August 25, 2014
Q: What should we look for when choosing a filler metal supplier for critical welds, such as those in the power generation industry?
A: For critical applications, you need to find a supplier with a long track record in understanding the needs, developing products, and creating solutions for that industry.
First find out if the supplier is a manufacturer or a wholesaler. A filler metal manufacturer has complete control of its processing and can design and certify the specific material required. This leads to a number of other considerations: Can the supplier meet your specifications? Can it provide reliable test data? Does it have a certified test lab and/or R&D department to give you confidence in the validity of the data provided?
If a manufacturer has an ASME quality system certificate (QSC), this validates its system while ensuring you that the components and processing designed into a product have followed a controlled procedure. It also certifies that rigorous standards have been met throughout the development, manufacturing, and testing of your critical-welding consumables. ASME-certified manufacturers are routinely audited for compliance to a broad range of standards. Failure to conform may result in loss of their certificate.
Another question to ask is if the supplier has full control of its supply chain. From sourcing material directly from the mill to final testing, an ASME-certified manufacturer has tremendous control over the quality and reliability of its inputs and processes.
You should also consider whether the supplier is able to work with you on special applications. Manufacturers often are called upon to make product modifications to meet a particular ferrite or chemistry property or specific weldability requirement. A manufacturer with a qualified R&D staff is better equipped to produce such a service. Many supplier can provide standard products, but the real value of a supplier is found in its ability to help you solve unique welding problems. This kind of dialogue often ensures a partnering relationship that is invaluable to your business.
With many manufacturers and wholesalers of welding consumables to choose from, it is your responsibility to set high standards and select a supplier based on its ability to meet your needs. Not all suppliers are equal. The cost of repairing a weld far outweighs a slightly lower price per pound. Choose your suppliers wisely.
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