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Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – January 24, 2022
CEOCFO: Ms. Azari, what is Floodlight Software?
Ms. Azari: Floodlight Software is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that provides end-
CEOCFO: What are some of the challenges unique to the testing and inspection industry that require a dedicated platform?
Ms. Azari: Testing and Inspection operations can be very complex, and it’s difficult to program their processes into a generic workflow automation tool. Inspection Jobs are dynamic but require a dependable and auditable paper trail, so it is really important to get the workflow right and make sure that all data is correctly captured and stored. As with any service organization, contracts are critical, labor rate agreements vary from company to company and region to region, and this all needs to be managed during project setup and execution. A flexible platform is crucial, because no two Inspection jobs are exactly alike, and field technicians don’t have the time to fiddle with application settings in the middle of their work. The system must be able to handle various scenarios: a job may require an hour of work or a month of work, a single individual or a 50-
Tracking inspection data is unique in that many datapoints are often collected on a single asset or area or component. And although the data is similar, the datapoints need to be distinguished from each other. In addition to inspection datapoints, an inspection project also requires recording photos, time and expenses (T&E), transportation, safety, environmental conditions, extenuating circumstances, interpretation/judgments; some of which is completely dependent on who the inspection is being provided for and/or the specific evaluation criteria for the particular asset / situation. And, regardless of the data that needs to be collected, testing and inspection services always require a dependable paper trail, which is generally a massive headache for field technicians, who generally dislike “wasting time” on non-
Testing and inspection services are often provided in conjunction with bigger projects, like the building of a bridge or the fixing of a set of railroad tracks. As such, testing and inspection providers are dependent on other people, like engineers, whose work can also be unpredictable especially for large industrial projects. Once again, a lot of flexibility in the platform is needed to accommodate unplanned changes, and the more quickly an inspection provider can maneuver unexpected change, the more successful they will be.
We have also learned that there is a huge variety of different reports that need to be generated for sharing inspection results with customers. The inspection service provider isn’t always in control of how they document and deliver work results, so being able to quickly create a flexible digital form of a report and customize the look and feel is a critical aspect of the Floodlight platform.
And finally, one of the biggest challenges for third-
We try to address ALL of these challenges within the Floodlight platform, along with other things such as usability and operational consistency.
CEOCFO: What went into in putting your solution together?
Ms. Azari: We spent a good amount of time learning the nuances of the testing and inspection industry to create the best fit product possible. There are a lot of digital workflow tools that can be used for “any” type of operation. But these tools tend to require so much customization that they are not practical for our audience.
It comes down to an elegant combination of flexibility and specificity. Floodlight aims to be highly specific to testing and inspection operations, and flexible enough to handle the dynamic nature of inspection projects. Building the necessary flexibility into our system without adding too much complexity and confusion remains one of the biggest challenges that we wrestle with on a daily basis! The other opposing challenge is making sure we are covering everything in order to effectively be a “one stop shop” for our customers, enabling them to replace a myriad of tools that they are using today to manage bits and pieces of their processes.
CEOCFO: Are people in the industry looking for a better way or do they not even know what might exist?
Ms. Azari: There is a bit of both. More and more companies are looking for ways to improve the efficiencies of their operations, which is basically what the Floodlight platform does for them. Particularly during the last couple of years of dealing with the COVID-
A digital platform that can support remote data collection and generate a complete and consistent digital record of project activity has become very interesting to our customers because they truly understand what a difference it can make for their business. For example, if they are not be able to send out a whole team of people on a project, the ability to send fewer people and use remote data collection tools might give them an edge to win business that they otherwise would have lost.
CEOCFO: What is involved in implementation?
Ms. Azari: My goal is to make the platform completely self-
Some customers can be up and running on Floodlight within a few days. It will take longer for customers that have more complex processes or requirements that need to be considered in the workflow.
CEOCFO: What have you learned from current customers?
Ms. Azari: We have learned three critical lessons from our customers. First, as I mentioned previously, no two customers are identical. There are important nuances to their businesses that must be supported in order for Floodlight to work for them. And, furthermore, we cannot expect to dictate to them how they should work. i.e., they cannot drastically change the way they work in order to use the platform; instead, Floodlight must flex to their requirements.
Second, testing and inspection companies are traditionally not super digital-
Third, testing and inspection services provide an underutilized wealth of information that could literally change the entire dynamic of managing industrial assets and infrastructure. What I mean by that is that today, inspection services are used simply to “check a box” during a construction, maintenance, or repair project. However, the actual data collected, particularly if increased in frequency and amount, can be used in a predictive fashion to help industries minimize catastrophic asset failures. We have the ability to provide our customers with a tool that can set this change in motion… we allow them to digitalize their data and operations from end to end, capturing, categorizing, and storing relevant data as it is collected.
Taking all of these learnings to heart, we have built Floodlight to provide very strict data management and integration capabilities, a default workflow that covers 90% of operational needs with a wide variety of configurable options, and continued focus on unobtrusive in-
CEOCFO: Are you seeking funding, investments or partnerships?
Ms. Azari: I am always on the lookout for potential partners to collaborate with in our mission! Funding and/or strategic investment will help us to accelerate the development of the platform and speed up customer acquisition of our platform, enabling us to be more impactful more quickly.
We have built integration capabilities into and out of Floodlight to support technical partnerships, foreseeing that both input and output of data from and to other systems will greatly extend the value we bring to our customers.
And finally, as a small business, I am also interested in developing commercial partnerships that will help us reach and better serve more organizations around the world.
CEOCFO: How are you reaching out to customers?
Ms. Azari: We attend a variety of conferences that target testing and inspection tools, services, and best practices. There are a surprising number of events in the TIC (Testing, Inspection, Certification) space… the market is probably the largest industry you’ve never heard of! Currently, we are specifically focused on the nondestructive testing (NDT) sub-
We also maintain a very active website where we share information, best practices and thought leadership to help educate NDT and other testing & inspection practitioners on digitalization and promote forward-
CEOCFO: Why pay attention to Floodlight Software?
Ms. Azari: We provide a crucial component to a system that has the capacity to completely change the dynamic of the testing and inspection industry. Testing and inspection services are currently involved as a final step in approving the construction, manufacturing and/or maintenance of any piece of infrastructure or industrial asset. Floodlight provides the digital foundation that enables testing and inspection services to become a proactive part of asset operation, to continually monitor the health of industrial assets as they are running. The benefit of this service is the elimination of unplanned asset and infrastructure failures.
The costs of failing infrastructure include more than just dollars of repairs. When a gas pipeline or power plant explodes, when a bridge collapses or a train falls off its tracks… human lives are at stake, environmental damage occurs, and unplanned downtime causes a chain of headaches to the businesses, individuals, and organizations that depend on the assets for their own seamless operations. It’s like a crack in the foundation of our economy.
Five to ten years down the road, I envision that testing and inspection services will become an integral part of industrial assets versus a separately conducted event occurring on a calendar schedule. Integrated testing services will monitor the health of industrial assets during operation, suggest when deeper manual inspections should take place, and predict asset failures before they happen. Floodlight Software enables this vision by providing the digitalized data and process management that support the analytics, digital twins, and AI programs needed to make this vision a reality!
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“Five to ten years down the road, I envision that testing and inspection services will become an integral part of industrial assets versus a separately conducted event occurring on a calendar schedule. Integrated testing services will monitor the health of industrial assets during operation, suggest when deeper manual inspections should take place, and predict asset failures before they happen. Floodlight Software enables this vision by providing the digitalized data and process management that support the analytics, digital twins, and AI programs needed to make this vision a reality!” Nasrin Azari