Steel industry makes quality certification compulsory


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.


Unanimous vote

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

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.

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

Hawkins Construction Auckland regional manager Terry Buchan says compliant product that meets New Zealand standards is of paramount importance to the company’s 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. Existing SCNZ members now have four years to meet the new requirement.

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

“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 fabrication quality management systems in place to consistently produce fully compliant steelwork.


Important point of difference

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, Mr Hawley says. And there is less effort required on the part of the engineer and the builder to manage quality.

“An increased pool of SFC-qualified fabricators also means builders and engineers can be confident there will be plenty of choice.”



About Steel Fabricator Certification:

The Steel Fabricator Certification (SFC) scheme has been developed by the Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA) and Steel Construction New Zealand (SCNZ).

The aim of SFC is to reduce compliance risk for procurers and specifiers. It recognises fabricators who have appropriate quality management systems and personnel in place to consistently produce work of the required quality.

SFC is based on a modified version of the highly regarded European system, and incorporates the requirements of existing standards and the Weld Quality Standard AS/NZS ISO 3834.

It recognises four construction categories, allowing engineers to specify a level of quality appropriate for the risk. Participating fabricators are certified by an independent auditing authority.

Certification is valid for five years, and includes annual surveillance audits. By September 2020, all SCNZ fabricator members will be SFC qualified.

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