organisation that focuses on solving a complex problem in a “smart way”. I was impressed by the solution VAPAR provides for pipe condition assessment through AI and creating a smooth user journey.

You are a software engineer by profession, but what made you choose UI/UX design career as well?
Here are a few reasons why I chose UI/UX too. I feel having both skills aid me in bridging the communication gap between a designer and a developer. Also, UI/UX not only helped me in developing good decision-making skills, but also made me a creative and skilled engineer.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I got two things to do over the weekend. Either watch movies or play PC games (perks of being a bachelor).

If there is a book you would recommend to a person, what book it would be?
I would recommend reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. It is a story about an Andalusian shepherd boy who chases a prophecy. It is an inspirational masterpiece.

For more information about the latest developments at VAPAR, you can connect with Neelabh on Linkedin here, or reach out to us via our Contact page.

mark

The VAPAR Team Continues to Grow – Welcome Mark Lee!

The VAPAR Team Continues to Grow – Welcome Mark Lee!

VAPAR recently brought on former Senior Asset Engineer, Mark to help give us new insights on how to deliver value to our customers.

Mark has spent more than a decade as an engineer managing the asset lifecycle of pipes. He’s been involved in design and construction through to condition assessment and decommissioning, including all that occurs between. 

He made the move from a public utility to VAPAR after seeing the industry’s need for improved modern solutions to pipe condition assessment and the associated management of data. Mark understands our customer’s requirements and is passionate about bringing efficient solutions to them.

We sat down with Mark to get some personal insights from him.

What made you want to join the VAPAR team?
ML: I’ve always been an advocate of using smart processes and technology to simplify, optimise and accelerate tasks. After seeing what VAPAR can do for pipe condition assessments, I knew it was a company I wanted to join.

What would we typically find you doing away from the office?
ML: I really enjoy running and am up at 5am every day. I have a great group of friends who meet and run early in the morning to start the day with some exercise, a quick swim at the beach and a morning cup of coffee.

What’s your favourite holiday spot?
ML: I love visiting Bright in Victoria. Relaxing next to the Ovens River and getting up into the Victorian High Country is the best. I’m rarely happier than when I’m standing on the summit of Mt Feathertop looking out over the panorama of surrounding peaks.

You’re Australian, but haven’t always lived here, is that correct?
ML: That’s right – my wife is from Finland and we’ve been lucky enough to spend some time living in Europe. We moved to Helsinki for a few years so our children could learn the language. It’s a beautiful country and was a great experience.