Arc Welding 101: “Freestylin’” fab shops


May 8, 2014


Q: I know of welding manufacturing companies that do not use welding procedure specifications (WPS), their welders are not qualified, and their welders inspect their own welds! How can these companies get away with this?

Nelson M.

A: I have been in many fab shops that lack documentation on their welding process and their inspection personnel—this practice is what I call freestylin’. With that said, manufacturers are not required to weld to a code. The requirement for code compliance is generally imposed by a customer or governing agency.

Let’s say company A has built decorative fabricated metal products for many years. There is no code requirement; the products have nothing to do with public safety; and the welders are skilled and business is good. Enter the economic downturn.

Company B, just down the street, builds off-road construction equipment. It too has skilled welders. In fact, Company A and B share the same welder training program. Company B’s people and processes are backed and guided by all the right documents.

Stimulus funds are granted for a highway project, and Company B wins a contract. Because of a tight time schedule, Company B requests help from Company A. Now what? A down economy gets a lot of fab shops thinking outside the box. If they are freestylin’, they can find themselves in hot water.

Typically, when I walk in a fab shop I’m there to determine if it is in compliance, and if not, I show the employees how they can get there and what steps they need to take to maintain compliance:

  • Purchase and review a copy of the code. I’m surprised that so many shops I go into do not own a copy of the code they claim to comply with.
  • Qualify the inspector. Someone has to be prepared to make the call as to whether or not welding is acceptable. Codes require that the qualification of the inspector be documented. This person can be a technician or welder with the required background and knowledge, or a certified welding inspector.
  • Develop the required WPS. A skilled welder working with a qualified inspector should be able to quickly produce the procedure qualification record (PQR) needed for the products to be welded.
  • Qualify the welders. I’ve been in shops that require its welders to be qualified in all positions for all thicknesses, but they never weld in the overhead position and never weld groove depths greater than 3/8 inch. Keep it simple.
  • Maintain welder and inspector qualifications. Document their involvement in any six-month period and monitor their quality.

Paul Cameron

Braun Intertec
4210 Highway 14 East
Rochester, MN 55904
Phone: 507-269-7142
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