Beyond ASME PCC-1 Training: What Today’s Bolting Professionals Need to Know

Various bolts a bolting assembler must identify.

Introduction: What is ASME PCC-1?

ASME is short for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. PCC-1 stands for “Post Construction Committee 1”. PCC-1 addresses “Guidelines for Pressure Boundary Bolted Flange Joint Assembly.”

It’s a consensus document, which means it was written by several experts across the bolting industry.

The document addresses many factors involved in bolting principles and the assembly of bolted flange joints. The scope of ASME PCC-1 states:

These guidelines for bolted flange joint assemblies apply principally to pressure-boundary flanged joints with ring-type gaskets that are entirely within the circle enclosed by the bolt holes and with no contact outside this circle.

These guidelines may be selectively applied to other joint geometries. By selection of those features suitable to the specific service or need, these guidelines may be used to develop effective joint assembly procedures for the broad range of sizes and service conditions normally encountered in industry.

This document uses the most up-to-date bolting principles for the integrity of bolted joints on pressure vessels. They discuss assembly, disassembly, quality assurance (documentation), bolting safety and tool handling, gaskets, torque, fasteners, washers, tensioning.

One of the most important parts of the document is, “Appendix A -Training and Qualification of Bolted Joint Assembly Personnel.”

This appendix is the basis for a training program for assembler qualification. Successful completion of training for bolted joint assembly may be the most important part of ASME PCC-1.

At Hex Technology, we’ve provided bolting training for several years. Our leadership serves on the PCC-1 committee. In this article, we will explain

ASME PCC-1 Appendix-A Training: Background and Why it Matters

The whole point of ASME PCC-1 was to ensure assemblers understood the principles of bolted joints. The goal is to provide them with the knowledge they need to solve problems in the field.

Since it would be impossible to “write the rules” for every type of flanged joint used in every type of industry, the committee wrote a guideline. This guideline serves as a template for the bolting industry. The guideline is inclusive of not only the principles of a bolted joint, but also the bolter’s ability to assemble flanges.

End Users

For an End User (meaning a refinery or other industrial plant), there are typically four departments that should go through bolting training: Engineering, Maintenance, Inspection, and Operations. All of these individuals have a part to play in a successful and safe bolting program.

Below is a path showing how End Users might use this training. At Hex Technology, we recommend three additional levels of training that Appendix A does not stipulate (Bolting Inspector, Bolting Assembler, & On-Boarding Training), as experience shows they lead to a better-informed organization (and therefore, better results).

  • On-Boarding Training (Level 1): Anyone working in a plant ought to know how to properly assemble a bolted flange joint. They also should be familiar with the factors affecting their working conditions. A Level 1 training provides that basic, but essential, knowledge. Some topics covered include: proper lubrication, stud installation, gasket installation, and general inspection of flange facing.
  • Bolting Trainee (Level 2): This training is important, as it helps assemblers to understand the fundamental concepts of a bolted flange joint. While PCC-1 provides some specifications around training, how that training is carried out from plant-to-plant can vary widely. As a result, a person who’s “Level 2” at one plant may have a vastly different understanding than someone who’s been designated a similar level at another plant. This is one of the reasons why we’ve sought to provide free Level 2 training online. (You and your staff can sign up for Level 2 here, but note: Completion of Level 1 is required before you test for the Level 2 certificate. Level 1 training is also free.)
  • Bolting Inspector (Level 3): Inspection staff may be required to inspect flanges, bolts and gaskets on a periodic basis. They also monitor joint assembly progress and effectiveness. This level is not intended to teach individuals how to assemble flanges but how to inspect the effectiveness of assembly. This is normally completed through a final examination of the flange through a checklist.
  • Qualified Bolting Specialists (Level 4): At least one individual — and, ideally, multiple people — in each plant ought to earn qualified bolting specialist certification. This person would be a good asset for equipment flanges (that tend to be more of a hassle) and to also help management with contractors and growing their bolting program organically. PCC-1 states that a QBS would need to recertify every 3 years
  • Qualified Senior Bolting Specialists (Level 5): Every End User ought to have at least one Level 5 individual in their organization. Why? Someone who’s trained to this level will understand the unique, and sometimes random, challenges bolted flange joints can present. Bolted flange joints are more complicated than welded joints. A good example is with heat exchangers, which nearly always feature custom flanges. A QBS level 5 can understand every aspect of bolting, and therfore fix such custom flanges, helping your plant avoid potentially costly leaks, LOCs or shutdowns. A Level 5 individual can also support your plants with bolting needs and help direct the overall bolting program.
  • Qualified Bolting Specialist Instructor (Level 6): Bolted Joints are a small portion of what End Users must monitor and account for. Due to joint integrity being new within the industry, this level takes not only deep experience but continual study. Currently, End Users should rely on a 3rd party individuals or companies that are thoroughly competent on the principles of the bolted joint to complete training courses of their individuals on Appendix A unless they can afford to dedicate one to two individuals to continual upkeep of what Appendix A recommends for this position.

PCC-1 Training Guidelines for Contractors

There are three major types of bolting contractors who operate in industrial plants:

  • General
  • Specialty
  • Inspection

Each type of contractor ought to have achieved a specific level of training within their workforce. Below is an explanation of each category of contractor, along with their needs.

Specialty Contractors

Typically Specialty Contractors are hired to assemble or “torque” critical flanges and flanges that need powered equipment. However, it has been seen by Hex Technology that many of these companies (in general but there are a few exceptions) have not trained their organization on Appendix A of ASME PCC-1. They tend to rely on using their “expertise” on powered equipment (usually given in one manufacturer training session) to qualify themselves as experts.

It is Hex Technology’s recommendation that each Specialty Contractor improves its current bolting program and meet the following guidelines:

  • On-Boarding Training (Level 1): For Specialty Contractors, this should be a preliminary step for a “casual” worker who might help with bolted assemblies but is not a supervisor on a job to complete. There will be many occasions where a bolted flange joint assembler will need a second person to help with equipment. Therefore it is up to the contractor how many of these individuals they might need in cross-training.
  • Bolting Assembler (Level 2): The goal of a Specialty Company is to eventually put the remaining of their bolting individuals through some sort of training in order to start getting their knowledge base up. This will then set them up for a career path to move into Qualified Bolting Specialist level. During this time, it would be of benefit to start teaching the individuals not only the academic/practical aspects of their job but to also teach them: paperwork, project management, powered equipment, exchangers, and piping aspects outlined in ASME PCC-1 Appendix A. (*50% of Specialty Contractors total employment should be considered for this role.)
  • Bolting Inspector/Supervisor (Level 3): This level depends on the QA/QC policies of their own program, and if they are planning on being a 3rd party inspection company.
  • Qualified Bolting Specialists (Level 4): There should be more of these individuals than just a couple in Specialty Contractors (both large and small). These individuals would be used on smaller “turn-around” and normal maintenance. It is not the intent of Hex Technology to state that these individuals are on every job but thinks it is reasonable that 30% of bolting individuals should be trained to this level. (*30% of Specialty Contractors total employment should be considered for this role.)
  • Qualified Senior Bolting Specialists (Level 5): Specialty Contractors should have multiple individuals who can fulfill this role. This is intended for individuals to be able to run entire “turn-arounds” worth of bolting, where a plant may be working on thousands of piping flanges and hundreds of heat exchangers at one time. Therefore, it would be in the Specialty Contractors interest to have a problem solver on these bigger jobs. (*15% of Specialty Contractors total employment should be considered for this role.)
  • Qualified Bolting Specialist Instructor (Level 6):  Determine a time frame that at least one individual obtains this level in order to train the many individuals that they might have in their organization. This will take time, and a 3rd party might be needed until one can be properly trained. (*1-2% of Specialty Contractors total employment should be considered for this role.)

General Contractors

General contractors are typically hired to assemble and torque 80% of flanges in a plant turnaround. You want them to have a baseline skillset in which you are confident.

It should be a minimum that they teach their individuals on both the “On-Boarding Training” and should strive to determine how to administer “Bolting Trainee” training (both mentioned above).

It should be noted that General Contractors typically assemble flanges, and one individual (normally considered the “project manager”) should be trained to the “Bolting Specialist” level to make sure his crew is assembling flanges correctly in their specific work environment. (*100% of staff working on bolted flange joint applications should be trained to at least the On-Boarding Level.)

Inspection Contractors

Inspection contractors are the individuals are there to make sure the assembly of a flange follows procedure, from pre-assembly to assembly to post-assembly.

It should be a minimum that Inspection Contractors train their individuals on the above mentioned “Inspector Training” as they are responsible for making sure that the components and assembly of the flange is completed. (*100% of their staff that works on bolted flange joint applications should be trained to at least the Inspection Level.)

Summary of Appendix A

A1.1.1 – Background / How should I use this?

The first part of this appendix states “The recommendations outlined in this Appendix are intended as a guideline, and they may be applied differently by different user organizations.”

Some individuals have expressed that they want ASME to “tell them what they should know,” however this document is intended to serve all Industry, not just a single one (such as the petrochemical industry). Therefore, not all items may apply. End Users and Contractors are responsible for determining the level of knowledge that they would like their organization to know.

Example: A pipeline company/contractor wouldn’t necessarily need to make their assemblers have the “Exchanger Endorsement” included in this Appendix.

Do all my assemblers need to be “Qualified Bolting Specialists”?

Appendix A states that you can determine what quantity of each level you would like working in your organization.
“User organizations who choose to utilize provisions of this Appendix should specify the level of qualification required. Examples include the following:

  • (a) An organization may require only one Appendix A–Qualified Bolting Specialist who works with a number of bolting assemblers.
  • (b) An organization may require that a group of Appendix A–Qualified Bolting Specialists work in the organization.
  • (c) An organization may require each assembly team working in a plant to be, as a minimum, led by an individual who is an Appendix A–Qualified Senior Bolting Specialist.”

Example: An End User could state that each plant would have one Qualified Bolting Specialist on each shift to make sure that other individuals are assembling bolted flange joints properly.

A.1.1.3 – How do I qualify my assemblers to this Appendix

This has been a sticky point for End Users that haven’t been around this document for long. ASME DOES NOT qualify Bolting Specialists. There is only one company out there (to my knowledge) that has followed Appendix A to be considered a Qualifying Organization who can qualify not only assemblers but organizations to train their assemblers to Appendix A.

To become a Qualifying Organization, the two main points that should be followed are:

  1. Qualifying Organization: an organization that undertakes the training, demonstration, and practical and theoretical examinations outlined in this Appendix to qualify a bolted joint assembler.
  2. Review Organization: an independent organization that conducts quality control reviews of the Qualification Program. Guidance for selection of Review Organizations is provided in para. A-5.3.2.

The Organization should have their training reviewed by an Independent Review Organization to ensure that the content is correct. This DOES NOT mean by a good friend, or an organization that is not in the bolting industry! It is meant to be done by industry-known subject matter experts to make sure that the information being presented is correct and free from commercial bias.

A.1.2 – What are the definitions of all these terms?

  • Bolting Assembler: a person meeting the experience qualifications of para. A-2.2 who is engaged in the assembly of bolted joints in accordance with the recommendations contained in ASME PCC-1 but has not yet received training and qualification from a Qualifying Organization. This means that an individual hasn’t completed formal training but is preparing to do so. Below are the descriptions of what this individual should be prepared to learn and be tested on.
  • Senior Bolting Assembler: A person meeting the experience qualifications of para. A-3.1 who is engaged in the assembly of bolted joints in accordance with the recommendations contained in ASME PCC-1 but has not yet received training and qualification from a Qualifying Organization.
  • Bolting Instructor: A person meeting the experience qualifications of para. A-4.1 who is engaged in the assembly of bolted joints and the training of bolting assemblers in accordance with the recommendations contained in ASME PCC-1 but has not yet received training and qualification from a Qualifying Organization.
  • Bolting Trainee: A person undergoing training to become a Qualified Bolting Specialist.
  • Qualified Bolting Specialist: A person qualified by a Qualifying Organization as meeting the requirements of section A-2 of this Appendix.

A-2.2 – This section contains the items that an individual shall be trained on. There are several (listed below).

Qualification: they should know the items from A-2.2 – A.2.6

Experience: they should have previously had 6 months full time (or the equivalent). A sticking point for some companies is the fact that this section states, “The experience should be documented by references from Senior Bolting Assemblers, Qualified Senior Bolting Specialists, or Qualified Bolting Specialist Instructors indicating that the field experience obtained meets the requirements of this Appendix.”

Commentary: Since the industry is young and most companies have not recorded individual’s experiences in the field. A company should use their judgment to determine who should complete this training as a “rookie” would not be able to understand many concepts if they don’t have proper experience.

A-2.3 Training of Fundamentals: This part of the training is the “meat” of the information that a Qualified Bolting Specialist should know. There are roughly 150 academic items that are discussed in this section.

A-2.3.1 Piping Specific Training: This is training on how to assemble different types of pipe and what is important to each standard type. Some items discussed are: Raised Face, Flat Face, Ring Type Joint, etc. Issues often encountered when you assemble a Flat Face to a Raised Face flange.

A-2.3.2 Powered Equipment Training: This training is intended to make sure individuals are trained on more than just manual “clicker” type wrenches. Some of these include: Hydraulic Torque Wrenches and Stud Tensioners.

A-2.3.3 Heat Exchanger Training: This training is intended to train individuals on the different make ups of exchangers. Some of these include: Confined vs. non-confined gaskets; Shell to tube sheet vs. channel head to tube sheet gaskets.

A-2.3.4 Special Joint Training: This section is intended to be vague as there are special types of joint in different industries that individuals should be trained on for that industry. Some examples include:

  • Lens Rings – primarily in Nitrogen Plants
  • “Grayloc” flanges – primarily in “upstream” applications

A-2.4 Practical Examination: The demonstrations are designed to highlight significant aspects of the training curriculum and are to be performed in the presence, and to the satisfaction, of a Qualified Bolting Specialist Instructor. In addition, a practical examination of each candidate, requiring the assembly of at least two joints, shall be required.

Several different demonstrations by the trainee should be observed, and it is the Appendix’s recommendation that they complete at least one and observe the others (at a minimum).

  • Gasket placement
  • Joint alignment
  • Different Bolting Patterns
  • Bolting Patterns vs. Different Gasket Types

2.5 Duties: This section is brief but explains the expectations of what Bolting Specialists should be able to do in the field.

2.6 Maintenance of Qualification: This section gives examples of how a Specialist can pursue continual learning on their trade, and pass the “Training Fundamentals” testing every three years.

Qualified Senior Bolting Specialist: A person qualified by a Qualifying Organization as meeting the requirements of section A-3 of this Appendix. This section is more of an administrative section. Here are some highlights from this section to qualify for this position you must complete:

  • Two years as a Qualified Bolting Specialist
  • Take an active role in fixing bolting issues within plant(s) and can apply them in the field
  • Provide “on the job” training for bolting assemblers and trainees (A-3.2.1)
  • Maintain records on Bolting Specialists
  • Prepare procedures for trouble joints
  • Conduct on-site “introduction” to established bolting procedures
  • Spend 20% of their time in the field with Bolting Specialists

Qualified Bolting Specialist Instructor: A person qualified by a Qualifying Organization as meeting the requirements of section A-4 of this Appendix. This individual should have ample experience of not only “academic” teaching but field experience in order to relate to the assemblers that they are training. Many Vendors offer “training” and think that their individual should be teaching others. However, it is my experience that if you have not been on a turnaround and/or have worked in general maintenance in a plant, they will teach the concepts that only can be applied in “sterile” environments.

There are several items that need to be completed to achieve this:

  • Have 4 years’ experience as a Qualified Senior Bolting Specialist
  • Demonstrate administrative and problem-solving skills

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