For some metal fabrication companies, delivering a quality finished product to their customers isn’t enough; they also need to provide the documentation that proves it meets those quality standards. Compiling the additional paperwork can sometimes be just as time consuming as fabricating the physical product. This type of documentation is referred to as a Quality Data Package.
What is a Quality Data Package in the metal fabrication industry?
A Quality Data Package (QDP) is a compilation of reports that documents the traceability of materials, processes, and certifications that were used to produce each line item in a customer’s purchase order. Customers request a QDP to ensure that the finished product precisely meets their required specifications. It includes all the non-physical yet tangible validations that prove everything was done correctly.
While QDPs are more typically required in the defense industry, there are numerous commercial applications that request them as part of their quality control processes. When issuing an RFQ or purchase order, following QDP best practices can help procurement managers and engineers specify the required information. Doing so will help to create a clear understanding between the metal fabrication company and all stakeholders so that the customer gets exactly what they need in a timely manner.
The following are just a few considerations to help identify QDP requirements and the costs associated with deliverables and flow downs.
A Quality Data Package typically includes flow down requirements for various aspects of a metal fabrication project. To remain in compliance and produce the types of documentation needed requires traceability that can follow the audit trail with pinpoint accuracy throughout the production process. A QDP may have extensive requirements; the following is a small selection of criteria that may need to be outlined.
Government customers typically require a Certificate of Conformance to prove origins of raw materials such as sheet metal, paint, plastics, COTS hardware, and more. The smallest details need to be documented, from nuts and bolts to the types of material, testing, and classifications of welding wire. The flow down documentation affects subcontractors and suppliers at every tier, so supporting documentation also needs to be secured from third-party suppliers.
Certified materials may need to be acquired from authorized distributors and suppliers to ensure they meet certain quality thresholds. For most defense projects, materials must be obtained from qualifying countries in accordance with DFAR 252.225-1017. Certificates of Conformance require a printed name, signature, and date. It’s a seemingly small detail, but if not done properly or a wrong date or name is entered, it could mean a lot of backtracking — and delays — to maintain data quality and remain in compliance.
A metal fabrication company will likely need to conform with requirements of ISO 9001 2015 or AS9100 and prove their certification status for welders, weld inspectors, and weld programs. The supplier may also need to deliver a First Article Inspection (FAI) report and weld mapping to verify that the products match the client’s specifications prior to moving forward with production.
Included in the quality documentation will be process certifications that verify the proper use of heat treatments, chemical conversion coatings, passivation, painting, finishing, and other processes. Some examples might include coating and blasting certificates and other specialty processes.
In addition to the FAI, visual inspections, general dimensional inspections, fastener torque tests, and others may be recorded along with documentation of who performed the work and the inspection.
When the purchase order and QDP requirements are reviewed prior to production, there may be inconsistencies or errors. No matter how seemingly insignificant, the metal fabrication company will need to notify the customer prior to proceeding to confirm any changes. A deviation report will be submitted to the customer for approval, and production cannot begin until any discrepancies are corrected.
There is a wide range of other QDP requirements that need documentation. Depending on the complexity of a project, a Quality Data Package report could be hundreds of pages long. Here at Fox Valley Metal-Tech, we’ve had some QDPs exceed 1,000 pages!
As you can imagine, compiling all that data takes time and diligence from the very beginning of the manufacturing process. Even before a project hits the production floor, there is an extensive audit trail that needs to be documented, mapping out where materials came from, how they were obtained, and where they will be used.
Knowing the necessary customer flow down requirements at the time an order is placed helps to streamline the process and saves considerable time for both the metal fabricator and the customer. Informing the manufacturer of the QDP needs in advance allows inspectors and project management teams to automate some of the data collection process. Without advance knowledge of QDP requirements, a manufacturer may need to trace back their steps and manually document much of the data.
Understanding customer flow down requirements up front versus obtaining records in post production or after items have already shipped saves significant time and helps to avoid unnecessary delays in the project’s completion. An extensive QDP will add to a project’s costs.
Even better than revealing the need for a QDP as part of the purchase order is to include QDP requests as part of the RFQ process. This helps to ensure a more timely and accurate quote. If a RFQ doesn’t account for a quality data package and then a PO is issued with a large list of flow down requirements, a new quote will likely need to be issued to account for the added labor, creating unnecessary delays and frustration.
To see other helpful tips for submitting an RFQ, access our Metal Fabrication RFQ Guide — A Checklist of Commonly Overlooked Specifications below. If you have additional questions regarding quality data packages for your next metal fabrication project, please contact our team of experts.