Quality Management in Fastener Manufacturing

In so many ways, fasteners hold together most of the structures and devices that we rely on in our everyday lives.  From tiny screws in our mobile phones up to massive anchors in vehicle bridges, fasteners must perform dependably under load, without fail for years on end, under every environmental condition imaginable (and even some that are not so imaginable).  Quality Control processes employed at fastener manufacturing facilities often serve as the sole quality assessment performed on a given fastener, and as such, these processes play a pivotal role in assuring that the fastener will perform properly into the future. 

At its core, quality management in fastener manufacturing looks to test or otherwise confirm a few key details on every fastener produced, such as:

  • Materials are made up of the correct chemical and physical properties (such as a stainless steel alloy containing the correct amount of nickel and carbon)
  • Machining and fabrication are completed within tolerances and to specifications (such as pitch degree and thread depth)
  • Post-treatment and/or processing are applied correctly (such as heat treatment and coating coverage)
  • Final fasteners are stamped, identified, packaged, and protected so that they arrive onsite in the same condition as when they were shipped

In practice, different fasteners are governed by the above quality control categories to varying degress, and in some cases, not at all.  Some fasteners are made with minimal-to-no quality controls in place, sold as ornamental, decorative, or otherwise ‘uncontrolled’ variants.  In other cases, some foreign-made fasteners may falsely bear the stamp of a controlling standard, attempting to circumvent quality control requirements in order to reduce costs.  For this reason, it is important that purchasers understand where quality control standards apply within their projects, and that their suppliers are properly complying with these requirements. 

At first glance, this might seem to be an unreasonable concept – how would everyday hardware purchasers know all of the risks and requirements involved in fastening hardware, much less how to audit and confirm that a manufacturer is complying with expectations?  This is where third-party standards can help tremendously.  Outside organizations can be leveraged to identify compliant manufacturers and distributors, taking the burden of confirming fastener quality off of buyers entirely.  One such agency is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). 

Do you have a Quality-Controlled fastener application but are unsure of which fastener meets your project’s requirements?  E&T Fasteners offers expert support and product selection between the above options and more!  Contact us to discuss your application, see our Screw and Bolt catalog here, or to see our entire fastener catalog, visit our product selection here

ISO Programs in Quality Management

Known as the de-facto global leader in technical standardization, the ISO group is based out of Geneva, Switzerland, and works in 167 countries across the world.  ISO produces what are known as ‘ISO Standards’, which are technical reports, specifications, and guides that are used in nearly every industry manufacturing a digital, physical, or conceptual product.  The ISO group works with national committees to cross-adopt and apply standards as well, working towards seamless global-to-domestic application standardization. With fasteners, we find this relationship in the United States between ISO, ANSI, ASME, and ASTM standards. 

ISO has standards written for fastener fabrication similar (or cross-adopted) to our domestic ANSI and ASME standards, which can help buyers in determining if foreign-made fasteners meet US requirements.  Seeing the presence of an ISO standard symbol on a part’s spec sheet provides a heightened level of confidence to buyers, in that foreign ISO member countries have a vested interest in protecting and enforcing legal usage of the standard more-so than external standards such as the US’ ANSI, for example.   

Beyond individual standards however, ISO also offers an enterprise-level standard known as the ISO 9000 Family of Standards, which is a full Quality Management System that binds organizations to the regulatory, statutory, and stakeholder requirements that govern the products and services they produce.  ISO 9000 establishes the foundational quality management process for the organization, and ISO 9001 manages the detailed requirements that the organization must fulfill to meet the specific standards they adopt.  Once adopted, an organization is audited and certified by an independent certifying body to confirm that the company maintains compliance.   

For fastener manufacturers, ISO 9000/9001 certification is the highest order of quality control available, which communicates to buyers that the manufacturer both utilizes recognized standards of fabrication and quality control, and that the organization also continually proves their adherence to these standards through intensive documentation and recordkeeping, all vetted and confirmed by third-party auditors. 

How ISO Programs Apply to Fasteners

As a buyer, seeing an ISO standard number on your fastener order adds assurance that you’re getting a product of high quality.  Examples of individual ISO standards include:

  • ISO 898-1:2013 – Mechanical properties of fasteners made of carbon steel and alloy steel
  • ISO 1479:2011 – Hexagon head tapping screws
  • ISO 2702:2011 – Mechanical properties of Heat-treated steel tapping screws

In addition, seeing an ISO 9000 and / or ISO 9001 Quality Management System identifier provides even greater confidence, showcasing that the manufacturer uses a company-wide quality control process that is third-party certified. 

Besides simply identifying that a manufacturer adheres to the standards above, ISO standards also specify detailed quality control and inspection documents to be produced for all products.  Additional ISO standards govern these documents, such as ISO 16228:2017 – “Requirements for the content of each fastener inspection document, in conjunction with the order, the relevant standards, and/or specified requirements”.  Within this ISO 16228 standard, we find a list covering all of the required inspections to be performed and documented for each fastener, and each inspection must be documented into standardized forms shown in the below table. 

Fig. 1 – ISO 16228 Table 1 – Inspection Documents for Fasteners

As you can see, ISO standards afford buyers a significant level of confidence in the quality and reliability of fasteners manufactured both domestically and abroad.  When purchasing fasteners for regulated, structural, and technical projects (especially where human life and safety are involved), buyers should look for OEMs who are ISO certified, and / or discuss with distributors their interest in sourcing from ISO certified manufacturers.  

E&T Fasteners is here to help you navigate fastener and accessory options.  Price quotes, availability, lead times, delivery confirmations, unique application suggestions – whatever your need, we’re here to take your call or email.  For support and advice from our fully trained staff, speak with an E&T sales representative today. 

About E&T Fasteners

With sales and support teams spanning the Continental US, E&T Fasteners is here to serve your hardware, fastening, and component needs both domestically and internationally.  We are a stocking distributor of metallic, plastic, and exotic alloy fasteners, backed by our technical staff directly experienced in your unique applications.  We can assist your specifying and selection efforts, providing engineered solutions, record-fast lead times, and stellar customer service from quote through delivery.  Please let us know how we can help!