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Since the inception of the initiative C.R.I.N.E. (Cost Reduction In the New Era) in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it has been noted that in today’s market, product “non-compliance” is all too common a problem which has grown more and more significant in recent years. This is perhaps because welding inspection personnel as surveillance inspectors, effectively lost their teeth in the “policing” of the product build and the rules and regulations of standards that the product was meant to be compared to. Often, the non-conformances are related to the critical tasks of manufacture which are overlooked or ignored.

The 21st Century present new challenges

The consequence is that matters have perhaps slipped away and the days of meeting “shall” requirements of the manufacturing code or application standard are now distant memories – especially now that with IT, the codes and standards sit buried as pdf files deep within a personal computer. This change has given way to the all too common but reactive post production sampling “audits” when the product compliance was found but is too late to do anything about it.

So, perhaps this is how the story of today starts…

A Manufacturer agrees to build their client a product and in their eyes an “all singing and all dancing” product, with the manufacturer promising only to use the very best in verifiable materials, consumables and processes so as to win the contract. This is also embellished with the certification programme which shows (at least on paper) that the design & build will be to a Quality Management System (QMS) all of which will be checked and operated by competent people who are following an ISO Quality Manual, Quality Plan, or an “approved” Factory Production Control system and it also specifies the specific inspection and testing regimes that need to be completed. It is assumed therefore that the systems in operation must be a good. So, this must be a good outcome? Yes? Surely this is the case?  After all, this has been audited by 3rd parties.

Non-conformance- an all too common problem.

The panic sets in and starts when the first sign of a delay occurs, but eventually the client receives the product which turns out to be far from “all singing and all dancing”. In fact, it can be a completely shambolic experience of one non-conformance after the other and this is often the case when unrealistic time lines, fuelled by unrealistic penalty clauses have also added to the problems now seen.

Going legal?

Legal action in the form of litigation moves up to the fore and the client involves a legal team to claim damages. The costs now accelerates as the legal professionals build a case. The Manufacturer then either declares bankruptcy or puts in a counterclaim and after months…. or years of “rallying” across the legal tennis court, the winners are clearly not the Manufacturer or indeed… the Client.

What are the lessons to be learned?

So, from this all too common outcome, there are perhaps a few lessons that can be learned as an exercise in the old adage “Prevention is better than cure”, which often highlights from such an investigation that incompetence largely from poor understanding of the needs or from lack of training in client and supplier expertise, causes this to occur.

The problems are compounded by the personnel involved who attempt to mitigate the position, but are limited in what they can do. But worse is the subcontracted services such as the NDT are flawed, as are the fabrication practices.

Weld-Class-Solutions as technical experts

As the legal process unfolds, this is now becoming so, so clear from the preliminary expert investigation as are the symptoms of poor weld design choices, little or no technical, design or contract review process is in place, poor workmanship standards, no sight of any real documentation and there was clearly no client inspection or witnessing by a 3rd party and so the horror story continues.

Weld-Class – Product compliance expertise - helping in the technical needs of this too

Product compliance was and is still the need, but this was never the expectation and so the legal rollercoaster again creates long delays, highly stressed personnel and costly future effort is spent on salvaging what is a second-rate product.

Weld-Class - as an Independent Technical Assessor.

So perhaps next time the consideration needs to be geared around satisfying some or all of the following needs: -

WELDING ENGINEERING EXPERTISE: - We are able to provide a multi-disciplinary expert service that includes welding and related industrial and engineering expertise. This can be related to product compliance, contract concerns that commonly cause delay and disruption, as well as the financial loss.

WELDING ENGINEERING CONSULTING: - We are able to provide the service that spans both technical and commercial professions. Many of our clients need to understand where they stand legally but need to technical expertise to bridge between technical and legal professionals. Bringing together distinctive skills, knowledge and insight in to resolving clients’ contractual issues is paramount and having over 45 years in the field of welding and construction is critical in establishing the real facts and diagnosis.

WELDING ENGINEERING ADVICE & MEDIATION: - We provide the service that exists between professional services such as failure analysis, welding process technology, welding techniques and welding procedures to see if this was correct.  Then the welding metallurgy and weldability aspects are considered, welding design and manufacture often shows significant flaws in the design process and any Inspection and testing including destructive and non-destructive testing has not been demonstrated.

The effort is perhaps seen in the Quality Assurance and Quality Control infrastructure, along with the compliance needs of national and international codes and standards which are critical in solving the case or being able to act as mediators.

PERSONNEL: - The competence of welding and NDT personnel in satisfying the critical and high-level workmanship needs of the product, as well as the need for product compliance against the code or standard, play a pivotal role in any litigation cases that are often pursued.

The following provides and overview of some key projects of the past that Mark Cozens and Weld-Class-Solutions Ltd has been involved with in their combined 44+ years of experience and involvement the welding industry.