In 1976, after about ten years of debate and repeated ballots, the ASTM Practice for Determining the Qualification of Nondestructive Testing Agencies (E 543) gained final approval and was published. The document provides the minimum requirements considered essential to the proper organization, administration, and operation of commercial and in-house agencies providing nondestructive examination services. It represents an industry consensus for the minimum practices expected of a qualified nondestructive testing agency. It includes guidelines for equipment maintenance and calibration for the most frequently used NDT methods, personnel qualification and certification, and minimum requirements for an effective quality manual.
Subsequent documents to supplement E 543 have been developed that offer detailed guidelines for a laboratory quality control system (ASTM E 1212) and for a survey (audit) checklist (ASTM E 1359) for use by evaluators of nondestructive testing agencies.
Nondestructive testing agencies that meet the requirements of ASTM E 543 and ASTM E 1212 can be expected to offer consistent quality performance and reliable examination results. These ASTM documents are being specified more frequently than in past years, but, unfortunately, are not being applied as they should for the best results. In many cases, the lowest bidder is assumed to be qualified, but the qualifications are not verified. Too often, when evaluations of nondestructive testing agencies are conducted, individuals are used who are not technically knowledgeable in the field. Frequently, these evaluations are conducted after the award of a contract, when changes are very difficult. Increased use of these ASTM standards by industry combined with competent evaluations of the quality of an agency's work and its technical and management skills will result in increased levels of confidence on the part of the users of products inspected and examined by these agencies. These higher levels of confidence will improve the acceptance of U.S. products worldwide.