In Inspections and Tests We Trust

IN INSPECTIONS AND TESTS WE TRUST

In one of the latest interviews Elon Musk admitted that if the fourth test of his Falcon 1 rocket had failed, he would have closed the whole SpaceX business. This confession instantly revealed a hidden factor for a new business success – Inspection & Test Plan (ITP) eclipsing the other cornerstone document - Business Plan.

ITP describes practical steps for the business risks mitigation in creating new products or executing projects. ITP has no room for innovations, it is conservative in nature; inspection and test tools and techniques are 100% industry-proven.

In infrastructure projects ITP is the only basis for verifying conformity with specified contractual requirements set by the client.

Appropriate international standards cover procedures and acceptance criteria for most inspections and tests like visual inspection, dimension inspection, welding inspection, performance test, hydrostatic test, material certification, etc.

ITP sets clear and easily measureable criteria of success or failure – critical point in building up the client trust and creating "first impression". ITP is where the client becomes part of the project team, which witnesses, discusses, and approves the inspections and tests results.  

ITP's risks mitigation rationale shall be thoroughly explained to the client as it may help avoiding million-dollar compensations in case of non-compliance or delay coming from Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) side.  

Three years ago I inspected big pumps priced below US$0.5 million ordered for desalination plant of about 200MLD capacity. Their delivery was delayed by over 4 months due to minor problem with bearings. When some time later the plant was in operation, its owner was fined US$3.5 million for not supplying water for just 25 days!

Equipment manufacturers shall be aware of your ITP requirements too as their test facilities may not be suitable for equipment functionality test. I encountered such cases in every big project. Typical example is desalination pumps of 1MW design load driven by variable frequency drive. High percentage of the pump manufacturers have test-benches without VFDs.  

ITP is generic; it is linked neither to the product serial numbers (OEM side), nor to P&ID items (the client side). It contains neither dates nor workloads. All this missing information is aggregated in the checklist (ITC). ITC is a projection of ITP on a real project scope and schedule.

How many check points shall be documented for grass-root desalination plants of 20 – 200 MLD?  The numbers are just stunning – from 400 to 1200.

Picking points for witnessing is not a random process; it has its inner logic following equipment manufacturing and project execution in parallel. It separates the experienced EPC contractor from a beginner, betting on some technological gimmicks instead. For instance, strong indication of experience is the ITP without "hold points". They always add to delays, which plague over 70% of the infrastructure projects.

The thoroughness of inspection and surveillance reflect not only criticality of an item, but the level of trust to a specific supplier. This article discusses Supplier Relationship Management. 

Given the above, for an inexpert it sounds natural to consider ITP & ITC as part of the project technical offer. In practice, no EPC contractor does it. The reason is simple: ITP and its checklist compilation and execution strongly affect the project resources, costs and schedule. Besides, smart client will immediately use ITP for negotiating better warranty. It is prohibitive for lowest-price-based competition reigning in the water industry.

The same contractors are bragging their compliance with ISO9001:2008 standard, forgetting to check its Clause 7.4.3 stating that "Verification of purchased product requires that the organization shall establish and implement the inspection or other activities necessary for ensuring that purchased product meets specified purchase requirements."

Definitely, ITP & ITC shall be part of the contractor bid proposal. Lack of them is a good reason for the contractor disqualification.

How to create ITP and ITC without affecting the project budget and schedule? Crenger.com fully automated this process. It even inserts the ITC summary into the project technical offer. Watch this video.

Neither ITP nor ITC add value to the contractor experience. Inspection and test reports do. They are used in the next projects to fine-tune ITP and ITC. How to prepare a digital report from scratch and not forget about non-conformities corrective actions? It may be easily done with EQUINS application.