A large black machine in the foreground pulls rope off an orange single-drum puller in the background
Wagner-Smith Equipment’s new rope inspection system, pictured here in the foreground, pulls rope off a single-drum puller in the background. The new machine takes pictures of the rope as it runs through blocks that mimic the tension placed on a rope on an actual job site. Results of the scan are immediately available to the operator.

With one of the most expansive rental fleets across the continental United States, Wagner-Smith Equipment inspects ropes every day.

Wagner-Smith designs, manufactures, sells, rents and services overhead and underground line-stringing equipment and tools for the electrical power line and communication industry. Many of Wagner-Smith’s machines use rope to pull wire on the job.

Standard procedures for inspecting ropes are labor intensive and rely on technicians’ split-second decision-making. Traditionally, rope inspections involve a technician maintaining constant focus on a line as it’s being let out and back in. As the line passes by at high speeds, the technician must maintain constant visual contact and make split-second decisions on whether the line is safe for continued use.

Traditional methods also call for technicians to break a line to accurately determine its quality and strength. As with any process reliant on human input, it is susceptible to error.

Advancing rope inspection technology
Wagner-Smith Equipment recently partnered with Scope to develop an artificial intelligence system to inspect the ropes on its machines. Scope builds automated inspection systems for critical rope applications.

The new AI system continuously captures images of a line as it is scanned. The scans are analyzed by Scope’s Insight Engine, a deep learning network that synthesizes the information into a graph showing the health of each line segment in real time.

This information gives operators immediate feedback on the line segments, facilitating quick and informed decision-making. The interface helps operators track pull speed and position on the line, making it simple to pinpoint the location of any damage.

With every scan, the Scope system generates data points that are securely stored online. This enables operators to review the line and formulate a repair plan if needed, while fleet managers can immediately access the scans and images. The system delivers real-time reporting and notifications, eliminating the need for manual inspection reports.

The benefits for Wagner-Smith were immediately evident.

  • On the first day using the new system, the team detected unknown issues, obtained a comprehensive data record, and received instant, accurate rope analysis.
  • In the first week, the system discovered more than 75 unknown issues of different types.

Steve Aston, Wagner-Smith Equipment vice president of operations, said the new system helps the company advance its constant focus on delivering safe equipment to its customers.

“Proper equipment maintenance is directly linked to the company’s commitment to providing the most reliable stringing solutions for safer operations,” Aston said.

Learn more about the new AI rope inspection system by downloading Wagner-Smith’s white paper.

About Wagner-Smith
Wagner-Smith Equipment, part of MDU Construction Services Group, has locations in in Burleson, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; McDonough, Georgia; Phoenix, Arizona; Tualatin, Oregon; and Lawrenceville, Illinois. Its Burleson, Texas, location recently earned Star Status in the Voluntary Protection Program for site-based businesses by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.