FTM 83: Structural Bolting Suppliers

What are these pitfalls, booby traps and unexpected nightmares of being a Structural Bolt Supplier?

This edition of the Fastener Training Minute with Carmen Vertullo was originally published June 12, 2014 as “Structural Bolting Suppliers” during episode 83 of Fully Threaded Radio.

Every experienced structural bolting supplier has war stories about things that have gone horribly wrong with structural bolt transactions or installations. Those fastener suppliers who only dabble in the structural bolting niche soon find out about the inherent risks associated with supplying structural bolting. Not only are there more risks, they’re different from those found in other fastener product categories.

One aspect that can make structural bolt supply a particularly risky endeavor, is that the supplier, whether a distributor or a manufacturer, is at the mercy of many different entities. Everyone from the raw materials supplier to the job site bolting installers and special inspectors can create a special kind of hell for the unaware structural bolting supplier. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A well-informed and educated supplier with a well developed risk management system can learn to avoid these pitfalls. In doing so, they become a superior supplier because as they protect themselves, they also protect their customers and the projects their customers erect.

So what are these pitfalls, booby traps and unexpected nightmares, and what are the resources suppliers need to avoid them? Let’s look at a real life example. In one recent structural steel building application, the job was almost shut down because the projects special bolting inspectors believed that nine different lots of tension control bolts, called “TC Bolt” assemblies, did not meet the required tension specifications. The bolts were various sizes and from two different manufacturers. The special inspectors insisted the bolts could not be used on the job, and those bolts already installed had to be removed and replaced. To make matters worse, this was on a Thursday and concrete was scheduled to be poured on the floors with the suspect bolts on Monday.

Suppliers aware of the facts about structural bolts know the mere description of this problem shows the issue could not possibly be with the bolts themselves. Suffice it to say, the suppliers awareness made it possible to bring a quick and decisive solution to the problem and keep all of the bolt lots on the job.

A key element to bringing a positive outcome to this situation was that the supplier was able to go to the job site with the expertise and equipment necessary to analyze the problem and make a case for his customer and the structural steel erector to keep those bolts in place. The supplier’s technical expert quickly was able to discern that the problem had to do with the special inspector’s tests, not with the bolts. Using their Skidmore-Wilhelm bolt tension calibrator, the supplier proved that the special inspector’s bolt calibrator was being, and had been used improperly. This caused their test to show erroneous results. The stop work order was rescinded, and the job continued on schedule.

In this case, and in many others like it, fastener knowledge saved the project manager, customer and distributor lots of pain and expense.

The Fastener Training Institute is dedicated to educating the fastener industry to reduce the occurence of this type of situation. Or better yet, to head off situations like this long before they can cause problems for everyone along the supply chain.

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