Four Ways to Pre-Qualify the Quality of Roof Systems
Click Here to
for Your FREE
By Melissa A. Rus
In a tough economy, both manufacturers and customers are tempted to cut corners
when it comes to quality.
From the manufacturer’s perspective, reducing the cost of raw materials is the
easiest way to improve shrinking margins. However, altering key raw materials
poses a significant performance risk, frequently precipitating production and/or
From the customer’s perspective, quality is too frequently an out-of-sight,
out-of-mind consideration. When competition is fierce, it’s easy for customers
to push back on pricing without applying due diligence to ensure that cost
comparisons are being made on an apples-to-apples basis. Two “or equal” products
may perform quite differently in application, according to the quality of the
raw materials used.
This article is intended to help building owners, architects, and facility
managers pre-qualify the quality of roofing materials to ensure the lasting
integrity of rooftop waterproofing solutions.
Stable Supplier Relationships
Verifying that product manufacturers have strong and stable supplier
relationships, particularly in regards to those raw materials most directly
responsible for rooftop performance, is an essential first step in
pre-qualifying a roofing partner.
What those raw materials are will differ according to the type of system you are
considering. For standing seam metal, you’ll want to look at the source of the
steel or aluminum; for modified bitumen, you’ll want to investigate not only the
source of the asphalt or coal tar base, but also the source of those modifiers
and scrim materials that impart critical performance characteristics to the
The easiest way to verify a manufacturer’s capabilities in this regard is to
choose a manufacturer with an effective quality management program in place,
such as ISO 9001. As part of the ISO commitment to continuous quality
improvement, manufacturers are required to establish procedures, which can be
independently audited, to evaluate their suppliers and the quality of the
products they provide.
The market for many of the raw materials used to produce roofing products
continues to be extremely volatile. Strong supplier relationships enable
manufacturers to have open discussions about pricing to the benefit of all
parties, ensuring supplier cooperation when raw material supplies are
Access to Alternative Suppliers
Just as you would not write a specification that only one manufacturer could
fulfill, you should not use a manufacturer who is dependent on only one supplier
for critical raw materials. Raw materials are the life blood for a manufacturer
of any product. An interruption in the supply of key raw materials can shut down
production instantaneously. There will be times when even the most stable
supplier relationship cannot guarantee delivery. Having access to alternate
suppliers is crucial to quality-conscious organizations.
Sourcing, evaluating, and approving alternate raw materials is not a simple
task. Manufacturers interested in maintaining consistent product quality must
vet alternate raw materials with the same scrutiny used for their preferred
suppliers. That means treating every alternate raw material as a new product
development project. This takes time and resources, but offers an insurance
policy that is worth the investment. By actually completing all phases of the
design development process using an alternate raw material, a manufacturer
validates that it is equal to the standard raw material in regards to quality
and long-term performance.
Making sure that the manufacturers whose products you are considering have at
least two qualified suppliers – not only available, but approved for use – is
essential to ensuring reliable delivery of quality materials at a fair price.
Innovative manufacturer/supplier partnerships help ensure customers that the
products they are evaluating take advantage of the latest product and process
technologies. Many new technologies are born from strong supplier relationships,
which inspire collaborative ideas. Manufacturers who can demonstrate lasting,
stable supplier partnerships are more likely to keep you at the cutting edge of
innovation, since such relationships encourage and facilitate co-development and
Innovative companies are always looking for new and better ways to add value to
the products they produce in hopes of customer recognition and increased sales.
Being innovative does not always mean new products. Manufacturers also look at
cost-reducing innovations, which might involve utilizing recycled or unusual
materials to produce their products. Stable, secure supplier relationships are
critical to ongoing innovation because such suppliers realize that the
manufacturer’s success increases their own.
Quality Assurance Programs
At the end of the day, what matters most to the customer is the quality of the
products being delivered to their job site. This is what manufacturer quality
assurance programs are designed to do – verify that products meet or exceed
customer expectations. Such programs involve activities that focus on
controlling and regulating the processes and materials used in manufacturing
products. They are designed to prevent defective materials from entering the
workplace. If a problem with a product does arise in the field, quality
assurance programs also help with problem analysis, guiding a manufacturer’s
efforts to identify the source of a problem and to develop corrective action
plans to prevent recurrence.
Finding out what kind of quality assurance program a roofing manufacturer has in
place will increase your chances for success. Keep in mind that the more
comprehensive the program, the more reliable the solution. For example, ISO
9001-2000 monitors not only a manufacturer’s ability to meet pre-established
standards for quality in the research and production of products, but extends
those standards to encompass quality control in respect to the raw materials
supplied and the services rendered, increasing the likelihood of customer
satisfaction over the life-cycle of the roofing solution provided.
As an added bonus, ISO required continuous monitoring of data by research and
development groups and production teams enables manufacturers to pin point
process changes, thereby leading to process improvements that can increase
productivity, which, in turn, can help control product costs.
Businesses exist to make a profit. But short-sighted decisions made by customers
and manufacturers under the duress of a tight economy are a virtual guarantee of
premature rooftop failure. In good times and bad, validating a manufacturer’s
commitment to quality is a critical step towards ensuring lasting rooftop
About the Author: As a member of ASTM International, Melissa A. Rus is involved
with the development of appropriate testing standards for the roofing industry.
She participates in the Roof Coating Manufacturers Association (RCMA) and the
Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), to keep abreast with the continually evolving
regulatory environment. As research and development manager of Cleveland-based
The Garland Company, Inc., a manufacturer of high-performance solutions for the
building envelope, Rus is part of the research and development team involved in
the advancement of polymer roofing technologies. She holds a bachelor's degree
in biology from John Carroll University.