By Michael Covello, Project Manager, InterMoor Inc.
In the world of subsea equipment fabrication, it is imperative to get material that meets the requirements of the engineering design. A failure to build from quality materials can “at best” cause manufacturing problems, and “at worst” cause failures in the field. So, with material quality being so important, how do you ensure you have the right material for the job?
The first, most crucial step, is to specify the correct material to begin with. As we predominantly design equipment in accordance with API or DNV code, these standards provide a lot of and guidance with this in the oil and gas industry. But there are many applications that require the engineer to design to parameters that are well outside of the proven envelope of the codes. This is when it is critical to verify the specific materials meet your physical requirements, are available, and are aligned with the manufacturing processes you intend to use.
Once we have specified the right material, the next step is to acquire it from a reliable supplier. This doesn’t mean that the warehouse or outlet can deliver on time, but rather that the manufacturer they bought it from has a solid quality program and verifies and documents their product before it ever leaves the premises. They should be willing and able to provide certifications, and be accountable for their product.
Let’s be honest, everyone in the industry has heard at least one horror story about material obtained from Asia that didn’t perform the way it was specified. The truth is that there are some differences in the way business is conducted in Asia as well as some Eastern European countries that sometimes inhibit the same level of accountability as in the West. But that said, very few people of any culture will outright falsify documentation. And in many cases, if the folks purchasing that material had performed due diligence, they would have known that a specific manufacture had the cheapest price for a reason. And this brings us to the last step in obtaining quality materials.
At InterMoor, we buy critical materials from manufacturer’s all over the world, including ones in China. We can do this, not only because we have vetted our supply base, but also because we regularly monitor them. It is not uncommon for us to hire a third-party inspector, or perform a site visit with our own staff during the manufacture of material that will be used in our products. This monitoring of our suppliers is not complicated, but it does take time and effort, which in the end pays off in both equipment that functions correctly every time and a better relationship with our suppliers in general.
So, make sure you get the materials you need. Specify them correctly in the design phase, purchase them from reputable suppliers, and monitor those suppliers while your materials are being made. Through these three simple rules, you can ensure that your finished products will perform over their design life without fail.