Juan Hernández
Director General
Zion NDT

Scanning the Opportunities in the Southeast

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 17:13

With international service companies entering the market, it is becoming increasingly important for the entire Mexican value chain to adapt to their demands and adhere to higher safety and operational standards, says Juan Hernández, Director General of Zion NDT. “PEMEX is now interacting with more companies entering the local industry, and as these companies demand compliance with certain requirements, soon enough these requirements will be adopted by the entire local value chain,” he says.

The path is similar to that followed by the aerospace and automotive industries, which were allowed to evolve and compete on a global level. “In these industries, major producers started establishing their manufacturing facilities in the country and asking for higher standards,” Hernández says. “Because the value chain adopted better practices, Mexico is now recognized as a major hub for the manufacturing of components for those industries.”

But an increase in minimum safety and certification requirements can be directly translated into higher costs for companies and this is something they must bear in mind. “Companies need to take into account the CAPEX and OPEX involved in the process of equipment and personnel certification to ensure cost-effective operations,” Hernández says.

Hernández uses the example of two specific nondestructive testing technologies that can be used for the same purpose: X-ray and ultrasound. “X-ray was commonly used in the industry because it was relatively cheap and its results were easy for technicians to understand,” he says. Nevertheless, as companies saw that X-rays could potentially cause explosions in specific environments or harm employees due to radiation levels, the market shifted to ultrasound technologies. “Tools that use ultrasound have higher CAPEX and require more training than those using X-ray, but once those hurdles are overcome they are much more portable and their use involves much less risk,” he says. “To provide our customers with the best value in the market we do not sell X-ray-based tools at Zion NDT anymore.”

The company’s experience and its evolution into different safety segments are part of its added value proposition, Hérnandez says. Zion NDT started out offering certified training but as customers began looking for equipment recommendations, it transitioned into a distributor. Finally, as the tools it sold required re-certification, it finally integrated the re-certification lab into its business model. “This organic growth is a strong asset. We are involved in every aspect of the value chain and know which specific tool and training will best fit our customer,” he says.

As more companies start providing nondestructive tools, Hérnandez stresses the importance of providing training for the personnel who will use each tool. This is not an added value, he says, but a fundamental component of the sale. “No matter how sophisticated the tool is, if the person misuses it, the testing will be unsuccessful and, although the equipment may get certified, it will not be safe to use because its real condition is unknown,” Hérnandez adds.

With stricter safety standards implemented in the industry, investors are looking at the entire Mexican oil and gas industry as a safe place to invest. This in turn has made owners and operators of already-producing, transporting and distributing oil and gas facilities more attentive to the state of their assets, therefore producing more work for companies like Zion NDT. “We have witnessed this in the increased number of recalibration services and equipment requests we have been receiving since the beginning of 2017, particularly in the southeast region,” says Hernández.

Having witnessed a boom in activities in this area, Hernández says Zion NDT’s goal is to become the preferred and trusted partner for nondestructive tools, training and re-certifications in the southeast region. “With two offices in Mexico, in Monterrey and Mexico City, we are working to open one in Villahermosa before the end of 2018, with the objective of offering a better, faster and more personalized service to our clients there,” he says