Tuesday, August 16, 2016

AWS-CWI's, Who needs 'em?

Good Morning,
I am very interested in a research article into industry perception of the overall value of the AWS CWI Certification. Many organizations have established training and certification programs internally that applies job scope specific training to inspectors while it seems that the AWS CWI training and exam is too general and wide ranging? Just looking for others opinions on this.
Thank you,
Victor K.

Hi Victor,
Although most codes accept the credentials of a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) for visual inspection of welds, they DON'T REQUIRE that the Inspector be a CWI.  What they DO REQUIRE is that your Inspectors be qualified and that qualification be documented.  Those are two very important requirements; qualified & documented.  They are the requirements of welding codes that I will find not being adhered to when I'm conducting Fabricator/Manufacturer audits with in-house qualified Inspectors.

In your letter you state, "Many organizations have established training and certification programs internally that applies job scope specific training to inspectors..."  I've worked for many manufacturers and have developed those exact programs, but each program I developed insured that my Inspectors were "qualified" and that qualification was "documented". 

It is common in industry today to claim, "Our Welder is our first Inspector."  That's a great approach, but again, to make that claim, your Welders would be required to be qualified as Inspectors (don't confuse this with qualified as Welders) and their qualifications would need to be documented.

There is a document published by the American Welding Society (AWS) to help you develop that training and documentation; AWS-B5.1, "Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspectors".  It is a terrific guide for developing a visual Welding Inspector program.  Programs developed by a knowledgeable Welding Inspector/Engineer to AWS-B5.1 would typically be excepted by your customers and/or governing agencies.  I have often found, once I've developed an "in-house" Inspector qualification, it was easier to evaluate employees and determine which inspectors may be ready to take the next step to certification.

It is typically your customers or governing agencies that put the requirement in contract documents that visual Welding Inspectors "shall" be AWS-CWI's (meaning certified to AWS-QC1-"Standard for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors").  When listed in contract documents there's no "wiggle-room" for alternative qualification programs. 

From my own experience, walking onto a project overseen by an AWS-CWI gives me confidence that the Inspector has a good rounded background in all the different areas Inspectors need to understand.  Those areas include; Process, Code Requirements, Inspection Techniques and Metallurgy.  When I'm asked to be a 3rd party Inspector, and I find myself in a manufacturing environment where Inspectors are trained in-house, I tend to ask a series of questions that help me evaluate the qualifications of the other Inspectors.  I want to feel confident that they understand the requirements and the acceptance criteria for the weldments they inspect.  That is a bad time to find out they don’t, and I'll always ask to see their documentation.

I understand folks believing that Certification to AWS-QC1 (AWS-CWI) can, at times, be over-kill for some inspection requirements.  When an alternative program is developed you must insure that it is developed by an individual with a well-rounded understanding of welding requirements.  The kind of well-rounded understanding you'd typically find in a CWI.

Thanks for your question.