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Tube & Pipe
Monday | 06 December, 2010 | 4:41 am

STINA's stamp of approval

By Meghan Siroky

December 2010 - The Steel Tube Institute of North America, Glenview, Ill., announced plans to establish an industry-wide structural steel tubing (HSS) Product Certification Program in reaction to recent concerns about substandard HSS appearing on job sites. "The program is designed to provide assurance that the HSS certified by STINA's program has been produced to, and tested to meet, ASTM standards," according to a press release.

Currently, HSS travels through a series of distribution channels before arriving at the job site. Obtaining information about a particular shipment of HSS can be difficult. "Right now, it's virtually impossible to track the chain of supply of structural steel tubing," said Bill Wolfe, STINA's executive director, in the press release. "It may be produced anywhere in the world, then travel through a series of distribution channels before it reaches the job site. In addition, the documentation and standards have historically been self-certified."

Getting a reputation
Both specifiers and end users throughout the United States and Canada have expressed concern over HSS' liability issues, which affect designers, engineering firms, fabricators, contractors and project owners. This unregulated system potentially can create serious problems, says Wolfe. "The liability of a product like HSS can include the design and engineering firms involved in the project, as well as the fabricators, contractors and project owners. Representatives of each of these groups have expressed concern about substandard products, or products which may not meet the proper quality standards," he said in the press release.

During the last 15 to 20 years, STINA's HSS committee has spent more than $1 million promoting the uses and applications of HSS steel tubing. "During that time, we've been very careful that our membership is centered around this effort and is not detracting from the acceptance of the product," Wolfe says, adding recent concerns "started to put a tarnish on what we thought was the good name for HSS tubing."

This ultimately prompted STINA and the producers who make up its HSS committee to combine resources with Intertek, Houston, a leading provider of quality and safety solutions serving a wide range of industries. Wolfe says they tried to determine what a seal of approval would mean and how it might be applicable within the industry.

"I've been telling everybody all along, this is not an anti-anybody effort. This is a pro-HSS effort," he says. "We don't want to see anything happen to the reputation of that product that would diminish our members' ability to sell the product."

Sensible partnership
Together, STINA and Intertek will map out a plan "to assure their customers that the HSS they were specifying and buying has been produced to, and tested to meet, ASTM standards," according to the press release. "Intertek is helping to develop the criteria and procedures for the program and will administer the evaluation and product testing required for producing companies to earn certification."

STINA chose Intertek after researching Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories. "Some of the other NRTLs also have similar experiences, but we found Intertek's experience to be very amenable and helpful to what we were trying to achieve," he says.

The companies will develop a certification program procedural guide, which is expected to be completed in early 2011. The contents of the guide will mold the HSS Product Certification Program. This new system will "authenticate and certify the testing procedures and documentation that accompany the product," according to the press release. STINA's HSS members want to assure their customers that the product meets ASTM standards.

How the program works
Intertek will perform an initial quality-control audit for companies seeking HSS certification. This step will include reviews of quality-control documents and manufacturing processes, along with an engineering evaluation and product testing.

The results of the evaluation will be used to generate a factory audit manual, which will provide an overview of the company's production methods, testing requirements, evaluated products and details of periodic testing required to maintain certification.

After Intertek grants certification, it will visit each of the qualified company's facilities twice a year to review receiving records of raw coil materials, production processes and post-production test reports. Intertek will send a sample of produced tubes to its verification center for confirmation testing. If a variance report is issued, the company will have 90 days to make corrections before losing its HSS certification. MM

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