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Metal certification falsified in Japan

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by 26D_M, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. 26D_M

    26D_M Part of the furniture

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    Steel and aluminium mainly but also copper it seems. Potential impact on heritage sector?

    Kobe Steel: More data fabrication cases possible - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41591284
     
  2. GWR Man.

    GWR Man. Well-Known Member

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  3. 26D_M

    26D_M Part of the furniture

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  4. 8126

    8126 Member

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    The article seems to suggest mostly aluminium and copper, despite the name. One of those is obviously more of a problem than the other for the heritage steam sector.

    Material certificates are in theory a magnificent paper trail giving you utmost confidence that the material is what you want. In practice, they're only worth as much as you trust your supply chain. All of it, including the bits the re-sellers won't tell you about because they don't want you to cut out the middle man (them), legally they're not obliged to disclose their suppliers under WTO rules and yes this does happen, even when parts have failed to meet specification. Kobe Steel have just pissed all over that trust; a few major customers are probably quietly costing up employing their own QA people to follow their ingots from foundry, through mill, to delivery.
     
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  5. W.Williams

    W.Williams Member

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    Ahh tip of the iceberg. This comes as no surprise. Copper reached near investment grade pricing some years back, now its back down a bit, they want to shift it. Problem is the material sheets are sooo easy to fiddle.

    Its a growing problem and companies are now sending their own QA people to verify supply chains and in some instances are checking material specs and composition in house with at source in house testing. If it doesnt match the sheet, the invoice is voided and the material scrapped.


    China is by far the worst, with companies outright banning far east steel in supply chains. Oil and gas has suffered numerous issues with false material sheets.
    Not great when you are 1500m down and snap a dril string on a rig running at £500,000 a day. Worse still is finding the 5 sister part/serial numbers that came out of the same forging...


    What will really make your toes curl is it is happening with fastners too. The aerospace sector in particular has been hit many a time, not to mention some very famous new warships that came equipped with extra elongating bolts...
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
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  6. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    No big surprise unfortunately. The idea of QA these days is a trust based and functionally hopeless paper trail, though what happens when trust is violated initially kicks everything into the realms of contract law and therefore contract lawyers. For most categories of goods, any resultant criminal issues can take a long time (and more lawyers) to be resolved. If you're on regular prescription medication, it doesn't pay to consider how this has affected pharmaceutical supplies, which being reliant on several, is why I don't. My next of kin can worry about finding the lawyers for that.

    In an earlier incarnation, the demands of meeting BS and MIL specs meant endless testing of 'goods inwards' to ensure compliance of materials with stated manufacturers standards. Mostly tedious, but occasionaly a veritable minefield. 15 years later, working in IT, testing was reduced to desultory random testing of integrated memory speeds with pretty much any other issues only coming to light after kit was completed and sold, preferably occuring the far side of the 12 month warranty. Caveat Emptor .... there's a specialist breed of lawyer for that too!

    Expecting the notorious sub-standard batch of copper, which gave so much grief a couple of years ago, to be an isolated instance was always going to be over optimistic. I wonder ..... what grade of steel is currently specified for locomotive springs?

    Was that jaded and cynical or just realistic? It's getting harder for me to tell!
     
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  7. MarkinDurham

    MarkinDurham Well-Known Member

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    Having experienced Chinese "magic bolts" in several critical pipework systems on 2 newbuild ships from China recently, this comes as no surprise. The Japanese are struggling to compete with China on price, as indeed are the South Koreans. Costs are being cut wherever possible; that often means QA suffers, as we know. Worrying times.
     
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  8. guycarr360

    guycarr360 Well-Known Member

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    Read that 60007 suffered from the dodgy copper during its last stint.

    They were lucky to get an insurance payout to cover repairs and losses I think, claimed against the copper supplier.

    Might be many more of these cases to come.
     
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  9. W.Williams

    W.Williams Member

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    From an engineering perspective here is a potential solution.

    Heritage railways buying material have workshops, nearly always. They often have lathes.
    Heres what I would do if i were a consulting engineer to one of these workshops.

    Get an offcut of the arrived material, machine up 2 or 3 tensile test specimens, correct gage lenght and diameter, and either send them off or test them in house. Basic old style tensile test bench test equiptment isnt crazy expensive, and pretty reliable and accurate. The cost Could potentialy be offset against a grant for educating apprentices??

    Then I would send off some other offcuts for chemical analysis to verify the chemical composition.

    Once the mechanical properties and chemical composition was 3rd party verified, id settle the invoice to the supplier.

    Given the trouble bad materia costs long term in a boiler, its more than worth the hassle verifying the properties yourself, and the cost shouldnt be more than a few hundred, very low thousand pounds for each specimen. There are lots and lots of test houses in the UK that do this as their bread and butter.

    Unfortunately this is the world we live in now, and the best protection against non conforming material is to check it yourself.
     
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  10. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    This sounds to be precisely what is needed. I'll start by saying I have no legal qualification. The following observations are based on my own experience of international supplies chains in the petro chemical, electronics, aircraft parts and healthcare industries.

    At one time, there were certainly government run facilities to do exactly what WW suggests. Quite where the state of play stands these days, I don't know. In the absence of any accessible central facility provided under statute, many of our Universities' Metallurgy facilities have the requisite competence (in the legal sense i.e. something you take to court as evidence) to provide independant analysis, though obviously at a cost. The other thing which strikes me is that whilst the suggestion would provide the necessary answers, it inherently involves the potential for much expensive redundant testing on supplies from the same source. From a practical perspective, a maximum of two independant sets of tests (per supply, at this end) would suffice.

    It sounds as though insurers and acceptance authorities are a key part of any applied solution. Given the sums involved, it's not beyond the bounds of possiblility that the purchasing groups' bankers may provide useful input. Many lines and organisations already seek to combine orders in order to benefit from reduced rates for bulk purchase, therefore extending and placing any necessary testing within this chain seems the most logical route. A contractual clause ensuring full payment is only released on satisfactory completion of compliance testing would be rather more effective applied to larger combined orders. The cost of legal input into drawing up such clauses in a watertight manner would be less onerous spread across the widest purchasing base.

    One of the minefields to be negotiated in international trade is that of legal jurisdiction over the transaction(s). Without supranational treaties in force, which (though many at all levels, not excluding elements within government departments, seem woefully - I might say wilfully - ignorant of the fact) we currently actually enjoy under EU trade law, that leaves compliance with labrynthine WTO conditions as the only viable recourse, about which I make only one comment .... Good luck.
     
  11. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    This naively assumes all lengths are from the same cast. The only way to be certain is to check every length. That is probably prohibitive.
     
  12. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    Certification is (theoretically at least!) conducted on a batch by batch basis on materials produced according to an established process specification. Fortunately, establishing that two samples are actually from the same batch is comparatively straightforward. The homogeneous nature of metal samples smelted at the same time is readily revealed under an electron microscope. (Whazzat? Your workshop doesn't have an electron microscope?). In truly dreadful circumstances, the comparative resistivity of samples would be a dead giveaway. If your supplier is shown to be so dodgy that their supporting documentation can't be trusted, I'd suggest the course of action is pretty obvious.

    If the notion of a manufacturing specification is a strange one to your supplier, quite frankly you're undertaking the metals trade equivalent of buying your crystal meth off some dodgy geezer behind a sleazy nightclub and consequently thoroughly deserve everything you get!

    See either my post [#10] above, or if allergic to all that tedious small print which it implies, consult the "Ferengi Rules of Acquisition" http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Rules_of_Acquisition
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
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  13. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I lo
    I lost faith in paperwork trails back in the 70's and that still persists to this day. The best example was two 7.5 bar safety valves from a boiler sent to the manufacturer (a world renowned valve supplier) for overhaul and calibration. On return, fully certified, they were put to use. When the pressure reached 9.5 bar without lifting I decided I had to do something! Later the manufacturer examined them. There conclusion was that they hadn't been overhauled as they always stamped them with a date and mark and replaced seals, etc. However they had a complete paperwork trail from arrival through dismantling, overhaul, calibration and despatch. All original signed sheets. Neither could they explain how valves that went into the works set at 7.5 bar came out, sealed to say that but blowing at an undetermined pressure above 9,5 bar.
     
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  14. huochemi

    huochemi Active Member Friend

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    It would indeed be interesting to understand the various contracts as to who is liable for non-compliant material. I am surprised one can insure against this which seems to introduce a bit of moral hazard. Not sure where you are going with your governing law point. The payment mechanism, if by documentary credit, would be subject to UCP and unlikely to be litigated beyond that. If you choose to buy material from a dodgy Chinese supplier, then the governing law of the underlying contract probably does not matter (although a Chinese party would no doubt insist on an arbitration clause). Getting judgement in England is a waste of time, and in practice you would have no way of getting most onshore Chinese parties to pay. :eek:
     
  15. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    @Steve Understandable. My own background includes the supplies chain for flight simulators (complex beasties with design and construction lead times measured in months or even years), where manufacturing 'seconds' were still considered perfectly OK when kept well away from anything which actually left the ground. Human nature (well, that of idiots - some of them in high places) led to simulators being raided by airlines for parts to fit to aircraft stopped for 'tech' reasons. This was in the late 80s and not unnaturally, raised quite a stink inside the airline industry and without wishing to point the finger at any particular country, the FAA went ballistic!

    The upshot of all this was that Aircraft Part Numbers had to be erased from 'seconds' to be replaced by a seperate series for use in the flight simulation industry, where fully certified components were also used, these of course retaining their original APN. Add to this the habitual change in an APN between raw and machined state and you begin to appreciate the problem. The ensuing chaos had to be seen to be believed. Overnight, parts in bonded stores around the world became unidentifiable in droves, leading many manufactureres to fall months behind through no fault of their own, with inevitable knock-on effects for pilot training and therefore services.
     
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  16. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    But those contracts will specify the governing law, which will ultimately be national - even if WTO, EU, or other multinational bodies will have involvement.

    Whether small customers will have the ability* to make those contracts watertight or, having done so, to enforce effectively against them, is of course a rather different question.

    * - by which I mean the knowledge/expertise, people, time or money
     
  17. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Well-Known Member

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    While I can understand the difficulty that even a large well resourced workshop might have in attempting to test a piece of material, t seems to me that a simple test as outlined might detect some of the more 'gross' problems that have occurred
     
  18. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    @huochemi I get where you're coming from, as any controlling standards are only useful if there's actually someone qualified to monitor for compliance. The current situation is very much the flip side of the much vaunted headlong rush to deregulation in the 80s. This occured under the ægis of the GATT arrangements preceeding the WTO, but the latter has thus far failed to address the shortcomings of a scheme intended to improve international trade, which in practise contains holes through which dodgy and dishonest traders can (and repeatedly do) drive a coach and horses.

    So far as controlling contracts are concerned, there's a world of difference between "Oy! ... Del Boy, got 60 tons of copper you can flog us?" and an order specifying a particular grade of material, fit for a specific purpose. I'm right behind you on the practicalities (or otherwise) of chasing some fly-by-night con artist through courts half a world away (none too easy here, for that matter!), this being the precise reason I was banging on about process standards, acceptance conditions and payment clauses as part and parcel of reducing risk by tightening up on supply contracts.

    Unscrupulous Chinese suppliers seem to feature heavily in many minds, but although perhaps the highest profile offenders, they're by no means the only ones and the ruling CPC is making strident efforts to address shortcomings, but it's a big country modernising fast. When you consider the legislative foulups successive governments have precided over here, it puts matters into context. In practical terms, if a Chinese supplier is on miliatary approved lists (just try advertising MIL approval anywhere if you don't have it and watch what happens!), they'll be as likely to meet international standards as those from anywhere else. If anyone is looking at the 'bargain basement' department anywhere and expecting proper adherence to standards, then I'd ask 'Who's kidding who?' You gets what you pays for and if it looks too good to be true, 99 times out of 100 .... that's because it is! Where and when was that ever any different?

    A close friend of mine, somewhat more enamoured of progressive consumerism than this cynical old goat, is always mystified by the shoddy nature of many on-line 'bargain buy' purchases and gets very ratty when I, not being one to 'rub it in', point out the bl**ding obvious. I may not "own" more unnecessary crap than said friend and may pay a bit more for what I do, at need, shell out for, but what I do have at least doesn't fall apart within hours of receipt!
     
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  19. RLinkinS

    RLinkinS New Member

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    When I worked in nuclear power staions I used to employ a company to to carry out 3rd party verification and audit during major shutdown inspections. Their lead auditors were known to the contractors as "Mr Nasty and Mr Nastier"; they revelled in this description. This helped keep the contractors on their toes. However sometimes we felt like we were fighting on all fronts, they had to grip the contractors and I had to beat off the project mangers.
     
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  20. estwdjhn

    estwdjhn New Member

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    I get any copper boilerplate we buy tested by an independent test house as a matter of course, however doing the same with each stay bar (typically only 3000mm long, so even a narrow gauge boiler will swallow 5 or 6 bars easily) at £85 a sample is prohibitively expensive and time consuming (given I would have to then maintain traceability at a bar level throughout the machining and fitting stages). It's also quite slow - the last plate I had analysis done on took about 3 weeks to get results back (interestingly, it came back as C104 - non arsenical tough pitch copper, not C105 or C107, despite having been fitted to a railway loco for years).

    The trouble is, most suppliers limit liability to the cost of replacing the material if defective - we had some steel boilerplate that cracked when flanged because of a copper inclusion, probably from a rolling mill. The eventual settlement basically amounted to little more than a free bit of replacement plate, despite having had senior Tata management involved.
     
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