GS Case Study: GE Dust Extraction System

Guardian® S Case Study: General Electric (GE)

Dust Extraction System

Cumulative manufacturing downtime reduced from 8 to 2 days

Project Overview


The GE risk mitigation team sought an alternative inspection method to replace the process of having employees on a scissor lift manually reach into ducts to inspect them.


  • Reduce the time and risk of putting employees on lifts to examine ducting
  • Inspect Dust Extraction System for dust and debris to plan for removal


  • Current inspection process required employees to work at heights
  • Results were incomplete as access limitations meant employees couldn’t reach the entire lengths of duct work, or couldn’t access tight, small, spaces


  • The Guardian S inspection robot successfully navigated the Dust Extraction System
  • 4K video and images captured in real-time allowed GE to experience the inspection as it happened
  • Labor hours reduced from 448 to 24, 1½ week inspection completed in 1½ days
  • Cumulative manufacturing downtime reduced from 8 to just 2 days

Seeking a Safer Inspection Method

The GE Risk Mitigation team was looking to replace the process of having two employees on a scissor lift manually examine extraction system ducts. The employees would open hatches in the ducts at 30-50 feet increments. They would then reach into the duct and use a flashlight to inspect the current section. Each subsequent section inspection required moving the lift to the next hatch opening. The process was lengthy and meant that employees had to be working at significant heights.

The desire was to find an alternative inspection method that would eliminate putting employees on lifts and having them reach through the ducting during the inspection.

First Look Visual Inspection

GE chose the Sarcos Guardian S multi-purpose remote visual inspection robot. The first trial inspection took place in April 2018. The objective of this first trial was to determine the levels of dust and debris in four overhead dust extraction systems and to plan for removal. The ductwork involved in the inspection spanned approximately 853 meters. The initial expectation was that there would be little to no debris in the extraction system ducts which had been in service for only 2 years.

Viewing High Quality Data Real Time

While the objective of the inspection was to identify the levels of dust and debris, GE would also be able to determine if the robot would be effective in increasing the quality of their scheduled inspections while keeping workers safe.

The Guardian S robot was inserted into the duct and made its way through each section, recording 4k video and capturing images with high-definition cameras. Traveling through debris, dust, rough metal edges and exposed sheet metal screws, the robot was able to negotiate tight turns and move forward and backward for a comprehensive inspection of the ducts. The data was viewed in real-time allowing the team to experience the inspection as it took place.

Unexpected volumes of dust and debris were detected throughout the ducting, despite their relatively short period of operation. The video and imagery showed the dust/debris collecting at the duct seams due to the design of the ductwork. This material was immediately removed.

The Guardian S robot successfully captured the high-quality video and images, giving the company needed insight into confined spaces that it was not able to fully access.


Finding Significant Labor Savings

A significant reduction in labor hours (from 448 to 24) translated to a completed inspection in 1½ days instead of 1½ weeks. The typical cumulative manufacturing downtime of eight days was reduced to two.

The discovery of the root cause of the build-up will be used to drive updated design criteria for the dust extraction systems that will be implemented in new ductwork installations.

The Guardian S robot proved its ability to perform quality inspections which will help the company mitigate future risk; and offered the opportunity for GE to reduce the amount of time that employees spent working at heights during inspections.

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