The Nadcap Welding Task Group analyzes audit data at each Nadcap Meeting to track the progress of the entire Nadcap Welding Accredited supply chain. This data is collected from all Welding audits within a specific time interval. Overall, the Task Group generally sees the average number of Non-conformance Reports (NCRs) written per audit decrease as suppliers continue to become more compliant to the requirements as set forth in the welding checklists. Although fewer NCRs is an encouraging sign, specific NCRs that regularly appear indicate that suppliers may have difficulty implementing suitable measures to address certain types of checklist questions. I will address the three most common types of NCRs, as of February 2017, and provide tips on how to adequately address the Nadcap requirements which can aid in avoiding them.
Compliance to Weld Schedule
All Nadcap welding process checklists have several questions in sections 11, 12, and 13 that apply to what the auditor can see on the shop floor while observing actual welding jobs. There are a few questions in these sections that aim to determine if there is an approved weld schedule available, if it is being used, and if it meets the requirements.
The auditor will first determine if there is an approved weld schedule available for the part that is being welded. In most situations, every part number must have a specific weld schedule that is approved through the company’s quality system. Suppliers can choose to address this in different ways depending on how many part numbers they manage. The key requirement is that welders must be able to identify the exact weld schedule that is to be used for any part they are welding. Also, there must be evidence that the weld schedule has been approved for use. This requirement is intended to guarantee that the same welding conditions are used every time. It also helps to ensure that the welder does not have the freedom to deviate from the original settings found to create welds that meet the requirements of the part.
Once a welder or welding operator identifies the proper weld schedule for a part, the auditor will compare that weld schedule against what the welder uses to complete the part. The parameters that are used to weld the part must be in accordance with the parameters indicated on the approved weld schedule. Often, the shop floor employees will slowly streamline the welding process, making minor changes to produce better results. This may occur because the approved weld schedule did not allow any parameter tolerance or the weld schedule had incorrect or missing parameters. Regardless of the reason, it is critical that weld schedules remain current with the practices used on the shop floor and that they have been approved using the company’s quality system.
When welding in compliance to an industry standard or customer specification, it is important that suppliers thoroughly understand how these requirements apply to weld schedules. Customer specifications and industry standards both may contain requirements such as the parameters that must be defined in the weld schedule, qualification of the weld schedule, and how the weld schedule is documented. It is crucial to completely understand all requirements for weld schedules found in industry standards and customer specifications.
Existence, Adequacy, and Compliance of Documented Procedures
All Nadcap welding checklists contain questions that ask if a documented procedure is in place for controlling an aspect the welding task group has identified as critical. In many cases where NCRs are written for this requirement, suppliers may be missing a documented procedure all together, may have an inadequate procedure, or are not complying with the procedure.
Considering information provided by suppliers in the root cause corrective action process, working to an old revision in the checklist is a common cause for not having a procedure in place for something that is specifically required by the Nadcap checklist. When checklists are revised, a new question could be added. If suppliers do not ensure they are using the latest version of the checklist, they could completely miss new requirements. Registered users of eAuditNet have full access to the checklists before they become effective. Having a process in place to regularly check eAuditNet for new checklist revisions can be an effective way to ensure that new requirements for documented procedures are addressed.
Additionally, there are some instances where a supplier will be able to show that the required documented procedure exists, however, the auditor finds that it is not adequate. Each checklist has an audit handbook that is available on www.eAuditnet.com (found under the Resources tab, Documents, Public Documents, Welding, Handbooks & Guides). The audit handbook provides guidance for many checklist questions, including objective evidence which is required in order to determine that the requirement has been met. If the documented procedures are developed without knowledge of what the task group considers acceptable, there is a chance that an NCR could be written for the procedure not being adequate. The audit handbooks do not contain any additional requirements that are not included in the checklist. The handbooks contain the criteria to determine if the requirement has been met. It is a good practice to use the audit handbooks to regulate what is and is not an acceptable documented procedure and to ensure documented procedures are adequate.
In the event a supplier has an acceptable documented procedure, but is not following it, the auditor can write the finding under the applicable question. If employees fail to follow one of the company’s procedures, it indicates that the procedure is not robust enough to consistently control the requirement. When this happens, an NCR will be written. Creating an “error proof” procedure is an excellent approach to ensure employees are complying to procedure. Although error proofing a process or procedure sounds unrealistic, it can be done by requiring key steps to be recorded or verified before the task can be completed. Being able to demonstrate to an auditor that you have a document stating what is required, showing you follow the requirements, and can provide evidence that proves you follow the requirements is an excellent indicator that the documented procedure requirements have been met.
Inadequate, Incomplete, Missing Welder Qualifications
Depending on the type of work being done or the requirements of the customer, welders and welding operators will need to be qualified. In most cases, the qualification is done in accordance with an industry standard such as AWS D17.1. However, there are scenarios where suppliers may choose to qualify their welding personnel to an internal specification when applicable. Regardless of the qualification method, there must be a specification or standard that determines what types of testing are required, the acceptance criteria of the testing, and what the qualified welder is permitted to weld under that qualification. This information is available within any industry standard that covers welder qualification. When auditors review qualification test records, they will verify that the requirements identified in the qualifying specification have been met.
A qualification test record can be considered inadequate if it does not utilize samples produced from all required welding scenarios or if it does not accurately indicate what types of welds the welder can make under that qualification. This includes the type of material, thickness range, position, and more. Typically, these findings are honest mistakes and the NCR could have been avoided. To prevent these types of findings, it is recommended to have an internal requirement to closely review welder qualifications. Another recommendation would be to utilize a peer review process to verify the information entered on the test record is correct when compared to the charts and tables found within the welding standard.
A qualification test record is not complete if it has boxes that are not checked, blank spaces, no place for required information to be recorded, or does not contain the proper supporting data. Most welding standards include an example of a qualification test record in a blank form template. Although the examples are a suggested format, following them and ensuring that all information on the example form is available is a good start in determining that a qualification test record is complete. Any testing required by the specification to qualify a welder should accompany the test record. Pass/Fail statements for the required test is not enough to show that the test requirements were met. Actual test data is needed and must be available. Some specifications require different types of vision testing for the welder. Vision testing can be documented on the test record by simply indicating whether the welder has any restrictions, such as use of corrective lenses or no restrictions.
The simplest violation of welder qualification requirements is not having a completed welder qualification at all. Usually, this happens because a supplier is unable to locate a qualification test record that the auditor asks to review. Even if the supplier finds the test record after the audit, the NCR is valid since the proper evidence to meet the Nadcap requirement could not be provided during the audit. Making the effort to complete a qualification and being unbale to located it during the audit is one of the most frustrating NCRs. Having a good document control process in place can make all the difference in ensuring qualification test records are always available.
Implementing any process or activity to look for issues applicable to these three types of NCRs can be an effective way to have successful Nadcap audits, prevent NCRs, and stay on course for supplier merit.
Common NCR findings are reviewed in eQuaLearn’s Nadcap Audit Preparation- Welding training course. This training is designed to provide a complete overview of Nadcap requirements related to the Welding audit and is conducted by experienced subject matter experts. An important aspect of the course is the opportunity to ask questions at any time and on any subject related to Nadcap Welding audits. There are upcoming eQuaLearn Nadcap Audit Preparation- Welding courses scheduled in Torrance, CA, Bristol, UK, and Lyon, FR (course will be taught in French). A complete list of eQuaLearn trainings can be found on our website, www.eQuaLearn.com. Please contact an eQuaLearn team member if you have any questions or would like assistance with registration.