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Oct 26, 2007

New international welding standard designed to ease stresses

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The Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) conducted its first ISO 3834 certification process in September this year, in accordance with the International Institute of Welding and the European Federation for Welding certification system, awarding local manufacturer Stainless Fabricators with the first ISO 3834 certification in the country. The SAIW reports that end-users such as Sasol, Eskom, and Mittal Steel, have supported the implementation of the scheme since inception.

Stainless Fabricators MD Peter Viljoen says previous dealings with end-users such as Sasol entailed rigorous auditing, since the ISO 9000 system did not incorporate welding fabrication-specific issues. 'The emphasis of the ISO 3834 system is on quality management systems specifically in the welding systems, and covers all facets of welding.'

Viljoen adds that in the past, end-users were expected to cover the expenses incurred during duplication work, which resulted from a lack of a standard specification. He says the ISO 9000 system lacked the depth to deal with sophisticated projects, and often manufacturers were unable to deliver to end-user specification.

'With the implementation of the ISO 3834, there is a standard and norm for welding, and end-users are realising that there is really no need for duplication work, and the cost that implies. 'Welding is considered a special process because the final result may not be capable of being verified by routine testing.'

Viljoen says the quality of the weld has to be manufactured into the product, and not inspected; this means that welding normally requires continuous control and that specified procedures be followed. The ISO 3834 standard concerning quality requirements in welding has been specifically prepared to identify the controls and procedures required to produce welds of a quality level acceptable to the end- user of the product.

'It should be noted that it is not a quality system standard replacing ISO 9001: 2000, but it can form a useful tool when ISO 9001 is applied by manufacturers. However, ISO 3834 can be used independ- ently of ISO 9001: 2000.'

The main advantages for a fabricator choosing to implement the International Welding Fabricator Certification Scheme, through the ISO 3834 standard, includes the welding process-specific quality tool, which can stand alone, or be used with ISO 9001: 2000.

The welding process quality management tool is audited by welding industry experts so that true value is added for the fabricator's benefit. This avoids the system being relegated to a 'paper exercise'. Large end-users of fabricated equipment have already realised the potential value in this standard and are considering requesting fabricator compliance for future work.

The anticipated revised Occu-pational Health and Safety Act may include the certification of Pressure Vessel Fabricators and this ISO standard could be adopted to also align our industry with Europe's. Export opportunities are becoming more attractive and the alignment of our fabrication industry to Europe will create more business.

SAIW executive director Jim Guild says the larger end-users want to have confidence in the technical capabilities of their supplier organisations, and that the ISO standard will be invaluable in accomplishing this. He adds that, further, the potential changes to regulations in the Factory Act, which is likely to happen this year, makes it advisable for pressure vessel and boiler manufacturers to have their systems certified by an independent third party.

'Customers and end-users will want to be completely assured that the quality standards laid down by the Act have been adhered to,' says Guild.

He says that welding is a unique process in that the final result cannot be verified by testing only, but that the quality of the finished product is incorporated in the entire process thorough a continuously monitored control system, which follows specific procedures.

'These procedures are laid down in the ISO 3834 quality standard, and the basic reason for having a company certification scheme is to make sure that the manufacturers and fabricators are constantly and consistently working to the standards set by ISO 3834,' says Guild.

Although the need for such a standard was identified many years ago, Viljoen says it was not until recently, when the European Federation for Welding developed the standard, owing to competitiveness and unification with Europe, that the local industry responded to the need. Since January this year, the system has been available to members of the International Institute of Welding, says Viljoen. With the accreditation of Stainless Fabricators, the SAIW also received its international accreditation from the International Institute of Welding.

Guild says that with the the acquisition of an international accreditation, the large end-users will not be the only benefactors, but that the system will be a great help to exporters as the quality of product will now be recognised internationally.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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