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If at first you don’t succeed… ask for guidance and come back ready to exceed requirements

When A1 Industrial Painting, Inc. out of Youngstown, Ohio, learned about the NACE International Institute Contractor Accreditation Program (NIICAP) they were quick to apply. Knowing it would be a rigorous process, A1’s leaders looked at it as an opportunity to serve their customers better and to stand out from competitors.

“We had been wanting to do something like this for a long time,” Denny Billec, Office Manager at A1 says, “but the other program only scratched the surface. If we wanted to expand our portfolio of jobs we knew we would have to get accredited, and NIICAP was the best choice to achieve our goals.”

When A1 first opened its doors to the NIICAP’s auditor in 2016 the team discovered that it was good — but A1 had the potential to be great. Though not quite sufficient to receive NIICAP accreditation initially, the company took every bit of feedback from the auditor and went to work not only to meet the requirements but to exceed them. “We were doing this to set ourselves apart from and above our competition,” says Billec.  The A1 team then pulled together, determined to earn accreditation within 365 days.

Less than a year later, in the fall of 2017, the same NIICAP auditor returned to perform A1’s shop and field audits. Working with A1 and the asset owner’s schedule, the auditor examined the coatings company’s work on a half-million-gallon standpipe water tank. The combined audits took three days, and shortly after, in October 2017, A1 received notification that it had successfully earned NIICAP accreditation .

“Our company’s work always spoke for itself, but now we have NIICAP behind us and we can show the client all of our procedures and all the work that went into getting the accreditation,” says Billec.

Where A1 used to rely solely on the strength of its track record, they now can demonstrate to their customers specifically what sets them apart and above others. “Before NIICAP, we always followed the rules, but now we are thoroughly documenting our compliance,” says Billec.  “We’re covered on a lot more areas because of NIICAP; it makes A1 a safer company.”

“When we share this information, it gives asset owners confidence and the comfort of knowing they won’t have to worry about liability concerns,” continues Billec.  “Today we get calls from people seeking a contractor to fix work that others messed up.”

Looking back at the experience, A1 describes the process as a lot of work, but well organized, smooth and easy to follow. “The Audit was tough but fair,” says Jack Maillis, President at A1. “This process helps maintain a level of safety, professionalism and quality that A1 prides itself in.” The audit took place over a three-day period where auditors did a site review, including observing and evaluating the crew’s blasting and painting procedures, paint mixing procedures and handling and storage of their hazardous water materials. When asked about the best part of the process, Billec laughed. “Not the paperwork,” he said. However, he did find the NIICAP-supplied checklist to be a very helpful resource that made things easier to prepare for the audits. “It took a lot of work to go through the list and match up what we had, but fortunately we had most of it already.”

Working with the NIICAP team was also considered a high point by A1. “Our auditor, T.J. Mead, spent five months thoroughly preparing us and advising us along the way to ensure we had everything together before he came to the site,” says Bellic.  “There were no surprises because the NIICAP team helped walk us through everything and prepared us for the rigors of the audit.”

The accreditation lasts one year. And when asked if they would pursue NIICAP again, A1 answered with an emphatic “yes.” In fact, A1 is planning to do so in 2018.

“NIICAP isn’t looking for perfection or no mistakes, we are looking for organizations who know how to troubleshoot and know how to fix those mistakes quickly and effectively. The processes established by A1 are a prime example of that,” says Lead NIICAP Auditor T.J. Mead of A1.

After going through the process, A1 considers themselves better prepared than ever before, and they’re confident with their renewal accreditation audit to take place in the fall of 2018.

To learn more about A1 Industrial Painting, Inc., visit a1industrialpainting.com.

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