New AISC Program Requirements to be Released August 1   7/11

According a Modern Steel Construction web article posted on July 1, 2014, AISC is preparing to release new program requirements for the Certification Program for Structural Steel Fabricators and the Certification Program for Structural Steel Erectors on August 1, 2014. New applicant companies and currently certified companies will be affected.


New program requirements for Building Fabricator Certification will still reference the AISC Standard for Steel Building Structures – 2006. As of September 1, 2014, all new applicants to the Building Fabricator Certification Program must meet the new program requirements. Currently certified companies must meet the new requirements by August 1, 2015.


New program requirements for Erector Certification will reference the new AISC Standard for Structural Steel Erectors – 2013. The requirements for the Erector certification program are moving away from the Certified Erector and Advanced Certified Erector Checklist format. New applicants to the Erector Certification Program must meet the new program requirements starting September 1, 2014. 

Current participants of the Erector program will receive a gap analysis during their next annual QMC audit starting August 1, 2014, to ease the transition. The conversion process to the new Erector Program requirements and the new Standard for Structural Steel Erectors – 2013 is mandatory and will begin August 1, 2015. Conversion will be completed by August 1, 2016.

Many current participants of the Erector program that achieved certification with Atema’s assistance already have many elements of the new standard in place in their erector programs. Many of the new requirements will look familiar.

The table below shows the timeline for compliance to the new program requirements.

For more information check the Modern Steel Construction website.

Contact Atema and check our AISC Certification page to see how we can assist your certification efforts.

Jon Edwards, PE and the Young Engineers   6/13

by Pavi Proczko

Atema Inc. Technical Director Jon Edwards worked with local Springfield, IL 5th graders in a youth engineering competition.

The task was to build a Rube Goldberg Machine that draws a 3" line, using 10 or more steps. According to Wikipedia, "A Rube Goldberg a deliberately over-engineered or overdone machine that performs a very simple task in a very complicated fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg."

In addition to building this "Rube Goldberg" contraption, the each student in class had to keep a journal of professional engineers' presentations on energy, work, machines, etc. Finally they had to write a paper on the Panama Canal.

In February 2014, Jon's group of kids from Dubois Elementary in Springfield placed 2nd out of 14 in their area. With such a high ranking, they were invited to the Central Illinois finals in Champaign, IL, during the Engineering Open House.

The event took place in March. Contestants included fifth grades from Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, Decatur and Peoria. You can see a series of pictures below of the contraption Jon's young engineers created for the competition.

The students are from a school known to have many problems - lots of kids bussed in from poor neighborhoods, according to Edwards, who also judged the Central, IL finals. He beamed with pride, writing "We came in second...Dubois Elementary in Springfield has primarily low income families, so it was great to see these kids excited about something educational."

Shear Connectors and Headed Anchors   6/03

By Jim Callahan

Imagine the architect and subcontractor on a project are in disagreement about the required stud size for the project (who'd've thought...). If their disagreement is regarding Shear Connectors vs. Headed Anchors they may be having a more basic communication problem: it's possible haven't defined exactly what they mean by shear connectors and headed anchors. 

To facilitate composite action between the concrete and attached structural steel (beams and columns), the type of stud used is generally called a shear connector. Shear connectors are typically only available in 3/4“ or 7/8” diameters. Headed anchors, available up to 5/8” diameter, are generally used to connect concrete to all other steel surfaces such as embedded plates, frames, and curbing. 

The stud sizes available for this naming convention are common among popular stud manufacturers like Nelson Stud Welding, Fastenal, and Stud Welding Associates (another one here). Owners and their design representatives commonly use the term “shear studs” to mean EITHER shear connectors or headed anchors as defined above. Knowledge of which studs are specified for which situations is essential. 

An example of this nomenclature problem is illustrated in the joist world by this Table, which names all studs of various diameters sheer studs. This clearly goes against Manufacturer naming conventions. Table 103.5-1 from the Standard Specifications for Composite Steel Joists is reproduced for your convenience here.

Owners are generally more concerned with shear connectors, but use of the term shear stud can create confusion. When in doubt, RFI - be certain of the requirement before ordering or evaluating subcontracting proposals.

Wrapping It Up   12/20

The cards have been sent, the gifts have been purchased and we’re counting down the days to 2014. This is a natural time of year for reflection and as 2013 comes to a close, we’d like to offer you Talk Quality’s year-end wrap up.

In August, we posted a great blog about Bolt Handling and Storage. If you've been wondering about how to ensure your suppliers are top notch, then this is the blog for you.

As the year comes to a close, you may be thinking about cleaning out your files. We definitely are! Make sure to check out our blog on Record Retention pitfalls for some tips that will keep you from non-conformances at your next audit.

If training is your goal for the New Year but you’re not quite ready to bite the bullet, our blog on Periodic Training might help you decide.

Finally, we gave some helpful tip on the new Mock Girder Requirements and posted three handy steps on putting together your application for AISC certification.

These are all pointers for you coming directly from the field. Real life experiences from our project managers, staff, colleagues and clients. In the season of giving our goal is to give as much information from the steel construction industry as we can! 

Before we wish you a happy holiday, we want to offer just one more tip. If you are thinking about getting AISC Certified for the new year, start now! There is currently a 120-150 day lead time for certification after you apply. Getting together your documentation will always take longer than you think; a PQR for bridge certification can sometimes take up to a month to complete. Start planning, asking questions and don’t forget you can call on us if you need assistance!

We want to hear your quality successes from 2013! Share with us on Facebook or Twitter; tell us your stories, your tips and leave us suggestions for more Talk Quality topics in 2014.

From all of us at Atema, I want to wish you a Happy Holiday season and, no matter how you define success, a successful 2014! 

Dan Hoffman
Director of Operations
Atema Inc. 

Survival Guide - Tradeshows   10/03

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
If you’re attending FabTech 2013 in Chicago, send us a Tweet or visit us on Facebook and let us know! 

AISC Application Packages - 3 Steps for Success!   8/30

As admins at Atema, we spend much of our time putting together AISC application packages for clients. Our expert staff works to create all the documents necessary and then we take those documents, put them in a package and send them off to AISC. For those of you that are considering sending your documents to AISC yourself, I’d like to offer some basic tips. These are common errors we find people make with their packages.

Clean Copies
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. 

Signed pages
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!

Separate docs with colored paper.
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.

BONUS TIP - Keep a copy for yourself!
This last tip seems like a no-brainer, but it’s a good reminder. Make sure you keep a physical copy of exactly what you turn in. In the event that you receive a document deficiency, you want to be able to look at what the reviewer saw so you can address any issues.

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.

Mock Girder Requirements Have Changed - Are You Prepared?   6/18

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 or visit our website to find out how we can help.

Record Retention Pitfalls   12/21

A recent interaction with one of our clients regarding their official AISC Audit shed some light on Record Retention Pitfalls -- basically an issue that was brought to our attention during the client’s audit. 

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.”

Say what? 

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? 

Keep your CAR documents and AISC Audit Reports for two years if you take no issue with this requirement. If you take exception to changing the requirements of the Certification Program without issuing an Audit Policy or re-issuing the Standard after public commentary, let the AISC Certification Committee know how you feel.

Training Definitions De-Mystifed   11/08

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 and we’ll email you a copy.

WARNING! Can You Trust Your Bolts?   8/23

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.

The Scenario
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.

The Solution
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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