Quality is not about patriotism

3 Large Crack in a Steel BeamA picture of a cracked steel beam and a bunch of people who think to know the cause(s) of cracking just by looking to a picture, that’s all you need on social media to confuse the person who asked what could have caused the crack. It remains unclear to me how neurons, synapses and other brain matter interact to come to a conclusion on a failure cause - or causes - without performing a proper failure analysis.

Luckily many people who respond ‘suggest’ that this or that ‘could’ have played a role in the cause of cracking; proviso is a wise thing when you don’t know what happened. Others just mention one or two of the many possible causes and create the absurd impression that they could see it on the picture; strange habit. Just by looking to a cracked beam it’s impossible to state that the steel was of bad quality, that the beam was improperly heat treated or that exaggerated stresses were present; you require specific analysis and a correct interpretation of the test results before you can make any such statement.

And than you have an incredible lot of people who confuse quality with patriotism and/or protectionism. Their answer when asked for the cause of failure is simple and clear: It’s Asian or African steel, or expressed otherwise ‘it’s not American steel’, or ‘it’s not European steel’, dependent on their citizenship. It’s beyond me how you can see a steel’s origin without having read the materials certificate.

With the 22 years experience I have as a failure analyst I can guarantee that ‘bad’ steels do not come from one or two specific regions in the world or, as some hard core patriots say, hail from a specific Asian country. Anywhere in the world bad steels are produced or - better said - production errors and flaws in quality control can occur everywhere. What these people stand for is certainly not quality, yet economic protectionism and/or patriotism. Neither of both has ever served quality, reliability or safety of technical objects and installations. Some consider protectionism and patriotism as important economic and social words, yet they have nothing to do with good engineering practice. To the contrary, protectionism and patriotism undermine the possibility to engineer and create the best possible products and installations in the world.

Have you ever considered that – from a technical and quality point of view - the best material for your product and installation is possibly produced in another country than yours?

Quality is not about patriotism or protectionism; quality is in part an attitude of wisely deployed openness to the possibilities and talents of all people in the world.


Frans Vos
General Manager Materials Consult bv

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