AWS Certified Welding Fabricator-The Benefits

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By Steven Snyder
Many metal fabricators do not require or need to have a Quality Management System
Certified or Accredited to say, API, ASME, ISO 3834, Nadcap, AISC, etc. however an optional
and economically viable step that metal fabricating businesses can take to showcase their
Welding Fabrication Quality Management System, is to begin the process of attaining
certification as an American Welding Society (AWS) Certified Welding Fabricator (CWF).
The CWF certification conveys to potential customers and the fabricator’s client base, that
they have the facility, personnel, equipment, procedures, and knowledge to produce
welded components that comply with the applicable and specific AWS welding codes and
standards of their specialty or preference.
Briefly, it gives new and existing customers the peace of mind that their fabrication needs
are in good, capable hands. Hence, there is no better form of future-proofing your business
than clearly relaying to customers that their fabricator of choice has an established system
in place to ensure the highest quality.
Staying competitive requires being able to quickly verify the quality of the products,
training, and business partners for your company needs. The rigorous standards of our
Certified Welding Fabricator (CWF) program allow you to trust, sight-unseen, the
craftsmanship and expertise of every facility that’s earned AWS accreditation — and
becoming accredited lets your peers know you hold the same high standards as all AWS
CWF Facilities.

Process-Progress

The AWS CWF Accreditation is for domestic and international welding fabricators, job
shops and manufacturing companies. Industry professionals developed it, specifically for
organizations that do not require or benefit from acquiring other industry certifications,
such as ISO 9001, ASME, API, NADCAP or AISC registration.
In terms of the prerequisites or business characteristics that define a good CWF candidate,
an obvious choice is a company that already has a quality management system (QMS) in
place as well as one that has qualified welders that are properly tested and certified and
welding procedures that are properly documented.

Each applicant is required to have a properly prepared QMS based on the AWS QC 17
Specification for AWS Accreditation of CWFs, which requires the fabricator to submit to
AWS for review prior to scheduling an on-site audit. Preceding this, the organization may
need to conduct training of personnel, or engage with a consultant to review their internal
operations and provide a gap analysis for any areas that may need attention.”

Examples of areas that may need attention include how a company conducts contract
review prior to fabrication and how that information is communicated to a shop’s quality
control team, welders, or supervisor, be it via an ERP system or through internal quality
control checks, inspection test plans, job-shop routers, etc. Additional areas that may need
attention could also include how welding personnel and welding procedures are developed
or qualified and controlled or how welding repairs, consumables and NDT are managed.

For those interested, the roadmap to achieving CWF certification starts with the
implementation of a QMS or a review of a previously established QMS to determine
whether it fully meets the requirements set forth by the AWS standard. From there, the
application process starts with the submission of a quality manual that documents the
QMS, which is followed up with an on-site audit by an AWS Auditor.

Overall, the process takes, on average, about three to six months, depending on how much
time and effort is dedicated to the tasks, or if utilizing a consultant or requiring some level
of staff-internal training.

From the time the fabricator QA manual and application with fees are submitted to AWS, it
is typically four to six weeks before an auditor conducts the on-site audit. The best advice I
can give to someone that may be intimidated by the process is to just start. The hardest
part of any major task or project is doing just that. Fortunately, there is a large network of
AWS members, sections, and online resources for supporting, guiding, and suggesting how
to develop and implement your AWS CWF QMS.”

Business benefits

Of course, most all metal fabricators are seeking to enhance their chances at long-term
success. Acquiring the AWS Certified Welding Fabricator Accreditation is one way to send a
clear message to customers you are doing just that and opening more international
opportunities to do that.
I am seeing and hearing directly from USA based companies routinely, looking for quality
fabricators offshore and seeking first that they understand and can comply with AWS
Codes and Standards before pre-approval of the fabricator. I receive a few calls a month
specifically for this and refer them to AWS site listing accordingly.
When vetting a fabricator, seeing the AWS CWF Certification on the AWS website, or
hanging on the wall in their lobby, serves as a helping hand for potential customers. And it
could be even more helpful when vetting international suppliers where language barriers
and unfamiliar standards or certifications are the norm.

“There are no shortages of companies that have or require fabrication in international
locations for which they routinely seek out competent fabricators for their projects,”
“The AWS CWF mark of excellence provides that needed assurance to companies or OEMs
in various global industries, albeit for wind turbine tower fabrication, oil & gas
subsuppliers of non-pressure retaining equipment, and ancillary components for
substations, power plants or specialty fabrications.

The CWF certification is truly an opportunity to have your fabrication operations
recognized, and in most cases, the certification puts you at the top of the list for becoming
an approved vendor for many organizations that understand what it means when the AWS
CWF mark of excellence has been bestowed.

For those aware, the CWF certification relays two major differentiators: The fabricator has
already been vetted and audited by AWS and the organization clearly understands the need
for documented quality conformance.

I have previously served as the project quality manager for numerous projects for major
corporations, both domestic and abroad, and have been responsible for selecting or
auditing vendors to provide fabrication for those projects. I can say without hesitation that
I would certainly put an AWS CWF at the top of the list for consideration first.
The benefits of a CWF certification, therefore, do not just help the potential customer.

Because the process of vetting a fabricator has been streamlined, it is easier for the CWF-
certified fabricator to secure new and repeat business. It also streamlines the way they

conduct business internally. For starters, a QMS requires a company to have an
organizational chart with staff duties and responsibilities clearly defined and delineated.
You could also save the amount of money this program costs just by doing proper contract
review, as I have witnessed projects where the contract specifications weren’t properly
reviewed before they went into production, only to find out afterward that things were
omitted or not properly documented, like the mapping of critical welds.

Risk Management

As any fabricator knows, rework can cost considerable time and money. Sometimes,
however, poor quality work can also lead to safety issues. The CWF certification, therefore,
helps to minimize liabilities. When product safety is jeopardized due to improper
fabrication processes, it is common for a customer to take legal action against the
fabricator.
I have served as an expert witness in more than a few cases in my career, where
fortunately, for my clients, they never went to trial and were settled smoothly once the
depositions were taken and reviewed by the opposing council. However, it would have

taken less than a week or so for a semi-skilled paralegal assistant working on a case to
come to the realization that the fabricator had not qualified or certified their welding
personnel or that they had not properly documented or qualified the welding procedure
qualification records.”

In those cases, or others where the fabricator had welds that failed or where property or
personnel damage or injury is involved, an entity or person may be held liable for such
losses. Even if no one is injured, such as a case of inferior quality delivered to the customer
where it is found contract specification or code requirements were not followed, the cost of
the rework, repair or replacement of the nonconforming products can create a cost impact
to the fabricator and the customer.

The business environment today is volatile and extremely complex. There is so much
ambiguity in it that as a business owner, you need to strategize daily. How do I get better?
How can I continuously improve? And as it turns out, achieving CWF certification can be
the roadmap a company needs to navigate through the uncertainty.
Do contact accreditation@aws.org for more information and see
https://www.aws.org/Businesses/Facility-Accreditation/CWF/

Steven Snyder is Regional Director, Welding Technology-Asia, Africa & Oceania for the
American Welding Society,

Continuous welding of 4-in.-thick 4130 pad eyes to a 4130 ring, maintaining a 450°F preheat for 12- days