Why "Good Enough" is No Longer Viable - A Case for Positive Material Identification (PMI) in Your Metals Business
Nate Newbury, Regional Sales Representative
Rigaku Analytical Devices
We all require Material Test Reports (MTRs) from our vendors these days. In fact, one of the biggest objections I hear from new and prospective clients when I ask how they identify their metals is we have MTRs. "We have MTRs" is stated so matter-of-factly that I often envision my clients standing in court defending themselves after a terrible accident where someone got hurt. They shout at the top of their lungs, "But we have MTRs." The courts reply? "Guilty." This good-enough mentality is no longer viable. We can do better!
What sets our businesses apart in today's competitive landscape is demonstrating to our customers that our businesses are safety and quality focused. Then, with the next breath we don't question the rudimentary techniques we use for alloy selection—a decision human lives may depend on. Selecting the correct alloy, the first time, matters. Simple, fast, safe, and inexpensive solutions exist to identify metals. So why not use them? Trust but verify—in this case verify via Positive Material Identification (PMI).
Who put a heat number on a piece of metal? Hopefully the mill. Are you the mill? Was the heat number re-written by your company? How many times was the heat number rewritten and was it re-written correctly? Is your business dividing metal up into smaller pieces? Do all your smaller pieces of metal have the original heat number stamp? I bet they don't. So why then do we not simply spend the two seconds it takes to identify these alloys via PMI through our existing QA/QC programs?
I am arguing a heat number without verification down-stream is no longer "good enough." The financial liability alone is not worth it—that's not even considering social, emotional, or even political ramifications. If we choose the wrong alloy, we can lose money or people can get hurt! This is especially true for safety critical applications. Our "best guess" that a metal is the correct alloy is no longer "good enough."
I often hear from clients, "We organize our material on shelves. Our metal does NOT need labels because we label the shelves!" I have personally seen this kind of metal sorting and there are always mix-ups associated with it—especially when trying to point metal pieces back to heat numbers. What a nightmare. Bringing in a handheld metal analyzer gives you confidence your business is using the correct alloy every time. It also demonstrates your business is focused on creating quality products... the first time! The best part is companies like Rigaku are making fast, safe, and inexpensive handheld metal analyzers that can get your company up to speed in no time!