Tuesday, May 18, 2010

“What key skills make for the best Certified Welding Inspectors?”

I was recently interviewed by a writer who was researching Welders making the transition to Inspectors (CWI). One of the questions asked trip a trigger unleashing one of my pet peeves… “What key skills make for the best Certified Welding Inspectors?”

The answer came easy. Communication!

I had a report sent to me the other day evaluating a set of bend coupons for a welder qualification test. The document stated, "All his welds looked very good except he failed the bend test in a few spots." This allowed for one of my “PWC Teachable Moments”.

Words mean nothing if they are not intelligible. A CWI needs to be able to speak and write clear, accurate reports that state (in the words of Joe Friday) "Just the Facts, Ma'am". No opinions or spin, no half truths or sugar coatings. Just clear and accurate accounts of; what I saw, what I measured, what I found to be acceptable or what was unacceptable and why. I would also include in my reports what I couldn’t see, what was not measured and why.

Here's how that report should have read: (AWS D1.1, Fillet Option 2)

· Fillet welds were visually acceptable.

· Completed test plate was visually acceptable.

· Coupon 1 (C1), Root Bend, One discontinuity less than 1/32; Acceptable.

· Coupon 2 (C2), Root Bend, One discontinuity greater than 1/32 but less than 1/8. One defect greater than 1/8. No corner cracks; Unacceptable.

50 years from now we could look at that documentation and draw the same conclusion. When a CWI is called on to review his past records, those records need to be clear. You may not recall the conditions that lead to your report, but you will be thankful that you developed a clear accurate report and that you filed it with copies of the marked up prints, inspection requirements, relevant WPS and WPQR’s.

Pictures are an excellent means of communication. They can quicky clarify a condition to those not on-site. The thing missing in most photographed weld issues I’ve been involved in has been size perspective. I rarely photograph a weld that doesn’t show my 5 inch Starrett scale in clear focus. I also never “make the call” from a photo. There are far too many unknowns for my comfort level.

Verbal communications can, at times, be emotionally elevated. Verbal communication needs to be clear and respectful. It is often the CWI who has to tell the Emperor “he has no cloths”. Statements need to be founded on adequate knowledge of the facts and the inspector needs to posses a background of technical competence pertinent to the issue. The CWI needs to get feed-back from those in the conversation to insure the message is being received correctly and as intended.

By far, communication, written, photographed or verbal, is thee key skill of today’s CWI.