At the end of a fabrication project, a client may need a variety of documents to certify that the job was built, inspected or tested and that it actually works. Most often it will be the responsibility of a project manager to put together all of these documents, but in a smaller company the work might be shared by foremen or company owners.
Clients need documentation for a few reasons. If the project is a new or remodeled building, they need welding inspection reports, among other things, before they can get a certification of occupancy.
A general contractor is highly motivated to get that certificate because some of their pay is being held back until they get it. Many of the products built by a fabricator are being resold by the client to someone else. The client must be able to show their customer that the product was actually tested and inspected. Again, they cannot get their money until they have the paperwork.
Some types of documentation are:
- Mill test reports. If a job needs to be made of a certain type of material, the fabricator needs to get these reports from the steel mill. MTR’s give the chemical analysis of a batch of steel that is identified by a heat number. The steel distributor needs to put the fabricator’s purchase order number on the MTR so all the paperwork is tied together. Some projects require the use of domestic steel only; the MTR will show that the material was made in the US.
- Lab test reports. On a repair job, it might be necessary to identify the type of material that was used to build the product being repaired. A sample of metal can be sent to a lab for analysis and identification. A copy of the report should go in the closeout package. The client can compare the report to the MTR’s and see that the repair job was done with the correct material.
- Manuals. A fabrication project may have many parts on it that were not made by the fabricator. These “buy outs” will come with operators manuals and parts lists that the client will need to run and repair the product.
- Warranties. Buy outs will have warranties that need to be passed on to the end user. If this is a large project, a long period of time may pass between when the part was bought and when it is put in service. If this is the case, the final user may be the one to start the warranty to get the maximum warranty coverage. The fabricator may be required to provide some kind of warranty for the product. If the work is part of a construction job, a one-year warranty is typically implied.
- Testing documents. Many types of tests may be required depending on the type of product. Some of the tests are: Static or Dynamic Load; Hydro; Static Leak; Air or Gas Pressure; Vacuum; and a wide variety of tests for reliability, safety and proper function. Testing may be done by the fabricator or a third party. Results can be recorded in writing, video or photographic evidence.
- Certified payroll. Prevailing wage jobs require certified payroll sheets to be submitted with invoicing or at regular intervals during the job. These documents show that everyone working on the job was paid union scale for they craft they performed.
- Photographs of complete assembly. These can be included in a closeout package to show the client that all the parts actually fit together. A client may ask that the photos be on film rather than digital because things are so easy to alter on digital. Photos also help field crews with assembly and installation.
- As built drawings. Fabricated steel projects are very seldom built exactly like the print. Designs are altered during construction for many reasons. An “as built drawing” shows the product exactly like it was made.
The owners of the product will need to know how the project was put together if it needs to be modified or repurposed to perform a different function. Creating a package of as built drawing can be a time consuming and expensive process
- License and registration. If the job is a trailer or vehicle, it is useless without this documentation. The vehicle will have to be taken to the DMV to complete this process.
- Inspection reports. For the fabrication contractor this will be weld inspection reports. Generally the welding inspector will send these reports to the owner or client. It is very important that the fabricator save copies of these documents for their own records. The fabricator will also need to furnish welding procedures, procedure qualification reports and welders certifications.
- Copies of QC trailers or other in-house quality control documents. As parts move through the manufacturing process, a document called a trailer may be attached to it. Each worker or inspector that works on the part signs off on their particular task as the part moves down the line. Copies may be included in a closeout package.
- Calibration documents. Precision measuring instruments often come with documentation attesting to its accuracy. These documents give credibility to all the test results and should be included with the test results.
For some projects, mainly in construction, the contractor’s last payment (a 5% retainer is common) is held back by the client until the job is complete. Turning over the closeout package may be one of the conditions of receiving final payment. There is a tendency in the trade to move on to the next job as soon as the last one goes out the door. But, just like going to the bathroom, the job is not finished until the paperwork gets done.