How Asset Owners Find Quality Contractors

MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2018

By Kamal Taher, NII Business Development, NACE International Institute

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 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. NIICAP determines whether a contractor is up to speed on the latest advances, standards and practices, giving asset owners a way 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.

NIICAP not only offers a way for asset owners to find top-quality contractors but for contractors to distinguish themselves as the best. On a broader scale, accreditation elevates the quality of all coatings contractors serving the oil and gas industry 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 improved. 

Typically, the vetting process for hiring a coatings contractor consists of assessing the contractor's past work and hiring based on what appears to be a good job; however, there is more to a good job than meets the eye. With the right knowledge, training, tools and techniques, a good contractor not only gets the job done but meets standards that extend the useful life of the asset. Asset owners can know with confidence that a NIICAP contractor bidding on their job has been accredited by a global association that has looked into every aspect of that contractor's business with regard to efficiency in the field.

“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 hired contractor is both capable and incentivized to do the work properly. This is especially true for owners dealing with a low-bid award environment.”



Accreditation through NIICAP is centered on a detailed onsite audit process. Those who earn 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.

Project-site audits, required annually, are a key feature of NIICAP to give maximum assurance to asset owners. They 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 it 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 contractor’s 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 the assurance that business practices, personnel and equipment availability, company history, and training are meeting or exceeding 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.

*Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.