Interview with Alessandro Minori, CEO of Pipeln

Interview with Alessandro Minori, CEO of Pipeln

By Rosy Chianese

Interview with Alessandro Minori, CEO of Pipeln, the startup that offers an innovative approach to pipe maintenance.

One of the many advantages of the digital transformation process for companies is a different approach to maintenance, which sees an important change from preventive to predictive solutions. Companies that adopt a solution to implement a predictive maintenance strategy achieve, in fact, a greater degree of competitiveness on the market, benefiting from more efficient production processes and, consequently, higher profits. That’s why today I want to talk about Pipeln!

What’s PipeIn

PipeIn is the startup that is developing an innovative hardware and software solution for the predictive maintenance of strategic pipelines such as forced pipelines, aqueducts and hydrogen, oil and gas transportation networks. It offers a software platform and hardware device, introducing a new concept of pipe maintenance that allows you to move from the current preventive approach to more effective predictive maintenance. Pipein provides a B2B service that can be on-call or a long-term service agreement. 

Pipeln increases the average life of pipelines by up to 20% and reduces the risk of breakage by up to 14%. The most versatile and automated choice, which guarantees the safety of the staff, as well as a considerable saving on the costs of maintenance of the pipes. Pipein’s new approach to pipeline maintenance reduces the unplanned cost up to 70%.

If you want to know more, you can read the interview with Alessandro Minori, CEO of PipeIn.

Hello Alessandro, it is a pleasure to meet you and thank you for your time. Tell us more about  PipeIn

Pipein is a company focused on sustainability and the impact that technology can have on our world. In particular, our project aims to actively contribute to the achievement of two of the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • number 7 on the accessibility and safety of energy sources; 
  • number 9 on the digitisation of the key infrastructure of our industry.

This vision motivates us to create technological solutions that are close to the customer’s needs and that actively contribute to the reduction of waste of natural resources.

How and when was the idea of PipeIn born? 

Pipein was born from the idea of five engineers of the Polytechnic of Turin who decided to launch ourself into the world of innovation and use their skills to achieve something that could offer a concrete solution to the waste of natural resources.

Water, oil, natural gas, hydrogen. These are some of the most important resources that our planet makes available to us. Today, more than ever, it is necessary to use them in a sustainable way, avoiding waste and environmental disasters at all costs.

In a few days, in September 2019, Pipein took shape from the fusion of the ideas of Alessandro, Marek, Gianluca, Antonio and Gabriele. The starting point was a date: in Italy 40% of drinking water is wasted due to the poor condition of the water pipes of our cities. All this involves a huge waste: every 30 seconds in Italy the amount of drinking water contained in three Olympic swimming pools is dispersed. Unfortunately, the problem is not limited only to aqueducts, but also pipelines, gas pipelines and hydroelectric plants that undoubtedly show signs of age. In many cases these plants are more than 50 years old and a new approach to maintenance is necessary to build a sustainable and safe future.

How did you launch your company? Did you use crowdfunding campaigns?

Pipein received the first funding thanks to the Politecnico di Milano that saw in our project good potential. This first prize allowed us to develop the technology, moving from the idea phase to the prototype phase. Thanks to these technical developments we were selected to participate in the program ZERO Cleantech Accelerator, organized and financed by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, LVenture and Elis hosted by ENI in the spaces of the Gazometro di Roma Ostiense. Along with the management training and support that a startup Founders need when trying to turn an idea into an enterprise, ZERO Accelerator also made a pre-seed investment in Pipein. 

The accelerator contacts and the pre-seed investment allowed us to develop the technology until it could be tested in a real environment (i.e. within an operational conduct managed by a potential customer). We therefore consulted the large Italian companies operating in the energy sector and we were very interested in our solution. Now we are looking for an additional seed investment to support the company in the coming months coming to market in the first quarter of 2023 with a product that can meet the high standards of safety and quality required by our partners.

What hardware and software solutions does your startup adopt?

Pipein offers a software platform and hardware device, introducing a new concept of pipe maintenance that allows you to move from the current preventive approach to more effective predictive maintenance. This innovative approach reduces the unplanned cost up t 70% and increases the average life of pipelines by 20%. 

The hardware is an automated device that is inserted inside the pipes, and is equipped with a series of sensors that allow a complete analysis of the health status of the pipeline. Thanks to its flexibility, the probe is able to integrate different types of sensors that can be replaced depending on the field of application. Its design allows it to easily overcome encrustations and obstacles. 

The software is an algorithm based on artificial intelligence algorithms that aggregates the data collected in the field during inspections with the maintenance data held by the customer, forming a common dataset. This dataset is processed through proprietary algorithms that allow to extract the residual useful life and the probability of breakage of each inspected pipeline. 

The software is not only compatible with the hardware we are developing, but can receive as input data from any other probe or sensor. This approach greatly increases the scalability of the technical solution proposed by Pipein, which can therefore be used in different application areas. 

Why is it important to choose a predictive approach over the preventive one used until now?

The problem of pipeline maintenance is a common problem in many sectors. Hydroelectric plants, aqueducts, gas and oil distribution networks all need efficient and safe pipelines in order to function properly. To date, the operators of these plants do not have an effective tool that allows them to intervene at the right time and at the right place to prevent and avoid environmental damage and waste of natural resources. 

A preventive approach to maintenance is to inspect all pipelines periodically for breakdowns or leaks. This approach engages a large number of economic and financial resources to control all assets. In addition, any maintenance or repair work takes place only after the preventive inspection has been unsuccessful, that is, only after the damage has been identified and localized. When this happens, the damage is already noticeable and therefore the costs to remedy it are huge.

Pipein proposes an alternative approach that is based on maintenance data collected during inspections and maintenance data held by the customer (e.g. plant age, operating hours in the last year, etc…) to predict the evolution of the state of health of the pipeline and optimize its maintenance. A predictive maintenance consists in intervening only where and when necessary, avoiding reaching the moment when the plant undergoes a catastrophic failure that compromises its correct operation for months. The platform that Pipein is developing allows you to visualize at any time the health status of the pipelines and to visualize which are the critical points to keep under control. In this way our customers can have under control the health of their plants in a single platform that collects all the data regarding maintenance operations standardizing these processes, optimizing their resources and drastically reducing costs.

Some future developments? 

Today we are focusing on the planning and implementation of tests about our technology by entering into partnerships with our future customers. We are also collaborating with the Politecnico di Milano to file a patent that protects the intellectual property that we have developed in recent months. 

Our goal is to make a product that can be marketed in the first quarter of 2023. To achieve this important result we are looking for additional funding to expand the team with technical figures both hardware and software that can help us overcome the great technological challenges we face every day. 

Curiosity: would you like to tell us more about the final choice of the name?

The name and logo want to communicate how our technology works and where it is applied. The idea was to represent our vision and mission in a simple word so that customers and audiences could understand the essence of Pipein in a few seconds.


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