RIMS automates maintenance operations to make them safer and more cost-efficient

Robotica in Maintenance Strategies (RIMS) carry out visual inspections of assets by drones, both internal and external, in the maritime and oil industry. The company is a global service provider helping companies revolutionise their maintenance strategy with smart drones and robotic inspections.

RIMS is the first company to obtain approvals from the most important Classification Societies (BV, DNV-GL, LR, ABS, ClassNK, KRS, RINA, IRClass) to support surveyors during their surveys by using remote inspection technology (drones). “Our high-tech expertise in certified execution of inspections in combination with smart asset management solutions will help you benefit from much safer, more sustainable and cost-efficient surveying and maintenance solutions,” David Knukkel, CEO at RIMS, explains.

Plans to scale up by finding suitable partners

Currently, RIMS’s drone inspection services are mature and certified. “We have many additional requirements like autonomous flight, automatic reporting, ATEX drones and thickness measurements. Developing these kinds of technologies require large investments. Finding the right partners that believe in this roadmap is a challenge,” David Knukkel states. “As a pioneer in this domain, we expected several innovation funds to be interested, however, it has become clear that a strategic partner would be a lot more beneficial,” he continues. RIMS will continue to scale up by searching for, and finding, the right partners with the right technology, network, and financing capabilities for new R&D projects.

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Testing drone in enclosed space. Image ©RIMS

The best technology on the market

David Knukkel considers the main reason for RIMS’s success to be the fact that they started the company from an end-user perspective and that they know the business.

We look at the entire picture and find the right pieces of the puzzle to make it complete,” David states.

The technology we use is the best on the market. We compete with traditional methods like human tank entries, rope access and traditional inspections carried out on scaffolding, cherry pickers and even rafting (sailing with small rubber boats through large tanks),” David explains. With the drone inspection services, RIMS can solve several problems in the industry. There will be no safety issues with inspections in enclosed spaces, as humans will not need to enter; with inspections at considerable heights (scaffolding, cherry pickers, rafting); with setting up or taking down scaffolding as this won’t be needed to carry out the inspections. It will also reduce the time and cost related to working with scaffolding, and also reduce the risk of damaging the tanks to be inspected.

David argues that RIMS’s competitive advantage is that it is the only company with nearly all class approvals. These approvals are obtained because the RIMS Safety Management System is based on practical experience with drones and the industry it operates in. “One of the major arguments to approve us is that our pilots understand shipping and speak the same language as the surveyors. We are not allowed to carry out surveys with pilots which only have experience in other domains,” David explains. “We are good at technology scouting and integrating all pieces in such a way that the solution really adds value to the maintenance strategy of companies,” he continues.

Lack of awareness hindering acceptance

The technology and services are already available on the market, but the challenge remains to create higher awareness and acceptance for the technology. According to David, the market is conservative. The lack of awareness of the available services and technology in addition to non-certified companies preforming poorly, compared to the expected standards, makes it even more challenging to gain acceptance. Compliance with local regulations is another barrier, as every country has its own set of rules and regulations. To comply with assorted national regulations will require considerable investment from RIMS in relation to operating licenses. “Fortunately, a great deal of regulators accepts our technology and the quality of the services. However, the surveys are still organized in such a way that ship owners and managers themselves choose how the surveyors will get access to the areas to be inspected,” he explains. David argues that this puts the life of the surveyors at stake. Furthermore, many customers are not capable to implement the certified inspections throughout the entire company, and each location needs to be convinced. This keeps new and proven technology at an «experimental level» and hinders it from becoming a mature service. David is under the impression that this will not change until regulators make the use of this kind of technology mandatory for such inspections.

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Image ©RIMS

Targeting the blue markets

The maritime industry has always been RIMS’s core business. Major oil companies, and service suppliers executing the inspections of the oil companies’ both on- and offshore installations, in addition to ship owners, ship managers, ship yards, vetting inspectors, vessel brokers, classification societies, and insurance companies are the users RIMS believe would be highly interested in their products and services.

RIMS is already connected to several different ecosystems of high technology suppliers (Robo Valley, TU Twente, TU Eindhoven, EPFL, ETH, SUPSI, ARL, Heriot Watt University, etc.) and they follow the developments and market trends closely. The developments are evolving quickly, and the opportunities develop at an exceptional speed. However, RIMS struggles with its capability to scale up and be available at several strategic locations. David Knukkel believes that increasing the awareness by continuously publishing their results in social media, and through agents and partners, increase the sales in the far east, and continuing to obtain approvals of classification societies will help overcoming the barriers.

Several ideas developed in the process

Today RIMS has one CEO, three pilots, one sales manager, and seven agencies in Norway, Benelux, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Australia and Turkey, in addition to a few strategic partnerships (Rotterdam Offshore Group, Royal IFC, Dutch Drone Company).

The idea of the company started back in 2015 when David Knukkel gave a presentation on Maintenance and Leadership at a conference organized by SPAR in Houston. “I saw so much new technology that I decided to scout technology in the Netherlands. It took me by surprise the amount of available technology hidden in various domains and within companies which supply only one piece of the puzzle but do not see the entire picture”, David reminisces. David started the company together with a partner with the intention to develop certain maintenance concepts within the wind industry. “The development process went quite slowly as we were not familiar with the various stakeholders involved, and the potential launching customers were not ready for the development of our concepts,” David recalls. These concepts still needed a feasibility study, and it was difficult to find a launching customer to finance the first steps. “Parallel to this process, I continued to scout new technology and focused on solutions for inspections of enclosed spaces. We discovered a company developing a drone for ‘Search and Rescue’ purposes in the Alps. If the drone were able to fly in a ballast tank, it would be a highly interesting product. Thus, we organized a pilot in cooperation with the Rotterdam Offshore Group to test the drone in a ballast tank and it worked fine. Furthermore, we bought the equipment, developed our Safety Management system and passed the audits of the major Classification Societies,” he continues. RIMS is the first and only company globally certified by all large Classification Societies to support surveyors by using remote inspection technology for inspections of ship constructions and mobile offshore units. Using this remote inspection technology by approved service providers like RIMS can support organisations in their work with inspecting and certifying vessels. “Of course, we would like to eventually bring more of our ideas to a mature product or service. After all, our mission is, as already mentioned, to automate dangerous, costly and resource-intensive maintenance tasks to ensure safer and more cost-efficient maintenance operations,” David concludes.

Images ©RIMS

Contact RIMS

David Knukkel



By Martine Farstad