Qualifying your welders and procedure specifications in compliance to ASME Section IX requires knowing Section IX with some intimacy. It is important to know the expectations of the code properly, so that full compliance can be ensured.
Section IX lays out both technical as well as administrative requirements. While most welding engineers go to great lengths to ensure compliance to technical aspects, most of them often overlook the administrative aspects.
This article deals with the administrative requirements that Section IX expects from the organization conducting the welding qualifications.
The content has been put together in the form of questions and answers, to keep the narrative concise. The article is broadly divided into three parts:
- Administrative requirements for WPS.
- Administrative requirements for PQR.
- Administrative requirements for WPQR.
It is expected that the reader has familiarity with the terms mentioned above.
Administrative requirements for WPS
Q 1: Is it required to certify a WPS?
No. While Section IX does require certification of PQR and WPQR records by a competent authority, no such requirements have been specified for WPSs. However, most organizations still choose to approve the WPS document (generally by the welding engineer). This is done so that the authenticity of the document does not come under any doubt on the shop floor.
Q 2: Who can approve a WPS?
Section IX does not address this. Any competent authority designated in the organization’s quality program can approve a WPS.
Content of The Document
Q 3: What should be the content of a WPS?
The WPS must address, as a minimum, all essential and non-essential variables related to the welding process proposed to be used. The WPS must address supplementary essential variables too, when toughness is a consideration.
Any other additional information that the welding engineer feels is important to make a good weld can be included as well.
Q 4: Is it okay to not address non-essential variables on a WPS?
No, it is not okay to not address non-essential variables on a WPS. Section IX makes it clear at multiple places that a WPS must address all essential and non-essential variables pertaining to that welding process. This has been further regurgitated in a few interpretations as well.
However, in the recent editions (I think from 2019 edition onwards), a sentence appears at QW-101, which states that when a variable is outside the scope of WPS, or is addressed by another variable, that variable need not be specifically addressed on the WPS or PQRs that support that WPS.
For example, QW-410.64 is an essential variable that becomes applicable only when P-No. 11A or 11B are being welded. If a WPS is written for other P-numbers than these two, then this variable does not have to be addressed on the WPS.
Likewise, QW-404.23, which says that a change in filler metal product form (that is, solid wire, composite, etc.) is an essential variable. If the WPS has specified ER70S-A1 GTAW filler, The ‘S’ in the filler designation automatically indicates that the filler is a solid wire. In such cases too, Section IX intends that the variable does not have to be specifically addressed on the WPS (since it is addressed elsewhere).
Q 5: Is leaving a blank an acceptable method of addressing a variable on a WPS?
No, leaving a blank is not an appropriate method of addressing a variable. Although this has not been explicitly told anywhere in Section IX, understanding to this effect appears in a couple of interpretations.
When a variable is not applicable, it is best to address it with a ‘NA’ or ‘not applicable’, etc. For example, if a WPS is qualified without any PQHT, the QW-407.1 field should not be left blank on the WPS. In its stead, ‘none permitted’, or ‘none’, or ‘as welded’, or ‘no PWHT permitted’ may be mentioned.
Q6: Is it required to indicate limits of welder qualification on the WPS?
No. The thickness limits on the WPS get dictated only by QW-451 (which is for procedure qualification), and not by QW-452 (which is for performance qualification).
A welder may or may not be qualified to weld on the thickness limits specified on the WPS. There should be a separate mechanism to ensure that only suitably qualified welder(s) get deployed on the job. WPS is not that mechanism.
Some companies however, choose to specify the welder qualification ‘tag number’ on the WPS. This indicates to the production engineer which welders are qualified to use that WPS. There is nothing wrong with this practice. Though, this is not a mandatory requirement of Section IX.
Use of WPS Qualified to Earlier Editions of Section IX
Q 6: Can we use the WPS/ PQR qualified to an earlier edition of Section IX for a fabrication that specifies compliance to the latest edition?
Yes, the WPSs/ PQRs/ WPQRs that were made to any edition as far back as 1962 edition may be used for fabrication activities for which the current edition has been specified.
Procedure qualifications and performance qualifications made before the 1962 edition also can be used for activities for which the current edition has been specified, provided the requirements of 1962 or any later edition have been met.
WPSs/ PQRs / WPQRs meeting the above requirements do not need to be amended to include any variables required by the later editions, and can be used as it is.
However, conducting a new procedure qualification today needs to be compulsorily done in accordance with the current edition of Section IX.
These requirements have been specified at QG-108 (in the present day edition). The intent of this liberty is to avoid any extensive retesting of previously qualified WPQRs. Interpretation IX-83-148 presents an interesting example in this context.
Note: Interpretation IX-78-32 tells us that a WPS can be written to the present day edition requirements with the support of a PQR qualified to a previous edition, provided all essential & non-essential variables of the present edition are satisfied. This is a very useful interpretation, and finds frequent use for writing day-to-day WPSs with the support of old PQRs, while proclaiming compliance to present edition.
Q 7: Can a welder use current, voltage (or any other parameters) outside of the range specified on WPS, if he feels the range given on WPS is not workable/ infeasible/ not the most correct etc.?
No. A welder must follow the WPS under all conditions. If a welder is found to be not following the WPS, it is a violation, and attracts a non-conformance report.
If, due to any reason, the welder is unable to follow the parameters given on WPS, or feels that it is rightfully required to use parameters that are outside of the range specified on WPS, he must bring it to the notice of his supervisor, who informs it to the welding engineer.
When the change desired is in any of the non-essential variables, the welding engineer can simply editorially amend the WPS (or issue a new one) and reissue the WPS. If a change is desired in any of the essential variables, then a new procedure qualification must be carried out with the changed parameters.
When the new PQR is qualified, only then the WPS containing the new changes can be issued to shop.
Administrative requirements for PQR
Q 8: Can the work of procedure qualification be outsourced to an external agency?
Section IX requires that the welding of the test coupon(s) for procedure qualification should be mandatorily be done under the supervision and control of the qualifying organization. However, all other work involved – including preparation of the test pieces for welding, preparation of test specimens, and performing the actual testing can be subcontracted, ‘provided the organization accepts full responsibility for any such work’.
This has been established under QG-106.1.
Interpretation IX-92-25 provides a useful example on this.
Q 9: Okay, it is understood that the welding of test coupon must be done under the supervision and control of the qualifying organization. However, can the welder making these test welds be a person on contract?
Yes, this is permitted. Section IX, under QG-106.1 says two things:
- The person(s) making the test coupons should be under the full supervision and control of the qualifying organization during the welding of the coupons.
- These persons should either be direct employees or shall be personally engaged by contract.
The stipulation indicated at (ii) above permits that the welder making the test coupons be a person on contract from another company. However, the use of the word personally here indicates that it is not acceptable if the qualifying organization enters into a contract with another agency for hiring welder(s) on contract. The welder(s) should be personally engaged by contract.
Also, the operational control of contract welder(s) should be described in the quality program of the organization. (IX-95-20)
This understanding has been established through an interpretation as well.
Certification of PQR
Q 10: Is it mandatory to certify a PQR?
Yes, it is a mandatory requirement of Section IX that the procedure qualification records and welder performance qualification records (PQRs & WPQRs) be certified by a competent authority, through a signature or other means as described in the organization’s quality program.
This has been given at QG-102 (QG-104 for WPQR) and also at QW-200.2. This certification should state something to the effect that ‘it is certified that the preparation, welding, & testing of this qualification complies with the requirements of ASME Section IX.
A PQR/ WPQR without such a certification cannot be called as compliant to Section IX.
The certification is Section IX’s way of making the organization take responsibility for: i) The contents of the record are a true record of the actual variables followed in welding of test coupon; ii) the qualification is compliant to Section IX.
Q 11: Who can certify a PQR?
Section IX does not specify qualifications for person(s) who certify PQRs. This has been reinforced in interpretations IX-07-13 (qs 2) & IX-20-11 (qs 2). Therefore, it follows that the PQR can be certified by any competent authority, designated in the organization’s quality program for the purpose.
The person certifying a PQR need not be the same as the one responsible for supervision and control of the welding while making the test coupon. This has been established through the interpretation IX-20-12.
Q 12: Is it necessary to use the word ‘certify’ on the PQR?
Yes. It is necessary that the word ‘certify’ be used while certifying the PQRs & WPQRs. This has been communicated in the interpretation IX-13-20 as well.
Basically, Section IX would like the qualifying organization to take the responsibility to declare loud and clear – that a qualification is compliant with Section IX. And this becomes possible with the use of the word certify.
Q 13: Is it necessary that the lab performing the mechanical testing certify & sign on the PQR, in addition to the certification by the qualifying organization?
This formed the subject of an interpretation, IX-15-10. The ASME has replied that – no, this is not necessary.
Q 14: Can the work of certification of PQR be sub-contracted?
No, the certification of PQRs (and WPQRs) cannot be sub-contracted to other agency. QW-200.2 (b) clearly states: ‘The organization may not subcontract the certification function.’ This has also been reiterated through a couple of interpretations. One such example is IX-07-13 (qs 1).
However, preparation of the procedure/ performance qualification record can be done by an external agency, as long as the qualifying organization takes full responsibility for it, and certifies the document. This understanding has been established by the interpretation IX-18-47.
Who Can Use The PQR?
Q 15: Can my subcontractor use my PQRs?
No, this is not allowed. The organization that has responsibility for operational control of the welding must qualify its own procedure specifications.
If an organization outsources fabrication of a sub-assembly to a subcontractor, the subcontractor must carry out the necessary procedure qualifications, and make ready his own WPSs. The subcontractor company cannot make use of the WPSs of the customer.
Alternatively, Standard WPSs listed at Appendix E of Section IX may also be used by the subcontractor.
Q 16: Can I use the PQR of my sister organization which comes under the same corporate ownership?
This is allowed, provided the operational control of the procedure qualifications has been addressed in the quality program of both the companies.
Interpretations IX-18-23, IX-89-10 (qs 2), IX-16-1, etc. offer useful examples of this.
Content of The Document
Q 17: What should be the content of a PQR?
A PQR must document, at a minimum, all essential variables used for each process used during welding of the test coupon, the tests done, and their results. The essential variables for different processes are listed under QW-250 in Section IX. When toughness is a consideration, the supplementary essential variables should be mandatorily documented as well.
However, for non-essential variables, Section IX states that it is at the option of the organization to document them.
Being a welding engineer, it is my opinion that it is best to record all variables – essential and non-essential – on the PQR. This helps in getting a wholesome picture when reviewing the PQR later on, of what happened during the qualification.
It is also important to remember that only the actually observed values should be recorded on the PQR. If any variable was not monitored, it should not be recorded. Section IX says this emphatically, at QW-200.2.
Q 18: Is it sufficient to annex the relevant test reports along with a PQR, without restating the results on the PQR?
This has not been directly addressed in Section IX. However, an interpretation issued in the year 2015 provides useful guidance in this regard.
The interpretation, IX-15-16, tells that it is permissible to reference and attach a test report to a PQR form in lieu of transferring the test results to the PQR.
And, although the interpretation does not mention WPQR, what is good for PQR is good enough for WPQR too. So, this understanding holds good for WPQR too.
Supervision & Control
Q 19: What is supervision and control in the qualification of a PQR?
Earlier, Section IX only said that the welding qualifications be done under the full supervision and control of the qualifying organization. In 2019 edition onwards, Section IX has brought in greater clarity on its’ intentions on the words supervision and control. These requirements have been addressed at QG-106 of Article I.
Basically, Section IX requires that the qualifying organization shall designate in its quality program the personnel responsible for supervisory activities. These personnel shall be responsible for supervision, control, evaluation, & acceptance of the testing.
Section IX intends that these personnel be of technical ability, and not just be in administrative capacity. These personnel are required to have knowledge in Section IX, the organization’s quality program, and the qualification(s) which is to be overseen. There also needs to be objective evidence of the competence of these personnel, in the form of training records, experience, or qualification records.
The person(s) administering a welder’s performance qualification coupon must meet the above mentioned requirements (IX-20-11).
Overall, there are several ways of implementing this supervision and control. It is for the qualifying organization to define for itself how it is to be done. This is a white paper that is published on ASME website, dealing with the subject of how to implement this requirement.
Q 20: Why can’t this supervision and control function be subcontracted?
Well, Section IX generally does not tell why behind any stipulation; it only tells the what portion. But here is why I think the Section IX insists that the function of supervision and control should only be performed by the qualifying organization and not be delegated to another agency.
i) For procedure qualification: the essential variables can be verified and recorded with authenticity when the test coupon for a procedure qualification is being performed. The results of various tests can be recorded faithfully.
ii) For performance qualification: the organization can make an independent and conscious determination that the welders using its’ WPS are capable of achieving the desired quality from a weld joint.
One can argue that these two requirements can be fulfilled by a third party testing agency or an external laboratory as well.
However, we can only say that the Section IX has intended that the correct use of its’ procedures and deployment of sufficiently qualified persons plays an integral role in determining the ultimate quality of a weldment. This is a task of great responsibility; and Section IX would like the qualifying organization to be the bearer of this responsibility and not delegate it.
Interpretation IX-10-02 offers useful guidance on this subject.
Q 21: What is the validity of a PQR?
Once a PQR is qualified, it has lifetime validity. In other words, the validity never expires.
Q 22: Is there a retention period for the test coupons / specimens that have been tested in qualification of a PQR?
No. Section IX does not specify any retention for the test specimens left after the radiography or mechanical testing has been conducted. It only requires that a PQR/ WPQR be created and certified by the qualifying organization. The PQR/ WPQR must be available to the inspector for review, whenever asked.
Section IX does not prohibit anyone from having any local arrangements/ agreements for such retentions. However, it is not a code requirement.
This also formed the subject of an interpretation (IX-79-01).
Q 23: Can some editorial changes be done to a PQR?
Yes. See question Q 42 below.
Q 24: If company A acquires company B, can the PQRs, WPSs, & WPQRs of company B continue to be used under the new dispensation? Can the PQRs, WPSs & WPQRs of company A be used by company B?
Yes, this is permitted, provided the following three conditions are met:
i) Company A should take full responsibility for the qualifications done under the previous regime.
ii) The WPSs, PQRs, & WPQRs should be revised to reflect the name of the company A.
iii) The quality program of company A should reflect that these records were qualified under the previous ownership.
This understanding is also visible in an interpretation, IX-01-08.
Administrative requirements for WPQR
Certification of WPQR
Q 25: Is it mandatory to certify a WPQR?
Yes, it is mandatory. See question 10 above.
Q 26: Who can certify a WPQR?
See question 11 above.
Q 27: Is it necessary to use the word ‘certify’ on the WPQR?
Yes, see question 12 above.
Q 28: Is it necessary that the lab performing the mechanical testing certify & sign on the PQR, in addition to the certification by the qualifying organization?
No. See question 13 above.
Q 29: Can the work of certification of WPQR be sub-contracted?
No. See question 14 above.
Q 30: Can the qualification work be outsourced?
No, see qs 8 above.
Interpretation IX-81-08 provides useful insight into the matter.
Content of The Document
Q 31: What should be content of a WPQR?
A completed WPQR must include/ address four things:
- Essential variables for the process(es) used in making the test coupon.
- Tests done.
- Results of the tests.
- Qualified range for the variables.
Q 32: Regarding the qualified range of variables to be specified on the WPQR, is it required to specify the range for only weld thickness and diameter?
The QW-301.4 does indicate something to this effect. That only the ranges for thickness and diameter need to be specified. A WPQR would not be called as non-compliant to Section IX if it specified qualified ranges only for weld thickness and outer diameter, and did not specify ranges of other variables.
However, what makes it a little strange is that the format for WPQR at QW-484A includes fields for all other variables too.
Regardless, the smart thing would be to address all the other variables as well.
Q 33: Is it necessary that the WPS used for welding the WPQ test coupon be identified on the WPQR?
Yes, it is necessary. Earlier, before 2019 edition, Section IX only required that the welding of WPQ test coupon be done using a qualified WPS. Mentioning the WPS on the WPQR was not mandatory.
However, from 2019 edition onwards, probably realizing that identifying the WPS only adds to the authenticity of the document, and entails no harm in doing so, Section IX now requires that the WPS used for making the WPQ be identified on the performance qualification record. This requirement has been given at QW-104.
Q 34: Can multiple organizations come together to simultaneously qualify a welder?
Yes, it is possible for multiple organizations to qualify a welder simultaneously. That is, the welding of test coupon is done in one episode.
This is witnessed by a representative of each participating organization. It is necessary that the representative be an employee of the participating organization. That is, a non-employee cannot act as a representative on the behalf of an organization, during a simultaneous performance qualification. (IX-95-14)
Once the test coupon meets the requisite testing, the welder can be deployed by any participating organization.
This avoids multiple episodes of qualification for the same welder in different companies, for similar nature of work.
The requirements for simultaneous performance qualifications are laid out under QG-106.3.
Q 35: Can I use welders of my sister organization which comes under the same corporate ownership, without having to re-qualify the welders?
This is allowed, provided the operational control of the performance qualifications has been addressed in the quality program of both the companies.
Interpretation IX-86-64 offers useful insight on this.
Q 36: What is supervision and control in the qualification of a WPQR?
See question 19 above.
Q 37: Is it necessary that the welder being qualified by an organization be an employee of that organization?
No. Section IX only requires that the welder shall be under the full supervision and control of the organization during the production of the test coupons. The organization is also responsible for the persons doing the production welding on the components being fabricated in accordance with code.
It is not specified anywhere that the welder should be an employee of the qualifying organization. This means that he could very well be a person hired on contract by the qualifying organization. The quality program of the fabricator should describe the control of contracted welders.
This has been addressed under QG-106 of Article I in Section IX. Understanding to this effect appears in Interpretations IX-01-15, IX-95-20, etc. too.
Q 38: How does one ensure on the shop floor that the right welder is assigned to the right job?
Different companies have different mechanisms to ensure this. In my company, I specify (I am the welding engineer) the required WPQ tag (for making the joint) in the WPS itself. The production engineers spread across bays have welder continuity lists.
These lists contain the information regarding the different tags available with different welders, and the validity of each tag. The production supervisor identifies suitable welder(s) by seeing what tag (by looking at WPS) is required for making a weld, and assigns them.
Q 39: What is the validity of a welder’s qualification?
The validity of a welder’s qualification is six months from the date of completion of test coupon welding. The validity can be extended by another six months if documented evidence of the welder’s engagement with that process can be shown, within the validity period.
The subject of validity has many other nuances. I have addressed them in an article on this website. Here is a link.
Q 40: Can we use the WPQR qualified to an earlier edition of Section IX for a fabrication that specifies compliance to latest edition?
Yes, see question 6 above.
Q 41: Is there a retention period for the test coupons / specimens that have been tested in qualification of a WPQR?
No. See question 21 above.
Q 42: Can some editorial changes be done to a WPQR?
Yes. This is permitted. (IX-92-91)
However, it should be borne in mind that the WPQR is a record of what occurred during the qualification. The content of WPQR should faithfully reflect what occurred. As long as that is ensured, Section IX does not mind amending the document editorially for any errors.
So, there it is. That is all I could come up with on the subject of administrative requirements that an organization must take care of with regard to the welding qualifications in accordance with ASME Section IX. Did I miss anything?
Please leave a message in the comments section below if you would like me to address any other administrative requirement that Section IX expects regarding procedure and performance qualifications. Thanks for reading.