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Raising Expectations for Quality in the Coatings Industry

When coatings industry leaders approached NACE seeking a new accreditation program for contractors, the NACE International Institute set to work on a program now known as the NACE International Institute Contractor Accreditation Program (NIICAP). Launched in 2015, NIICAP is an industry-driven and industry-managed accreditation program that verifies a contractor's quality-assurance program, support practices, production processes, and personnel management and training program. NIICAP’s stated purpose is to elevate the quality and reputation of the entire industry through the execution of a thorough audit program based on ISO standards.

The program was designed and guided by industry experts — representing owners and contractors — to provide a vital tool that coating contractors and asset owners can use to improve operations, reduce costs, increase visibility and opportunity, and prequalify prospective contractors.

With rapidly growing demand for coatings contractors, asset owners need a simple, reliable way to determine whether a contractor is up-to-speed on the latest advances, standards and practices. To address this, NIICAP provides asset owners with a means to easily distinguish between contractors who meet the highest industry standards and the infamous "two guys and a bucket" who are out to make money quickly without regard for quality.

The program is more than a way for contractors to distinguish themselves as the best, or for asset owners to find top-quality contractors. NIICAP elevates the quality of all protective & marine coatings contractors worldwide. When more contractors become accredited, they raise the bar for their competitors, and when more asset owners specify accredited contractors, the quality of corrosion control and prevention is elevated.

Asset owners can know with confidence that NIICAP contractors bidding on their job have been accredited by a global association that painstakingly looked into every aspect of the contractor's business as it relates to efficiency in the field. Typically, the vetting process when hiring a coatings contractor consists of looking at the contractor's past work and hiring them based on what looks like a good job. However, there is more to a good job than meets the eye. With the right knowledge, training, tools and technique a good contractor not only gets the job done, they meet standards that extend the useful life of the asset.

“As a facility owner representative,” says Johnnie Miller of TX DOT, “I find that industry-wide certification programs are an important tool for instituting quality in a maintenance program. By providing a vehicle through which the contracting community can be vetted for competence, programs like NIICAP help to assure the owner that the contractor is both capable and incentivized to do the work properly. This is especially true for owners dealing with a low-bid award environment.”

‍Turner Industries completed their first NIICAP audit in 2016. 

Contractors, who have invested the time to build their knowledge and qualifications, have NIICAP to prove their competency and expertise, setting them apart from amateurs who underbid to win jobs and then under-deliver. Earning accreditation through NIICAP is centered on a detailed onsite audit process. Contractors who successfully pursue accreditation distinguish themselves as best-in-class coating contractors by demonstrating the highest levels of knowledge, consistent performance, trained personnel, product and service quality and organizational quality processes aligned with ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9001-2008: ‘Quality Management Systems – Requirements,’ 2008.

A key feature of NIICAP is that onsite audits are required annually, to give asset owners maximum assurance that accredited contractors will provide consistent quality and dependability. Project site audits are overseen by NIICAP-contracted third-party auditors who have documented quality-assurance experience and expertise in the practices being audited.

The NIICAP Accreditation Lifecycle

The NIICAP accreditation is guided first and foremost by three standards, which are detailed and leave no question as to the basis of each audit of contractors' administrative records and onsite operations and performance. Those standards are:

AS-1 – NIICAP Audit Standard 1 (AS-1) Program for Accreditation of Field and Shop Coatings Contractors.AS-2 – NIICAP Audit Standard 2 (AS-2) Hazardous Waste Removal and Management Accreditation.AS-3 – NIICAP Audit Standard 3 (AS-3) In-House Applicator Trade Skills Training Accreditation.

The initial and renewal accreditation processes are thorough reviews in accordance with the relevant auditing standards; the maintenance accreditation process is similar, however it involves validation of known program and work practices and is less intensive. The cycle consists of one initial accreditation, followed by two maintenance accreditations, and starts over with one renewal accreditation followed by two maintenance accreditations. At the end of the third year, the renewal cycle is repeated. The administrative portion is completed offsite prior to the auditor's visit; the number of days for the onsite audit is dependent on various factors, and changes according to the cycle point.

For contractors the comprehensive audit process is a lasting benefit. Contractor audits include field accreditation, shop accreditation, accreditation of employer internal training program and hazardous waste removal and management accreditation. As part of the program, a contractors performance excellence is rewarded by reducing the cost of the subsequent review period. 

NIICAP Auditor T.J. Mead works with Blastco staff at their 2016 audit

Other benefits of NIICAP accreditation include savings of time, money and manpower associated with proving compliance with quality processes by meeting the project requirements the first time.

Accreditation also validates management and work practices, providing assurance that current and historical business practices, training, and personnel and equipment availability are all on par with the most effective and efficient practices in the industry.

Following the in-depth audit, contractors receive the written results within 21 days. Those who attain accreditation can immediately use the NIICAP seal to market their organizations. Applicants who do not attain accreditation will receive a detailed report explaining why the decision was made, and they will then be given the opportunity to correct the deficiencies, appeal the results or reapply at a later date.

“It is regularly reported that a large portion of costly industrial coatings failures can be traced to product application,” said Helena Seelinger, executive director of the NACE International Institute. “The NACE International Institute is committed to raising the performance, and the stature, of this critical industry.”

“The industry experts who designed and manage NIICAP have created a rigorous program that will raise the bar for all stakeholders in this industry, including asset owners, in the same way that the one-of-a-kind NACE Coating Inspector Program raised the bar for quality assurance in the coatings inspection industry in the 1980s. CIP boosts individual competencies; NIICAP will help companies do the same,” said Seelinger.

Since its launch, six coatings contactors have gone through the audit and have met the high level of standards set forth by NIICAP, with several more expected by the summer of 2018. These companies are located globally and serve various industries

Current NIICAP accredited contractors (as of March 2018):

Blastco, A TF Warren Company (Channelview, TX)Turner Industries (Port Allen, Louisiana)A1 Industrial Painting, Inc. (Youngstown, OH)Nantong Fuchen Tank Co., LTD (Nantong, Jiangsu Province)Kabbani Construction (Saudi Arabia)Mandros Painting, Inc. (Green River, WY)

 Originally posted on PaintSquare.com on April 4, 2022
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