Original Date: 07/21/2003
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Information : Welding Quality Accountability
Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point Facility took steps to develop and implement an electronic tracking and reporting system for weld quality accountability. The system, Shipyard Weld Status System, evolved from a hand- written, paper system to a fully-automated management tool for monitoring all aspects of weld operations for fabrication of U.S. Navy submarines.
Typically, each submarine has approximately 300,000 structural welds. Confirming the status of the welds during the construction of the submarine is an arduous task. Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point Facility (EBQP) is developing and implementing an electronic tracking and reporting system to confirm that weld operations are complete. The system assures that the weld quality has been verified at each operation in the fabrication process by tracking weld fit-up, welding, back-gouging, repair, and nondestructive inspection (VT, MT, UT, RT). For compliance to EBQP’s SUBSAFE Program, accurate documentation of in-process weld quality is required. The tracking and reporting system also enables EBQP to intelligently schedule and assign work due to the system’s ability to have a current and accurate picture of the status of work in progress at all times.
Prior to the electronic system, tracking of the weld process was documented by hand-written documents (Chits) for the issuance of weld wire and the performance of all weld activity, both pre- and post-processing. The information required to prepare the Chits was manually extracted from engineering drawings and hard copy procedure sheets. Weld status information was extracted from a completed Chit, recorded, and maintained as permanent documentation, making this approach time consuming. Research was performed by supervisors for each weld operation to determine the appropriate, qualified weld operator, proper weld procedure, and selection of correct weld filler wire for the job. This was a complex task in which errors were easily introduced to the operations, or the paper Chits became lost or damaged.
EBQP overcame the pitfalls of the Chits system by developing and deploying the Shipyard Weld Status System (SWSS). A unique SWSS record is established for every weld on a ship. The record provides details of the weld joint (e.g., material type and thickness), compatible weld processes and filler wires, and sign-off points for weld operators and inspectors. Continuous improvement activities led to the development of the Automated Weld Process Statusing System (AWPSS), followed by the Personnel Qualification System and the Electronic Record System (ERS). Each of these data collection systems is integrated electronically to automate and streamline weld operations for selection of weld wire/process procedures, weld operator qualifications, weld specifications, and tracking. The ERS eliminated the previous paper tracking system and allows employees to electronically sign-off (approve) on process routing activities. Safeguards are built into the system which provide constraints to prevent activities from being accomplished out-of-sequence. Rules have been established to validate the authorization(s) of an employee to sign-off on an activity. The ERS terminals require scannable badges that provide unique, secure identification of individuals who are authorized to certify completion of quality operations and/or work status.
By automating and integrating the weld accountability process, EBQP reduced cost and improved schedule performance by eliminating rework and providing a better tool for the coordination of work-in-process. Use of the automated electronic system simplified the weld tracking and quality control process, and dramatically reduced errors in procedural documents to less than 10% compared to the previous Chits system. As a management tool, the SWSS can generate more timely and accurate reports in the overall structural status of a ship under construction.
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