New AAMA Procedural Guide Requires Manufacturers to Up Their Game (part 2)

Quality management systems and unintended consequences
Paul R. Gary
March 20, 2015
COLUMN : Legal | Codes & Standards

Editor’s note: This column is the last in a two-part series on the new AAMA 103-14a Procedural Guide for Certification; read part one here.

In part one of this article, we reviewed many of the significant changes found in AAMA 103-14a, the Procedural Guide for Certification of Window, Door and Skylight Assemblies. This is the supplement to “AAMA 101” as it completes the answer to the question “What does it take to get certified?” A great read, I am sure. At this point, we simply have Section 17, In-Plant Quality Management System (QMS) Requirements for Certification Extension (10 year) remaining to review.

QMS AND RECORD-KEEPING

Section 17 adds QMS elements required beyond the quality inspections and tests previously referenced in Section 16, should the manufacturer seek a five-year extension on product testing certification, thus bringing certification to 10 years. (We are largely dealing with certification of air/water/structural performance as the extension under 103-14a is not applicable for NFRC or SIG certification programs.)

Under Section 17, an “internal audit” of the QMS system is required and is to be included within the Quality Manual, for review and approval by the validator. While lacking in detail, this extra step represents a distinct internal examination of the underlying basic quality program and the tracking of corrective action.

An important condition for the extension to 10 years is that insulating glass units must be certified as conforming to ASTM E2190. By this, AAMA now mirrors NFRC and Energy Star requirements. Also, individual product components fabricated by the manufacturer have to be checked during each shift as specified in Section 17. Records for these inspections and the related tests are to be kept for two years. The record must include the handling and disposition of any item which was found to be unsatisfactory.

Under Section 17, the scheduled daily comprehensive inspection of finished product is two times that required for basic five-year certification. All fenestration products must also undergo physical testing of the integrity of sill corner function and testing of any weep systems. Documentation of results, including test dates, must be kept for at least two months. Lastly, a quality control procedure for operational force and locking/unlocking is required. Such records are to be kept for 12 months.

WHAT IF?

A lot has been added to quality management requirements for AAMA certification, especially to obtain the 10-year extension. A significant part of this process now includes prescribed record generation and retention. If you stand back and look at the 103-14a process as a whole, some connections regarding risk can be made.

For example, “what if” a homeowner or builder complains regarding product performance and is not satisfied by the manufacturer’s response? Assume the issue equates to a challenge to the product’s compliance with the AAMA performance specifications. I see three options:

  1. Complainant walks away (not happening too much anymore);
  2. Complainant goes to AAMA; or
  3. Complainant goes to court.

Under either an AAMA investigation or by the methods of discovery in litigation, the process could easily expand into an investigation and evaluation of the manufacturer’s satisfaction of any or all of the many requirements of AAMA 103-14a, including testing and the required record-keeping.

If, through oversight or mistake, a manufacturer has not been in compliance, then what happens? Are the products sold within the period of the faulty record-keeping not qualified for certification? Could that extend further back in time? What would happen if you lost AAMA certification for product sold as being certified?

But wait, the product would not have been certified unless the validator essentially said everything was in compliance or that only a minor correction was required! This may not be a safe-haven. Must AAMA follow the validator’s decision, or does the AAMA appeal process put it in the role of “re-play official?” Would you agree with me that a court would not feel bound by the validator’s decision?

If everything went wrong and a decision was rendered that a year’s worth of product was not entitled to AAMA certification, strict compliance with AAMA 103-14a and its documentation requirements would suddenly have been worth its weight in gold. Thinking this way, it seems more compelling to meet the requirements for the detail of AAMA 103-14a.

Paul R. Gary is the prinicipal of The Gary Law Group, a law firm based in Portland, Ore., emphasizing legal issues facing manufacturers of windows and doors. He welcomes feedback about articles published in Window & Door and can be reached at 503/227-8424 or paul@prgarylaw.com.