Fusion Assist - 'A single source of truth'

Australian Piping Solutions (APS) installs the pipework for commercial HVAC systems. A recent, and ongoing, project is the Gatton Correctional Facility Extension in South Queensland. Gatton is a ‘mega-prison’; the extension alone has 1004 cells.

APS is working on a chilled water HVAC system at Gatton. The majority of polyethylene (PE) pipe on the system is 355mm.

Fusion Assist is fundamental to the QA system implemented by APS on projects like Gatton. The app imposes disciplines of the installation process and, critically, underpins the twenty-year warranty that APS must provide on the integrity of its workmanship.

A positive, unintended impact of Fusion Assist is that it has helped APS to win new packages of work at Gatton worth around A$1m (£600,000). 

Case Study

Ian Commons-Fidge, Australian Piping Solutions and an obsession with quality

Australian Piping Solutions (APS) is a mechanical services piping company with manufacturing facilities in Queensland and Northern Territories, Australia.

APS was established 25 years ago by Ian Commons-Fidge, who remains its Managing Director and driving force.

In his short biography piece on the APS website, Ian states that he is ‘…passionate about manufacturing and installing quality piping products and solutions for the HVAC industry.’

Much of the work undertaken by APS involves pipework installation on commercial HVAC systems. Unsurprisingly, in a country with around 350 mines, mining is a key sector for APS as well as agricultural and commercial buildings.

Gatton Correctional Facility

APS is currently working on the installation of a chilled water HVAC system on the South Queensland Correctional Centre (SQCC) Extension project. Once the Extension is completed, SQCC will be a ‘mega-prison’; the Extension alone creates an additional 1004 cells.

SQCC is located near Gatton in the Lockyer Valley Region of Queensland. Lockyer Valley is referred to as ‘Australia’s Salad Bowl’ and is one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world.

To illustrate the size of Australia, Gatton is 3,500km (2,200) miles from APS’ HQ by road. That is two and a half times the road distance between John O’Groats and Land’s End, the most northerly and southerly points respectively in the UK! Now, that is an incentive to invest in quality and getting it right first time.

The APS approach to quality; Fusion Assist as the ‘single source of truth’

At Gatton, APS is working as a specialist subcontractor to VAE. VAE has designed the HVAC system at SQCC and has overall responsibility for its construction and commissioning.

The pipework used on the HVAC system at Gatton ranges from 355mm to 180mm on the ring main, reducing to 63mm within the SQCC buildings. The system is centred on a ring main that services all areas of the Extension.

The section of the project, which is the focus of this case study in terms of reports and images, relates to the leg back from the ring main to the chiller point. The pipe featured is 355mm.

The weld number

At the core of the APS QA system is the weld number. This is manually written on the joint by the operative, is captured both visually and numerically as part of the Fusion Assist data collection process and is also referenced in the output weld record from the electrofusion box. The weld numbers also feature as GPS datum points which help to create the installation map.

The process

The APS operative uses a Fusamatic fitting to create the joint. Once pipe scraping and alignment are completed, the operative can either use the automatic welding parameters activated by the Fusamatic pin, scan the welding parameters barcode on the Fusamatic fitting, or enter the setting manually. At Gatton, APS used an industry standard electrofusion control box and extracted the weld data using weld analyser software.

Once the weld has been completed the operative marks the fitting with the welder serial number, the unique generated welder log number, his qualification ID number and the date and time of weld completion.

The operative then opens the Fusion Assist app and scans the standard 12176 traceability barcode which is available by virtually all world-class electrofusion fitting manufacturers. With a Fusamatic fitting, the operative is also prompted to capture the QR code which forms part of the fitting label. The QR code further extends traceability as it provides traceability down to the raw materials and operator that manufactured the fitting.

The Fusion Assist app further prompts the operator to capture images of the joint weld which become part of the joint record. Finally, the operative answers straightforward questions relating to weld number, scraping and clamping. There is also a series of simple visual quality checks e.g. Have the fusion indicators extended? Are there signs of plastic melt outside the joint?

APS extracts the Fusion Assist data as an Excel CSV file and generates a weld map from it. The APS team also captures a video of the completed pipeline.

QA report

APS collates a report for its client, VAE. The report incorporates Fusion Assist data; data from the electrofusion box; pressure test report on the completed pipe section; calibration records for the electrofusion box and other equipment; weld map; training records of operatives.

The report is comprehensive, authoritative and straightforward to compile.

Client feedback

According to Ian Commons-Fidge, Fusion Assist has provided APS (and its clients) with, ‘…a single source of truth’:

‘Before embracing Fusion Assist, we would typically take a series of photos and try to tie them back to the work undertaken. There was a degree of variability in the images captured and, with manual record keeping, a degree of erroneous data capture.
The Fusion Assist app imposes disciplines on the site teams, provides consistency from a data capture and presentation perspective, and stands as a ‘…single source of truth’. It also greatly simplifies the data collection and reporting process.
At Gatton it is a requirement that we warranty our work for twenty years and Fusion Assist gives us the confidence to do this.
The best thing from a management perspective is that, with Fusion Assist reporting, the client can almost ‘feel’ the quality. The quality, productivity and commitment of the APS workforce, combined with Fusion Assist reporting, has definitely helped us win new packages of work at Gatton.’

The future

APS is always seeking to further improve the QA process. It is working with Fusion Group on ways to integrate PE pipe into the Fusion Assist app as well as developing the ability to create a video through Fusion Assist as part of the weld mapping process.


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