Exporting to international markets for our members can often seem an unreachable target.

Extensive work needs to be done to learn the fundamentals of becoming a successful export business. And there is also the challenge of meeting codes and standards not applicable in New Zealand.

It’s not uncommon for companies to put this into the ‘too hard basket’ and walk away from such export opportunities. Particularly when it comes to the costly and complicated process of gaining certification.


A drive to meet customer needs

This was the position our members Stafford Engineering faced when their US clients Gram Equipment asked them to consider fabricating pressure equipment for them. A direct result of a long term and trusted relationship since the early 2000’s.

Fabrication of food grade equipment for US clients Gram Equipment waiting in Stafford workshop for installation.

Up until this point Stafford had been a reliable part of their supply chain, delivering the manufactured inner workings of their ice cream vessels. An opportunity that had come about via a referral from working with New Zealand’s iconic Tip Top Factory.

Asking Stafford to step up and deliver the pressure vessel housing the inner workings signaled strong confidence in their ability but posed many challenges to overcome. Most significantly assessing the cost benefit of becoming certified to ASME U-Stamp level.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers facilitates the ASME Certification Mark. A clear way of telling US customers, supply chain, industry and regulators that stamped items conform to relevant ASME standards.  Obtaining accreditation requires an authorised inspection agency to confirm compliance with the ASME and National Board Inspection Codes.

A journey not easily travelled – which is why Stafford is one of only two companies in New Zealand to meet this standard, the other being NDA Group.

The road to certification

Gaining ASME certification involves the development of an extensive quality control manual in alignment with ASME code requirements. Seeing Stafford engage Australian based CMIS Consultant Colin Mongta to facilitate the process over a 12 month period.

Following an intensive two-day audit process, they achieved certification status June 2016. This involved collaboration with non-destructive testing requirements

and extensive materials checks. It also meant relevant staff had to be qualified to the latest understanding and knowledge of welding supervisor and inspection level. All in all, requiring a funding commitment of over $100,000.

Until mid-2017 a New Zealand certification inspector was utilised for checks prior to shipment to the US. But a change in availability led to Stafford searching for a qualified inspector outside of New Zealand to fill this need.

Stafford Engineering Managing Director Kaleb James and Former Director Roger Evans with ABS Group representative.

Eventually connecting with ABS Group. An American based independent team of National Board Commissioned Inspectors focused on evaluating and inspecting pressure equipment to verify compliance.

These services include the review of design specifications, procedures and qualifications; verification of welding procedures in accordance with applicable codes and standards, review of material test reports, auditing services of manufacturing and more.

Stafford Engineering Managing Director Kaleb James saying “Our goal was to secure a reliable Authorised Inspection Agency (AIA) that would give our customers the confidence that we’d continue to service their needs for U-Stamp Certification of pressure vessels used in the food manufacturing industry.”

“We’re currently in conversations with NDA Group to see how we can collaborate together locally, to engage with ABS Group and make the process more cost effective in the long term.”

Business Development Manager Leo Aspite also stating “In 2019 we’ll need to look at renewing this certification. But we believe it offers us significant opportunities for future business in the US export market.”

“Having a US based inspector adds to the credibility of our quality and is a significant value offering for our customers based there. Moving forward it will be about securing and increasing the pipeline in this space and working with Kaleb to ensure we have the internal resources to meet this type of demand.”

Update shared by our Manager Marketing and Communications Kim Nugent