Key to Quality: The Risk Analysis Approach

July 30, 2009
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What you need to know before establishing an NDT inspection laboratory.

Over the years, I have been involved in establishing nondestructive testing (NDT) inspection stations for many companies and organizations, operating in both the public and private sectors. Recently, I was asked if I could map out the process of setting up an inspection station.

When it comes to setting up NDT inspection stations, most organizations will first evaluate the benefits of doing so, and then may become most excited by the prospect of getting a new “toy” or having another source of income or shortening inspection time by doing it in-house.

With the exception of getting a new toy, these are good reasons for establishing an NDT inspection laboratory. Regardless of the reason, I do believe the process must culminate in a clear, decisive action based on common sense and good judgment.

Before we look at the obvious benefits of establishing an NDT laboratory, we have to determine if it makes sense for the company. Typically, I will ask the following questions of the company interested in setting up the laboratory:

1. Is my customer paying for this investment or am I? The cost of training, equipment and certification could be on an average $15,000 to $50,000 simply to get started. This does not include the time needed to establish a process for controlling the records that must be made available to customers, as well as regulatory and statutory authorities.

2. If the customer is going to support this, will the investment be in seed money for equipment and training? Or will it be a long-term contract with defined minimum orders to ensure the investment is going to pay off?

3. What will it take to get approved to do the inspection work? Will the company need to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an FAA Inspection Station? Will it need a National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation program (NADCAP) certification? All of these are important because it costs money to prepare for and maintain certification. Yearly audits will need to be conducted, and companies should keep in mind that this may interrupt production schedules for about a week per certification.

4. Do I have the space and electrical services for the testing equipment? Some equipment requires different voltages, amperage and phases that may not be in your facility.

5. Will the potential inspection personnel be able to discern customer contract requirements and interpret standards and specifications such as ASNT-TC-1A or ASTM E 1444? Do they know how to apply acceptance standards such as the Military Standard Inspection, Liquid Penetrant and Magnetic Particle, Soundness Requirements for Materials Parts and Weldments MIL-STD-1907?

6. Can you afford to hire or contract a Level III ASNT test examiner to conduct the training, assessments and review of customer contract requirements and establish an inspection technique sheet for each part number or item to be inspected?

As can be seen from these questions, whether or not the company can set up a fluorescent magnetic particle inspection line is not a yes or no question. The question needs a risk assessment analysis to determine if it makes sense. It is only after the complete risk assessment is evaluated that a company can answer whether it is a good idea to establish an NDT inspection lab. When all of the above questions are answered yes, then the company will truly know that it is worth the investment of time and money to implement the laboratory.

Companies should keep in mind that the execution of the NDT inspection lab will take a minimum of about three to six months of aggressive actions, space preparation, procurement of equipment and personnel training.

One thing I see consistently with companies that set out on this endeavor is that if they do not assign a person the primary responsibility of managing this process, it will not work, and the projected three to six months can turn into years to complete.

Production and invoicing of a standard product or service by the company must produce the revenue needed to meet payroll. If a project manager is not assigned this as his one and only responsibility, the NDT laboratory will take a second position and fail.

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Recent Articles by Joseph Sorrentino

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Assigning a person with primary responsibility

Rick Bourdon
September 29, 2009
If anything becomes a factor to be considered it's the factor of leadership of the NDT process. To many times Ive encountered orginizations that just sit back and wait for a NDT process to be handed to them from there contacted consultant. This just doesnt work. Early on if not immedately in the NDT launch process a leader must be assigned and allowed to engage in the process

Underestimated expectations

Bob Henchar
September 29, 2009
The task of moving from "information only" inspection requirements to any certified Quality program, such as Nadcap, is often underestimated. Prior to accepting contractual obligations, Quality requirements must be thoroughly reviewed. Labor hours necessary to implement a Quality Program are preconceived and devised without basis. Leadership and dedication to the process are essential elements for implementation. . The procedural aspect of the Nadcap Quality Program is a lengthy process which can be achieved with pen and paper. Hours and hours of training will be required. Personnel certified in accordance with NAS 410 for example, will be essential to the quality of the Program. However, success will be measured when Management and all employees embrace the program, accept a culture change and commit to a new vision of the NDT inspection processes.

Time and personnel

Dave Maynard
September 30, 2009
Mr. Sorrentino makes some very valid and accurate points concerning what it takes to start any NDT operation from "scratch", especially the time factor. Too many times I have heard from potential clients that "upper management is committed to funding the project". When I then go on to explain the amount of time it will take to bring the operation to fruition, most people are surprised. Management must realize that it is not just a matter of getting the equipment and supplies in house and "flipping the switch". Training, qualification and certification all have strict minimum time requirements. Finding the right personnel, whether a person to begin training or an experienced qualified Level II inspector also takes time. Finding the right NDT Level III examiner (consultant or employee)is probably the most important aspect in setting up a successful NDT operation. The Level III should have "hands-on" experience as well as managerial skills. One must remember that while a valid ASNT Level III certificate is proof of someone's knowledge of the process, it alone is not a guarantee of successful hands-on experience as there is not a requirement for procedural or practical exams involved. ASNT's ACCP or NAS410 certification does require successful completion of these modules. An individual Level III or consultant group who has these certifications and a proven track record involving training and establishing an NDT operation is essential in reaching the goal of integrating NDT into any organization.




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