Group effort

This January, anyone involved in the quality control efforts at their place of business should head to Houston. Not just because the weather will be good, but because four industry organizations will combine forces to offer a first-of-its-kind conference based solely on quality control and inspection. Inspection Conference 2020 will be held Jan. 21-23 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston and will serve as an educational forum to examine the various ways that quality control and inspection activities are advancing in the industry.

Quality control happens at all stages of welding. The more a welder knows about the entire process, the more valuable they’ll be on the jobsite.

Undoubtedly, there’s a lot that falls under the QC umbrella, so to deliver on all of the ins and outs, the American Welding Society (AWS), American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT), American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and NACE International (The Corrosion Society) are in the process of developing a comprehensive agenda for the event. With a focus on the four organization’s core missions – corrosion engineering, nondestructive testing, steel construction and welding inspections – attendees can expect tips and resources to improve the quality of everything from plans and drawings to documentation, visual inspections, procedures and testing processes.

As the group continues to gather abstracts for the event, which can be submitted on the AWS website, there are plenty of reasons to learn more about each partner organization that is taking part. Year round, their shared goal is to help those in the metals fabrication industry deliver the highest quality products possible.

Tested, certified

The ASNT, a technical society for nondestructive testing (NDT) professionals, has been around for 77 years and its certifications have been considered the most recognized credentials in the industry for NDT. While most welders – and especially certified welding inspectors (CWIs) – are familiar with the organization, the conference will serve as an effective stage for ASNT to showcase the breadth of its leadership in NDT, including advancements that are being made in the field and resources that are available to association members to help them in their quality control and inspection efforts.

The American Society for Nondestructive Testing offers a host of resources for welders and fabricators to enhance their internal quality control efforts.

Understandably, attendance at the conference as well as membership and certification with ASNT are beneficial to both employees and employers alike. For employers and their business, ASNT certification offers a competitive advantage over other businesses that may not have it. ASNT certification amongst job applicants is also helpful during the hiring process as it indicates to the employer that a job candidate is competent in NDT. For employees, the certifications and resources available through ASNT can be a big help during day-to-day work while also helping them advance in their careers.

“Understanding what a weld inspection will require is paramount to being a successful certified welder,” says James Bennett, chief technical officer at ASNT. “The weld can be subjected to any number of NDT methods and techniques at various stages of the welding process in addition to the finished weld. NDT certification itself will require principle and theory training, work experience and examination. Unfortunately, for many welders, certification isn’t available through their employer, but training and understanding can be gained through self-study, online courses or in a classroom.”

For employers that are willing to aid their welders in gaining certification, there are four ASNT certification programs currently available: ASNT NDT Level III, ASNT Central Certification Program (ACCP), ASNT NDT Level II and Industrial Radiography and Radiation Safety Personnel (IRRSP). For many welders, AWS’s CWI certification is a stepping stone for certification in NDT. Thanks to the reciprocity agreement between ASNT and AWS, welders that have CWI certification can apply for an ACCP visual testing certification without having to take the otherwise mandatory test.

As the most recognized credential in structural steel construction, the AISC certification indicates that a fabricator or erector’s quality control management system is well developed and robust.

In terms of public safety, the more welders that are certified – or at the very least, educated – in NDT, the better. With a focus on educating attendees in new methods and strategies, the Inspection Conference 2020 can be a valuable resource in understanding NDT processes and technologies, producing quality welds and, in turn, increasing public safety.

Sound structures

Since AISC’s founding in 1921, the organization has become the leader in structural steel-related activities and has set the standard for structural steel building integrity. AISC’s certifications are considered the most recognized credentials in the industry for structural steel quality assurance. In fact, businesses that hold the AISC certificate are considered among the most qualified to fabricate and erect steel structures in North America and around the world.

AISC certification was put in place to help fabricators and erectors build quality structures through error prevention as opposed to error correction. The process for certification begins with comprehensive evaluations, including an eligibility review, a documentation audit of the applicant’s quality management system (QMS) and, finally, an on-site audit of the applicant’s QMS.

Although AISC certification is not based solely in welding, there are several instances during the evaluation that would benefit from a CWI or another welder that is experienced in structural welding procedures and the D1.1 code, which dictates the safe building of steel structures. Art Bustos, certification program analyst at AISC, says that one aspect of the certification process involves reviewing applicant welding procedure specifications (WPSs).

Corrosion at the point of a weld is common, but there are many strategies and techniques that can be implemented to minimize or greatly delay its effect.

“We ask that applicants submit a sample of a current WPS and a current welder performance qualification record,” Bustos says. “We need to know that they have these systems in place and have qualified welders in their facility. Eventually, we’ll also conduct on-site interviews of quality personnel and welders at all levels.”

Despite the extensive nature of the process, AISC certification comes with big payoffs – everything from developing the robust quality assurance systems that AISC demands of its applicants to winning jobs thanks to the reputation the certification holds.

In addition to its certification program, AISC offers both members and nonmembers access to educational offerings, industry conferences and free online sessions that Bustos recommends for use as toolbox talks.

“We conduct more than 100 NASCC: The Steel Conference sessions each year and have been posting them on our website since 2008, so a lot of topics have been covered,” he says. “They’re about 45 minutes long, so someone can review that session and then truncate it into a toolbox talk.”

Likewise, AISC’s sessions at the Inspection Conference will be beneficial for attendees, bringing them up to speed with the latest quality control and inspection activities in structural steel applications.

Protecting assets

NACE, a non-profit organization that advocates corrosion awareness and action, just celebrated its 75th year in operation and will be a key player in the Inspection Conference 2020. With quality control and public safety on the conference docket, NACE’s mission statement is perfectly aligned with the overriding conference goals:

“NACE Institute will improve public safety and environmental protection by advocating corrosion awareness and action, and provide unparalleled qualification programs that drive corrosion industry performance.”

As an AWS CWI, a welder’s career opportunities greatly expand – especially in quality control and inspection capacities.

Kari Hodge, senior exam design, development and analysis manager at NACE, put it in a nutshell, saying NACE’s mission “is to protect assets from corrosion.” Although her organization’s scope is wide, she adds that there are several applications of interest to the welding community, including one of the most efficient methods to control corrosion: coatings.

Naturally, one of the first places a corrosive-resistant coating will fail is at the weld. And that’s why NACE’s flagship training program would be of interest to welders and fabricators that regularly coat their products. Its Coating Inspection Program offers three levels of accreditation, setting the standard for quality control and inspection in the protective coatings industry.

Like the other organizations involved in the Inspection Conference 2020, NACE’s certifications are recognized worldwide as the most comprehensive available in the industry. The curriculum includes corrosion control, paint application and inspection, and project management. Considering how important it is for welders and fabricators to understand how their welds affect steel surface coatings, the resources available through NACE should be of great interest – as well as its sessions during the conference.    

Career benefits

Clearly, there are many avenues that welders can take to improve the quality of their welds. But perhaps more exciting, there are also many avenues for welders to enhance their careers in the areas of quality control and inspection. For Joe Young, senior manager workforce development at the AWS Foundation, the avenue of choice was attaining his CWI certification.

“If you want to dip your toe in the water in this industry, there’s a lot of water,” he says. “With a CWI certification, you can easily transition from one side of the industry to the other side. It’s proof that you understand the technical side of welding as well as the quality control side. The exam is incredibly comprehensive and requires serious preparation, but if you apply yourself, you can achieve something great.”

As a welding inspector, Young says he can be involved in more aspects of a project than one might realize. A welding inspector has to ensure that welds and welding-related activities comply with quality and safety criteria, and that can include anything that happens before, during and after welding.

“Something as simple as a small structure that can hold water benefits from a CWI’s input,” he says. “We have to verify the materials the engineer specifies, inspect the type of welds and their correct location, and even determine if ambient and material temperatures are okay for that type of work. We check to make sure the correct electrodes are being used and whether the welder is qualified to do that type of work. The CWI certification prepares you for that entire process.”

Young’s career started more than 10 years ago stick welding at his family’s landscape business. When the economy crashed shortly thereafter, he enrolled in college, taking a variety of classes to see what interested him most. He quickly realized, however, that he had a knack for welding and that with welders in such high demand, there was a lot of potential in the field.

“It took 10 years, but I built a great career for myself,” he says. “My advice for the welders out there trying to achieve their CWI certification, yes the test is harder than heck, but anyone that applies themselves has the potential to pass it.”

To get help with the test-taking process, AWS offers a slew of resources, including pre-exam seminars, educational resources on its website and other online classes, such as its D1.1 code class. Additional test-taking advice can come from attendance at the Inspection Conference 2020 as it offers unique networking access with CWI professionals that have already prepared for and passed the exam.

“For me, if I’m looking at the CWI certification, I would definitely want to be in attendance,” Young says. “I’d want to pick people’s brains to find out how they overcame the obstacles of the exam and what advice they have for how to use the certification as a building block for a good career. Anyone at the conference would be more than happy to share their experience while also gaining new knowledge.

“As a CWI, you always want to be proactive and be engaged with how technology is changing,” he continues. “Having a balanced understanding of the changing industry landscape is important because it could save you a lot of headaches on the job. I’m looking forward to learning about new technologies and strategies that are being implemented in the industry just as much as I’m looking forward to hearing from CWIs, CWEs and that whole network of folks that get together and pitch out all of their oddball questions. And that’s because there’s a good chance that I’ve faced the same challenges they have. It’s going to be a great place to learn from everyone and to continue to grow our careers.”

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