The smart way to review welding process specs

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Too many projects are not properly planning for their Welding Process Specification (WPS) reviews, placing the project at risk, according to welding industry veteran Roy Christensen of KT Project.

“Many projects have informal, disjointed WPS review processes that rely on the ‘hope’ that the reviews will meet project needs. Leaving important details to chance is always a bad idea, “ Christensen said in a presentation to the Canadian Welding Bureau’s recent virtual Welding Industry Day.

Christensen advised taking the time to consider which of the various WPS documents attached to any project should be reviewed, how they should be reviewed, and who should review them.

“Smart projects ensure that WPS reviews are completed with a process that establishes these requirements. This approach helps avoid the confusion, misunderstanding, rework, and waste that occur with WPSs that are reviewed on an ad hoc or random basis, or in an undocumented way,” said the founder of KT Project, a Calgary, Alta., based project management firm.

Christensen, a welding engineer technologist with over 35 years of experience working in oil and gas, pipeline and other projects, said that ineffective communication is a root cause for projects that run into difficulties.

A welding procedure specification (WPS) is the formal written document describing welding procedures, which provides direction to the welder or welding operators for making sound and quality production welds as per the code requirements. Christensen says it’s important to realize, however, that WPSs are  used for a variety of products representing different requirements for each – instrumentation, piping, pressure vessels, structures, etc. The welding procedures may need to meet various service conditions, such as the need for post weld heat treating or the need to have impact testing for low temperature or other requirements. The equipment to be welded may be for domestic use or for export to jurisdictions where the requirements for installation may be different than what is the case in Canada.

“Success may only be achieved by first acquiring adequate information and detailed requirements. It’s frustrating to read a WPS and not know what it’s supposed to be used for. You have to know how the procedures are going to be used and who is going to use them in order to properly review a procedure.” Christensen said.

A project may have dozens or hundreds of welding procedures that require review. Each WPS may comprise of a few or dozens of pages. To properly review a WPS, the reviewer needs details about the application, code of construction, and other info, including:

  • Procurement documents
  • Production drawings
  • Specs and standard drawings

There are several acceptable methods for reviewing welding procedures:

  • For record only obtains the WPS for information and no review is required
  • A summary review verifies the WPS is appropriate for the application and is correct and complete. Such reviews take about an hour.
  • A comprehensive review is a line-by-line review for verification of all WPS details and variables, including procedure qualification records and attachments, to verify compliance to all codes of construction, project specs, and other requirements. Such a review could take 4-8 hours.
  • An inspection review performed by a third-party inspector as a quality verification point in lieu of a project review

Christensen advised using a “weld map”, essentially a WPS summary, that details how and where each procedure will be used and verifies the supplier understands their scope of supply and welding requirements.

“A weld map makes the review quicker and easier and it saves money and time. Some suppliers will have multiple welding procedures so an ad hoc review can be confusing. This means that there will be multiple procedures submitted over several weeks and the reviewer may not have a clear understanding of why the procedures are being received and what their purpose is. If there is a matrix that explains this, then it can be clearly understood,” Christensen explained.

Who should be trusted to do the review? Christensen said expertise matters. A qualified WPS reviewer has a:

  • diploma in material or welding engineering technology;
  • post-graduate degree in material or welding engineering;
  • certification as a welding engineer, inspector or procedure reviewer;
  • experience and knowledge;
  • training for welding inspection or standards;
  • combination of above

“Someone who doesn’t work with welding daily may not be a suitable resource. If need be third-party services should obtained at the start of the project, not when welding procedures start piling up,” he said.

When you get down to it there are really two ways to go about a WPS review, according to Christensen:

The easy way is to document the review process and the requirements right from the start. The hard way is to let everyone figure it out for themselves later, using their own abilities and assumptions.

“Established processes avoid the confusion, misunderstanding, rework and waste associated with procedures that are reviewed ad hoc or randomly,” Christensen said.

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