Going to a tradeshow is not unlike going to your first day of high school. Lots of people (kids) from different companies (schools) coming together in one gigantic new space, all trying to network (make friends) and get to know each other.
If you are a naturally outgoing and extroverted person, this might be a piece of cake for you. If you aren't, this might be your worst nightmare. Either way, we present you with some survival tips for getting through a tradeshow. With FabTech coming up in November (in our hometown of Chicago!), this is the perfect time to put these into practice!
- Sit down at lunch with someone you don’t know. Ask them where they are from and play “5 degrees of separation”. You never know who you might know in common and that could open the door for future opportunities!
- If you are exhibiting, make eye contact with every person you can, in a non-threating, non-judgmental way. Attending tradeshows makes people skittish; if they feel pressured, they may not stay to chat. Smile and be sure to really listen to what they are looking for. That may be the difference between a new client and a lost one.
- If an exhibitor’s services catch your eye but aren't quite what you need, talk to them anyway. You never know what other services they provide that they aren't directly marketing.
- Take advantage of apps on your phone that can help you capture people’s information and make sure to follow through right away. With an app like Evernote, you can set a reminder so that when you return to your hotel in the evening, you can send your new contact more info on your company or just a note to say you enjoyed meeting them. You meet hundreds of people at a tradeshow. Keep yourself fresh in their mind.
- For FabTech specifically, go to the Robotic Arc Welding Contest or the Welding Wars Competition. Everyone likes a little competition and cheering for or against the same team is an instant ice breaker.
- Lastly, bring an extra bag for all the stuff you pick up! You can’t leave a tradeshow without a mountain of freebies, giveaways and information. Bring an extra bag to keep it separate in your luggage so you can easily sort through when you return to the office
Ideally, you should print a fresh copy of your documents - manuals, job descriptions, bios, etc. Print them in color, single sided to avoid confusion. If a freshly printed copy is not an option, be sure to get a clean scan of your documents. If you can, use a high resolution scanner. Also be sure that the entire document is scanned and not cut off at the bottom.
There are several things that need to be signed when you turn in your application. Your application itself, the first page of your manual and your internal audit should all be signed. Don't forget or this could delay the review of your package!
AISC provides a list of documentation submittal requirements . Separate your documents out according to this list and use a colored sheet of paper or a blank sheet marked “Intentionally left blank.” This ensures that each document is seen and alleviates confusion.
Although these four tips might seem like minor issues, they can put a delay in your certification process. By checking to be sure you’ve covered all your bases, the process will move smoother and faster and you’ll be on your way to certification in no time!
PS: If doing it all yourself seems like a daunting task, we’re happy to help. Visit our AISC page to read more.
In 2011, AISC finalized and published its new AISC Certification Program for Steel Bridge Fabricators – Standard for Steel Bridges – 2011. With this new publication came changes to the “Mock-up Bridge Girder Instructions”. Now that AISC will be implementing this newer certification standard and looking for compliance among new applicants and currently certified alike, we thought we would point out the big changes.
1. The first paragraph of the latest edition of AISCQC015 "Mock-up Bridge Girder Instructions" has changed from 2006/9. such that the requirements for when a fabricator must complete a mock-up are no longer defined (nor are they implied) in the document, whereas the previous edition applied the mock-up girder requirement to "the fabricator seeking Initial Certification for Major Steel Bridges, with or without Fracture Critical Endorsement" and who did not have "appropriate work in house at the time of audit to demonstrate all of the knowledge and skills addressed by this instruction".
2. The reference document "Requirements AISC Certification Program for Steel Bridge Fabricators - November 1, 2012", which can be found on the AISC website, appears to more clearly define when a mock-up would be required.
- Note 18 - at any time during certification cycle (initial or renewal) if the fabricator applies for Intermediate or Advanced Bridge and does not have that type of work in the shop at time of audit/observation, AISC would require a mock-up.
- Note 19 - if the fabricator is also applying for FC Endorsement and does not have FC work in the shop, AISC would require a mock-up.
- Note 21 - if the fabricator has a type of project that would be classified as Intermediate or Advanced Bridge but would prevent demonstration of all aspects of the level of certification, AISC may require "substitute exercises" to demonstrate required knowledge and skills.
Proactively, to avoid surprise call-outs for substitute exercises, the applicant might consider a request to AISC for clarification of Note 21 regarding specific work in its shop at expected time of audit. While Section 2 of the AISC 205-11 "Bridge Fabricator Standard" defines the type of work classified as Intermediate and Advanced, Note 21 of "Requirements AISC Certification Program for Steel Bridge Fabricators - November 1, 2012" appears to allow AISC a great deal of subjectivity in determining which types of Intermediate or Advanced Bridge projects would not allow the fabricator to fully demonstrate competency.
We know this sounds confusing but the Atema Quality Professionals are here to help you make sense of it all. Shoot us an email at email@example.com or visit our website to find out how we can help.
The AISC Audit Agenda called for the auditee to have the last two years of audit reports and CARs available for the auditor. The exact wording was:
“You are required to have last year’s audit report and CARs from the previous two years available at the opening meeting. If you do not maintain these records a corrective action can be written to the management review in the case of a standard audit or to the question on non-conformance / quality control program in the checklist questions.”
So we first checked to see if a new auditing policy had been issued. Nope, none released. Then we looked within the Certification Standards and found no specific requirement for the certified company to retain these records as required in the aforementioned agenda. Perhaps it’s in Element 9, Record Retention? No two year retention time requirement there.
While it makes sense to retain at least the previous year’s audit report and any CARs issued for the purpose of the Management Review meeting discussion; it may not make sense for your organization to keep records beyond your company’s record retention policy.
The AISC Requirement for record retention is “Shall be at least long enough to permit evaluation of the records during the course of the project construction unless a longer period is required by contract or government regulation, and not less than the duration of any warranty provided by the fabricator.” These records (QMC audit reports and CARS) are not project specific, but the evaluation cycle should be at least since the previous event. So one year until the next audit to permit evaluation of the implementation of plans and actions.
Always remember: Chapter & Verse; show me in the Standard where & what the requirement is. If an auditor can’t show you the requirement, it probably doesn’t exist.
So what is the takeaway from this?
We work with many clients around the United States and the world. It is Atema’s common practice to offer advice and support both during and after the official AISC/QMC audits. With this support often comes feedback on the audit results and what common Corrective Action Requests were issued. Lately we have spotted a trend in one of the findings.
QMC Auditors are focusing more and more on initial and periodic training of personnel. Let’s first look at the requirements. The 2006 AISC Building Standard element 18 states: “Inspection personnel performing final inspection of the product and personnel responsible for functions that affect quality shall receive initial and periodic Documented Training. Personnel receiving initial and periodic Training shall include: project managers, detailers, inspectors, welding personnel, fitters, and painters.” Other AISC Standards have similar language.
When a Quality Management System is first rolled out and implemented, personnel need to be trained in their respective roles on their new QMS. This is classified as “initial” and pretty straightforward. People need to know what is expected from them in the execution of their work.
“Initial training” does not carry with it much ambiguity, but what is the definition of “periodic”? After much digging and searching, it was difficult to pinpoint a clear definition of what constitutes periodic retraining. Does periodic mean every week, month or year? Why even attempt to define a word that is nebulous in nature?
We looked at the impact and goal behind training. Atema had team discussions and we even polled some of our existing and past clients. This is what we came up with: periodic training should occur anytime a procedural requirement is changed and when personnel undertake additional or new responsibilities at a minimum. Internal audit findings are also great indicators that refresher training is needed.
One of our staff members shared an excellent analogy on this topic during our discussions. In his former life as a QA/QC Manager, refresher training was done every year. A very good friend of his told him that he had heard some heavy grousing about having to train and retrain personnel all the time, with the biggest complaint being: “What if we invest all this time in training and my people leave?” His response was: “What if you don’t train them and they stay?” Bottom line: Train your people and give them the tools to do it right. It’s cheaper than rework or scrap.
Interested in recieving a free Excel Training Matrix to help you manage your training of employees? Go to www.atema.com/contact and we’ll email you a copy.
Fabrication components and supplies may arrive from various suppliers. Cost and quality help one decide which supplier to use for a project. We want to spend less, but still get reliability. Most importantly, we need to be sure the supplies meet code and contract specifications.
You may think you have found a good supplier that meets requirements, but can we really trust our suppliers?
Allow us to illustrate.
Atema discussed a project with a Detroit testing agency who was overseeing a building job in Mexico where A325 bolts were being installed.
The bolts were torque checked, and all were found loose. All were retightened, and when checked again, they were loose. There were four instances of re-tightening in all.
The bolts were creeping under tensile load.
The testing agent rejected the bolts but said he wasn’t sure the A325 spec covered the creep situation. He said the bolts were from 3 different manufacturers and included regular hex head and tension control (TC) bolts. The TC bolts were not as bad as the hex head, but nonetheless did stretch some.
The Twist (no pun intended)
The bolts were ordered from South Korean manufacturers, but those manufacturers subbed work to other producers, including some in China – same head mark, but head size and other items varied.
The root cause was bad Quality Control and Inspection by the primary company. They trusted the supplier, and they were led astray.
Countless things can go wrong from one end of the supply chain to the other. The only thing you can trust is your own system. If the system required that they always check their specs and always check their sources, they could have stopped work before using bad bolts.
A good system of review saves time and money before inspection. Although it will take more than just reading this article to set up an effective quality system here are three things you can do today to help catch mistakes before they happen:
1. Go beyond trust. Ask for documentation.
2. Don’t just file! Review Certificates of Conformance before using the material.
3. Know code limitations of product being used.
Atema can help you develop and implement a quality system to prevent errors like this before inspection. Contact us here for more information on the services we provide.
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In the quality field, nonconformances are issued to call attention to a problem with a process or product that is not being produced up to par. Occasionally, there may be employees who become defensive when a NC is issued, feeling that the NC calls out a problem with their product or process. This can cause undue tension between employees, the heads of the quality control program, and the person issuing the NC.
The key to dealing with this issue is the attention, approach, and tone of the “Champion” of the NC program. Their actions over time related to the program can change attitudes. This can’t be accomplished by telling someone, “It’s not personal”, over and over, but rather by showing your people that that NC’s are for the good of the company and the program. Here are 9 ways this can be accomplished.
1. Visit the Manager
When you can identify a trend in NC, critical single NC or NC from an audit, a personal visit to the manager in charge to explain the opportunity to protect the company and her/his process may be helpful.
2. Find the Savings
Look for a monetary (or time) payback or cost avoidance from addressing the NC trend that the “owner” of the NC can claim by successfully addressing the issue. People tend to respond to tangible data well. Apply this once you’ve decided to elevate a trend or a single critical NC item to your corrective action process.
3. Redefine the NC
Review what you have defined as a non-conformance. Make sure the system isn’t focusing on “hangnail” items and focus the definition on serious wounds that will have important and serious impact if they are not addressed. Raise, lower, or redefine the bar.
4. Check Attitudes
Check how supervisors and managers are discussing or dealing with the NC program. When they discuss the program with their direct reports, their approach may be sabotaging a positive image without knowing it. Enlist them as allies in a campaign to get more from the NC program. “We’ve got to do it for certification. Why don’t we get some real economic benefit from it and make sure it is identifying real issues that are important?”
5. Get the Head Honcho Involved
Revisit your president, CEO or owner’s involvement in the program. There may be an opportunity to take a small amount of time here and there to recognize a trend or issue and have him/her talk favorably with those involved to show the importance to the company.
6. Call A Meeting
You may want to consider a training or meeting for employees to re-communicate the purpose for tracking nonconformances, why you quantify that data and the resulting costs. Remind them that identifying and eliminating nonconformances makes the company competitive in a tough economic environment; it ensures future work and benefits for everyone.
7. See if it’s a Personal Issue
The problem can be more serious if there is a single person who is spreading the opposite of good cheer on the subject and poisoning the opinions of many. There may be other issues surrounding this employee, not just discrediting your quality management system. It may take a disciplinary action or termination if they don’t come around.
8. Have a Group Investigate
Once you’ve decided to elevate a trend or a single critical NC item to the corrective action process, look at how you investigate root cause. Involve some of the affected employees in the process. The group may find that you’ve jumped to conclusions and not investigated far back enough or deep enough to find the real cause. A strong caveat: only do this with employees who are trained well in this process and understand it thoroughly. A well conducted root cause analysis won’t be threatening for anyone. Even root cause analysis training could bring a few people around.
9. Check Your Zen
Finally, check your own approach. We all need to, from time to time. To you, it may seem crystal clear that addressing a particular problem is necessary and shouldn’t need an empathetic explanation. However, you must step back, look at the situation from the receiver’s mind, choose your words carefully and understand the perceived extra work the problem will take to fix.
P.S. This Blog was crafted from questions that came directly from our customers. If you would like to see more of this, or if you want your own questions answered, Contact Us Here, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Terry Logan here, Principal of Atema.
I would like to give a friendly hello to our online audience on the day of my inaugural contribution to our blog. This will be the beginning of our "higher-ups" occasionally giving their voices to our humble marketing team to spread our knowledge and wisdom to those willing to read it.
My first contribution is a downloadable White Paper: "A Guide to the Definition and Understanding of Low Stress Die Stamp in the Structural Steel Industry". I've been researching this for years, and since no one ever wanted to define it (AWS, AREMA, AASHTO, etc.) I figured it was time for someone to step up to the plate.
Click here to be redirected to our webpage containing the downloadable material. Scroll down, and you'll see the PDF icon.
In addition to being the first post from the voice of one of our executives, this will also be the first of many White Papers to be produced by Atema. Keep your eyes open, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn for further updates, posts, and helpful and fun tidbits.
Until next time, folks!
In 2007, Minnesota experienced an unpredictable disaster. The Minneapolis I-35W Bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River. There was public turmoil as traffic was immobilized and rumors spread through the public and the media, the most frightening of which was the suspicion of a terrorist threat. In the end, 13 people were killed and 145 were injured.
After such a tragedy, auditing the suppliers to the Owner of the bridge becomes a great challenge. Suddenly everything changes at all levels of an organization. An auditor must face a new raw and volatile environment.
Above all an auditor must remember two unbreakable rules of auditing after a disaster:
1. DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE DISASTER AT ANYTIME DURING THE AUDIT.
As an auditor, it is tempting to fall into the vortex of emotion that surrounds such an event. The auditor is often the first "face of the agency" a supplier sees after a disaster, and sometimes the disaster is the reason for the audit. Auditees may look to an auditor for answers to why the disaster happened, or auditees may expect the disaster to be the scope of the audit. Everyone is watching with more acute vision and listening with sharper ears. Anything you say or do as an auditor can and will be construed as the official opinion of the Owner you represent. Keep off the subject of the event.
2. Stick to audit criteria
It is paramount that the auditor keeps a professional façade. Mixed emotions likely will permeate the staff of a fabrication shop after a tragic event. Guilt, Blame, and generally bad feelings inspire auditees to look for direction. As we mentioned above, that direction should not be driven by the disaster itself. The codes, standards, and specifications set forth as the sources for audit criteria remain the driving force behind audit observations. The purpose of the audit is not to find all the things that went wrong in the disaster; it is to assure that requirements are met and procedures are in place to produce a good product.
P.S. On May 22, 2012, Terry Logan, our Vice President, will be giving his presentation "How to Audit After a Disaster" at the ASQ World Conference in Anaheim, CA. He will discuss in detail and from experience the critical things that must be considered by auditors in trying times.
If you’ve see Terry speak before, you know that his presentations are always lively, no matter the topic! If you haven’t seen him speak, what are you waiting for? More information on the conference can be found here:
P.P.S. Be sure to keep up with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more information about this and other upcoming events!
NASCC 2012 is coming up and we thought for this blog, we’d talk about the benefits of attending a tradeshow and share some of our experiences.
First and foremost, the biggest reason to attend a tradeshow is to find potential customers. A tradeshow is a great opportunity to market specifically to the people in your field, most of who are paying to be there. They are looking for what you are selling.
Along this same line, many of the attendees of tradeshows are managers or upper level employees who have decision making power. If they like and need what you’re selling, there is a potential for an instant customer right there at your booth.
Give the Customer a Visual
For a steel related business, a tradeshow offers an opportunity to show a customer a physical product, where a phone call, email or postcard can’t. Maybe you’ve developed the latest software for steel fabrication management, or you’ve just released a new and improved portable beam splitter. Setting up shop at a tradeshow gives you the chance to demonstrate your product in real time. It gives the customer a visual and helps them make an informed decision about whether or not they want to choose you.
Check out the Competition
It’s no secret. Everyone manning a booth at a tradeshow takes a break to walk the floor, check out who else is exhibiting and pays a little extra attention to those companies offering a similar product. This gives you an idea of what other services similar to yours are being offered and might even spark some new ideas for your business to keep you competitive.
We enjoy seeing familiar faces at tradeshows. It’s a great time for us to see clients whom we worked with and to learn how their Quality Management System (QMS) is running and growing. It’s also a chance for Atema to participate in Educational Sessions and learn what cutting edge technology is being used in the industry. Hope to see you in Grapevine Texas this year!
- Survival Guide - Tradeshows
- AISC Application Packages - 3 Steps for Success!
- Mock Girder Requirements Have Changed - Are You Prepared?
- Record Retention Pitfalls
- Training Definitions De-Mystifed
- WARNING! Can You Trust Your Bolts?
- The Zen of Nonconformances: 9 Ways to Take Charge
- Finally! Get the guide you've needed and never had
- DISASTER! : Do you know the two unbreakable rules of auditing after a tragedy?
- How a Tradeshow Can Be Beneficial in the Structural Steel World