Quality Magazine

Key to Quality: Interpreting Requirements and Standards

November 4, 2009

Standards and specifications do not provide an enjoyable reading experience. There are no metaphors or similes as in poetry. There is no mayhem or suspense like you would find in a good mystery novel; no jokes as in a comedy; and worse yet, no plot or climatic ending. Standards and specifications may, however, make good bedside reading because they can put you to sleep if you do not understand the author’s intent. Let’s exam the initial intent of military standards and specifications, because that is where it all started.

Standards and specifications first began to appear in the United States Navy as it was in the process of building a fleet of ships. The Navy required that all the sailors have the ability to repair the ships while out to sea, as well as after battle. This meant that all Navy personnel would have to be able to identify every material, its method of fabrication and the operating and maintenance instructions for the systems. As a result, it became crucial that all specification were standardized throughout the Navy.

The architects of the original Navy standards and specifications had to create documents that illustrated exactly how a ship was to be built, in language that could be understood by sailors and other ship personnel, on an eighth grade reading level.

A perfect example is the NAVSEA 250-1500-01 standard. Admiral Hyman Richover was the driving force behind NAVSEA 250-1500-01, and demanded communication and support throughout the entire nuclear program. NAVSEA 250-1500-01 was referred to as the fabrication and repair document for the mechanical systems. It is a complete standard, and it includes requirements for material, fabrication, personnel qualifications, inspection requirements, acceptance requirements, repair requirements, and much more. NAVSEA 250-1500-01 also is known as the bible for work performed within the nuclear reactor system.

Standards and specifications, like NAVSEA 250-1500-01, are meant to catalog all of the engineering information accumulated during the fabrication of the ship, for that particular ship. Each ship has the capability, through sailor training, to repair almost any problem. And, these ships also have materials on board to do the repairs.

For example, submarines have the high quality materials cataloged throughout the ship used in a practical way, but available if necessary, some level 1 piping is used throughout the boat for emergency purpose. What seams like an ordinary hand rail on a stairway may be the 1 inch level 1 Copper Nickel piping needed in an event the nuclear reactor coolant discharge system needs to replace a section of pipe in an emergency situation.

As you can see there is good reason to use the standards and specification to build or repair a ship. A simple substitution of material can be devastating if an emergency repair cannot be made at sea because the substituted material is not compatible with the repair materials on board, such a compatible welding rod, or an abnormal O-Ring size.