Steel industry makes quality certification compulsory

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The Steel Fabricator Certification (SFC) qualification will soon be mandatory for all Steel Construction New Zealand (SCNZ) fabricator members.

Launched in 2014, SFC is an industry-led quality assurance scheme that aims to reduce risk for specifiers.

It ensures participating structural steel fabricators are capable of manufacturing product to the specified quality standard by certifying that companies have the appropriate personnel and quality management systems in place.

Members of industry organisation SCNZ voted unanimously to introduce the compulsory requirement at its AGM in Napier on September 16.

Bob Hawley, SCNZ chair and managing director of structural steel fabricator Red Steel Ltd, says New Zealand’s structural steel fabricators have shown overwhelming support for the SFC scheme and to raising industry standards.

“We are committed to providing compliant product of the highest quality for building and infrastructure projects up and down the country,” Mr Hawley says.

“This new resolution means SCNZ membership will be much more than simply paying an annual fee — members will first have to qualify then ensure they maintain their standard.”

Hawkins Construction Auckland regional manager Terry Buchan says compliant product that meets New Zealand standards is of paramount importance to building and infrastructure projects.

“As a major customer to the structural steel industry, we applaud SCNZ and its members for taking this positive step to bolster the quality assurance of the fabricated steelwork produced locally,” Mr Buchan says.

“It’s a welcome development that will give us increased confidence in New Zealand fabricated product.”

Since SFC’s introduction, 23 fabricators — representing 75% of New Zealand’s structural steel output — have become certified.

New members must now qualify for SFC prior to being inducted into SCNZ, while eexisting SCNZ members now have four years to meet the new requirement.

This time frame will allow the industry to prepare — there are currently 64 steel fabricator members to be certified. The SFC process involves an initial audit followed by annual reviews.

“As with many construction materials, the current compliance regime for structural steelwork relies, for the most part, on self-inspection and self-certification,” Mr Hawley says.

“This approach is dependent on the expertise, ethics and quality systems of the fabricator, and on the knowledge and expertise of engineers and welding inspectors to assess if the steel supplied is compliant.”

Significantly, the SFC scheme raises the bar by providing independent, expert certification of New Zealand fabrication companies.

Independent auditing body HERA Certification has been established to audit and certify steel fabricators to ensure they have the welding and the fabrication quality management systems in place to consistently produce fully compliant steelwork.

Mr Hawley says the new resolution provides an important point of difference for locally fabricated steelwork compared with offshore competitors.

“The current boom in construction activity has seen an increased amount of imported prefabricated steelwork entering New Zealand.

“However, there have been cases where it has not been easy to prove the steelwork meets the required specification, leading to expensive and time-consuming testing to demonstrate compliance. The upshot is costly project delays,” Mr Hawley says.

“The SFC scheme, on the other hand, provides procurers and specifiers such as engineers, architects, quantity surveyors and building contractors with greater certainty of product quality and significantly reduced compliance risk.

“SFC helps builders to pre-qualify steel fabrication companies capable of doing the work to the required standard. And there is less effort required on the part of the engineer and the builder to manage quality,” he says.

To find out more about Steel Fabricator Certification, visit www.steelfabcert.co.nz.