Close Doesn’t Count: Quality Control During Social Distancing
Article by Enerfab Director of Quality Assurance Benjamin Sprengard
People have been taking work home with them since work was invented, but in 2020 many of us took our work home … and left it there. If the COVID-19 crisis has taught the world anything, it’s that many jobs can be done remotely. But if, before all this, you would’ve asked if quality control was one of those jobs, you would’ve gotten a resounding “probably not.”
Quality control is important in all industries but especially in fabrication, construction, and maintenance of process equipment and facilities. Lives can easily be lost if something fails in a power-generation, manufacturing, or chemical-processing environment. On top of that, at Enerfab we believe that our quality sets us apart from our competition — maintaining it is critical to how we do business.
Our success at ensuring quality during this challenge has come down to three key areas of investment: Technology, training, and culture.
Putting the right technology in place to enable remote quality control is both the easiest and the hardest part — easy because you can clearly identify the needs your company has, and hard because you’ll be making investments in solutions to problems that haven’t already occurred.
Not every company will be able to copy and paste what Enerfab has done to solve their unique challenges, but here is a look into the technology solutions that have helped us during this time.
- Enerfab utilizes Computed and Digital Radiography, which allows us to send digital images electronically to clients and third parties for remote evaluation.
- Third-party inspections are being performed remotely through the use of FaceTime, Microsoft® Teams, and high-definition videography.
- Client evaluations of procedure qualifications take place through submittal of images captured on a digital camera mounted on our in-house optical stereomicroscope.
- Remote visual testing is performed on vessel halfpipe jackets via borescopic inspection to confirm consistent, full-penetration weldments. These inspections are recorded and sent to clients for remote evaluation.
- Enerfab promotes social distancing through the use of our automated Weld Wire Requisition App. This application allows welders and supervisors to request filler metal remotely on their tablets. The request is then filled in the environmentally controlled storage room and placed in the pickup location without any interpersonal contact.
- All shop inspections are documented on tablets using our mobile inspection software, which minimizes time in the QC Lab for inspectors and encourages social distancing in the production environment.
Technology isn’t worth anything if no one knows how to use it or how it fits into the various contingency plans that companies might develop. Training is the next key piece to the puzzle.
While not every team member needs to be proficient in every solution you put in place, at least train and qualify a handful of key leaders who can help roll out the new ways of working to everyone else. Use the “learn one, do one, teach one” method to ensure that, if the time comes, your company will be able to pivot smoothly into the new ways of working.
Probably the most important thing you can have to weather any storm and continue to ensure quality in the process is a strong culture. If your team’s mindset during times of normal operation is one of delivering quality and overcoming adversity as a team, the easier the transitions, like the one we just experienced, will be. Enerfab promotes a culture of Behavior-Based Quality built on the principles of compliance, prevention, and improvement. These principles allow Enerfab to meet contract requirements, learn from our mistakes, and continuously improve our processes and procedures.
Enerfab’s culture of safety and quality is best described by our motto “Built for the Challenge.” We’ve always taken pride in the quality of our work, and we believe our mission is to do the hard work that makes the world better. And it’s this component of our company’s DNA that has allowed us to adapt and overcome this current challenge.
The other tough lesson that COVID-19 has taught the world is that we weren’t as prepared as we thought we were. As states ease restrictions and the world returns to working away from home, we should all keep an eye on the horizon and plan for whatever comes our way by investing in the technologies, training, and respective work cultures to help weather any storm.
Want to learn more?
Visit enerfab.com/quality to see more about our quality programs.
And if you’re wanting a deeper dive in what we can do, send us a note at enerfab.com/contact and someone from our business development team will be with you right away.
About Benjamin Sprengard
Benjamin is the Director of Quality Assurance for Enerfab headquartered in Cincinnati. Along with Code compliance and materials expertise, Ben is responsible for continuous improvement within the organization including the development and implementation of a metric-based quality program and a digital transformation of Enerfab’s quality department. His previous roles as Welding Engineer and Metallurgist including responsibilities for providing engineering solutions to metallurgical, materials joining, and nondestructive testing applications.
Ben holds a BSc in Welding Engineering from The Ohio State University, where he specialized in welding metallurgy and nondestructive evaluation. He holds an ASNT NDT Level III in PT and VT and is an AWS Certified Welding Inspector.