The 83rd General Meeting Presentation
ASME President Madiha Kotb
“100 Years of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code”
The following presentation was delivered at the 83rd General Meeting Monday morning session, May 12, by Madiha Kotb. It has been edited for content and phrasing. To follow along with Ms. Kotb's slide presentation, click here.
In July of 2013, Madiha Kotb was elected to a one-year term as president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). She is the organization's 132nd president and the fourth woman to serve in that position. A native of Cairo, Egypt, she has been a proactive National Board member for 25 years as a professional engineer for the Province of Quebec. She also served as a member at large on the National Board’s Board of Trustees from 1991 to 1993. Additionally, Ms. Kotb assumed a number of important tactical positions, including service on both the Strategic Planning Committee and the Constitution and Bylaws Committee.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ logo is, "ASME, Setting the Standard," and we do set a lot of standards. It started 100 years ago with the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, and then we added more. It took the hard work and contributions of many – both from our predecessors and from many of you here today – to get us where we are today.
If we look back at history, it's unfortunate that it took many boiler accidents to get us starting and working hard on developing the top boiler safety standard in the world. 1884 was the first ASME performance test code on the conduct of trials of steam boilers. And then history went on, but probably none of us were around when some of the major accidents happened, including the failure of The Sultana and the Grover shoe factory explosion in Brockton, Massachusetts. Many lives were lost and there was great material damage, and these accidents brought people together to think about moving us to a safer environment and working together to develop the system of ASME boiler and pressure vessel standards and certification. And an integral part of it is the National Board third-party inspection and training qualification of inspectors.
The first publication of the ASME boiler code was in 1914. From 1918 to 1920, the first publication of the Canadian Interprovincial Code for Construction and Inspection of Steam Boilers, Unfired Pressure Vessels and Machinery was published. In 1919, The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors was founded. If we look back at where we started in 1880 and how things developed going into the beginning of the 1900s (the 20th Century), with the industrial revolution, the number of boilers in service were getting much higher than they were before, and the number of boiler explosions were unfortunately also getting much higher. And that makes sense, because there were not appropriate standards.
The number of explosions was very high considering the low-pressure we were operating at. In 1900, we had units operating at 400 psi, which is very low if we compare it to where we are today with units operating at 5,000 psi. Today, the number of units operating are much higher, the pressure is much higher, but the number of boiler explosions is much lower. And I think we should all take credit. It's not only the technological advancement making industry safer, but it's all the contributions that professionals are bringing to the table. Whether its design, material, nondestructive testing, or inspection processes, it all brings us to where we are today, which is a much safer environment. We always say one accident and one explosion is one too many, and we work hard to make things better.
Where ASME is Today
ASME has come a long way from publishing the one single standard that started the whole journey to having now more than 500 standards that are published on many different topics. ASME standards are recognized in more than 100 nations, and we take a lot of pride in this.
ASME is also part of the international system in developing its standards, and we do administer over 40 U.S. technical advisory groups to ISO, and we do have 7,000 certified companies in over 75 countries. That's a huge achievement. The number of non-U.S. certified organizations that operate as certified certificate holders of ASME is actually exceeding and rising outside of North America than within the United States. U.S. and Canada were always ahead of the curve in having certified certificate holders, designers, installations, and operation, and it's catching up. ASME is also spreading the knowledge by having professional development courses. Most of them are standards-based, and they are very much in demand in many of the countries where we operate and where the courses are offered. Sometimes the classes are "as is" and very often they are adapted to the needs of the specific countries.
We have over 200 professional development courses, and the numbers will keep increasing. What we do as engineers is actually part of the big equation. We are concerned with the technical requirements of what we build, but we also need to be concerned about the environmental integrity of the units we design, build, and operate. We have to be concerned about the safety and reliability of the systems, because we cannot just design a proper unit and then throw it out there to operators who are not concerned about the maintenance, safety, and reliability. It's the whole cycle, and we have to be concerned about it.
We have to be concerned about economic development. We do not want to be designing and operating systems that actually do not fit the needs of the countries and of the people we operate in. So safety is our first priority and our first concern, but we have to consider the whole sociopolitical equity of what we put on the market, and more and more ASME volunteers are cognizant of this fact. More and more industries are becoming socially responsible and taking into concern and consideration the whole concept and all aspects of the whole cycle. Building public trust is a huge challenge for us as engineers, a huge challenge for us as regulators, a huge challenge for us as an organization, and that goes everywhere and for all the products that we do design, operate, and maintain.
Building public trust is very important, and engineers have to be conscious that if they lose public trust, it becomes very, very difficult to regain it, and we have to make sure that we preempt the loss of public trust. When we have a huge accomplishment, people say it is a “scientific breakthrough;” but when there is a failure or when there is an accident, it's always labeled as an “engineering failure.” We don't always get on the right side of the equation. And I think we should be taking responsibility for this fact, because we have not been promoting our success stories or sharing what we accomplish, and people don't realize how much we bring into it. We have to be better communicators. We have to promote our successes, and celebrate our successes, not only dwell on our failures. We have to learn from our mistakes and improve on them, but we also should be promoting our successes and celebrating them with the public.
Global Trends: Where We Are Now
Our position is that we want to make sure we provide the public (who are our customers and our major stakeholders) with choices, and we want all of the choices to be available for people all over the world, and it will be up to them to make the choice that's most appropriate for them. No matter which form of energy we produce or promote, we want to make it safe and reliable energy. Our standards now are touching many different aspects, so we cannot ignore and forget about coal-fired boilers. We are into oil production or oil fuel, LNG, refined products, nuclear, solar, wind-powered. I think there should be no limit or closed doors on any source of energy, because people should have the choice of making the appropriate choice for themselves. And we want to make sure that we are not getting into the commercial side of it -- that not one energy is better or more appropriate than another, because there is not a single one that we can use all over the world and in a safe and reliable manner if we ignore all the other ones.
So our focus is having choices and giving people choices, and making things safe and reliable. ASME standards and certification programs that are offered in a more international concept is a huge contributor to that. The National Board third-party inspection and qualified inspections contributes to the safety construct, and it's an integral part of the boiler and pressure vessel certification that we offer. Wherever we go and whatever we grow, whichever new country we break into it, the system is provided as an integral part of the ASME system. We say it's important that there has to be a third-party oversight, and it has to be documented, it has to be credible, it has to be recognized. But as we are in the ASME stamping system, the only one that's an integral part of it is National Board inspection. And we are all taking part of it as North American jurisdictions and more on the global side of it in making it better, making it stronger and making it also more available to industry.
In 1972, certification was offered internationally as part of the consent decree. National Board and ASME were in it together. When the consent decree started being offered to certificate holders, ASME certificates and certificate holders started to become more global and more international. And that has led us to where we are today. Between the years 2000 and 2002, ASME's standards and certification went digital with the introduction of C&S Connect and online balloting and tracking.
The year 2001 was a highlight for us because it was the year when the piping standard, B-31.3, which is the process piping code, was referred in an ISO piping standard. We became an international reference. And I will be touching a bit about what's international codes and standards and what is not international, because throughout the years there was a bit of a philosophical dialogue on what is considered an international standard or not.
In 2007, ISO TC-11 Standard 16528 on boilers and pressure vessels code was published, and the ASME standards were referenced into it. And 2014 is the largest program of our history where we have 7,000 certified companies in over 75 countries. Again, thank you to all of you for the hard effort.
ASME has moved now to a single mark from our previous 30 ASME product certification marks. Some of the changes that we went through did not happen overnight and were difficult to accomplish, and the reason why we went this way is actually to make sure that the ASME certification mark is protected. The intellectual property and the challenges of protecting the marks when we are operating in a global environment is always very different than when we are operating in some few countries where we know exactly how things work and how things are managed.
Many things happened in response to globalization and to our success -- it was our success that brought challenges with it. And I think it's great to have some challenges, because our programs have become much more successful than they were and much more recognized and used all over the world. Again, how do we look today from the international perspective? I mentioned the figures and where we are and where our codes and standards are recognized, but I think it's worth mentioning that our standards are now available and being translated and used in many native languages. They are available in Chinese. Some of the codes are available in French. They are translated to Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese. And if I have a crystal ball, I can only expect that the list is going to get longer and longer. I think with this brings a lot of possibilities for our users around the world, but also brings with it some challenges in wanting to make sure that the translation is properly done, that the technical content and the technical expertise and the quality of what we develop is not lost anywhere, but then at the same time we want to make sure that it's available to people wherever they are in their own native language to the extent possible.
We have a growing portfolio of Spanish-language key standards -- not only in the boiler and pressure vessels and pipelines, but also the elevators and some other ones. We have accomplished and reached recognition in local regulations or national regulations in countries such as India, Nigeria, South Africa, and Colombia. And again, I only expect the list to get longer and longer as we go.
ASME codes and standards are used as references in many ISO standards. The international working groups are actually working wonders for us. We have international working groups that are contributing to our code development in China, South Korea, India, and Europe. And in nuclear we have some that are happening in many countries, and many of them are also contributing and working in the piping code. This would not have been possible or even imaginable just 20 years ago, even 10 or 15 years ago. Today we have people contributing to the code development cycle and the ability to bring to the table their own concerns and their own needs that will make our code work for them.
There was always a debate about ISO standards and ICC standards and being the only venue that was available to develop an international standard, but actually the World Trade Organization proved to us what we always claimed as ASME standards being internationally-recognized standards, and that's because of many reasons that we have and we have built into our system. We have a transparent system, we have an open system, we have an impartial and consensus process by which we agree and we develop the requirements. We always check and validate the effectiveness and relevance of the requirements that we have. We have a coherent process, and we have a development dimension in which many people can bring and contribute into it.
The World Trade Organization proved us right in what we do. And I think that's also building into more of our success and our being able to break into many countries that we never sought years ago -- and I'm not even going to say a century ago that it was going to be possible for us to impregnate these closed markets that have become more open because of our system that is open. So it has been confirmed, and this is good news. The challenge of working in a global open system is that we have to be facing, adjusting, and adapting to it, and we have to make sure that everyone is treated as proper contributors depending on how they bring into the system. We benefit as much from our openness and our possibility of having input from the international community, as they benefit for using the end products of what we publish and make available to them.
Where are we today with the global priorities and strategic priorities of ASME?
The Board of Governors of ASME adopted and developed a few years ago three strategic initiatives and they touch on every aspect of where we are, where we came from, and where we want to be. These three strategic initiatives are: having a global impact, having workforce development, a focus on energy. This strategic initiative serves us well and ensures us that we are going to have a better future. So with conformity assessment programs that are being offered, we have the global growth and new certification programs, and we are ensuring the global impact of our products around the world.
With energy, we have been developing and working on new technologies, introducing, modernizing our codes and standards, and covering things like solar boilers and some of the other technologies. We are working on it and have always been open to introducing new items and bringing the proper expertise around the table. Training is part of what we do, and we know that if you don't have a proper workforce, we are not going to be able to have the next generation of code committees, the next generation of boiler inspectors, and the next generation of chief inspector, of jurisdiction, insurance inspection, designers, or NDEs. So we cover the whole cycle with workforce development. And workforce development starts at the very early age, and that's what we are trying to do.
We want to bring into the public more recognition of the importance of STEM education and how we are building future generations of people who are going to be replacing us and following for many years to come. We are developing and working on bringing emerging technologies, whether it's on energy assessment, hydrogen infrastructure, solar-powered plants, concentrated solar power, nuclear generation and small modular reactors, and plant performance with carbon capture. So again we are covering everything, we are not just focusing on one item and ignoring the other. And whenever needed, we are bringing in new expertise to the table and to the code committees.
We have challenges among us, and we cannot solve all the challenges just by having proper technical requirements. We have the challenges of making sure that we provide people with clean water and sanitation. We have the problem of having more complex cities and megacities and all the dynamics and having a reliable grid to get the proper energy. Even if it's produced in a clean and reliable way, we want to make sure that the transition system and the grid is also reliable. So in everything we do, because of the system itself and the complexity of the work that's becoming more complex, we have to become smarter and make sure that we are offering the right products that caters and addresses the needs of the people wherever they are.
We are a diverse community. I was born in Egypt, I moved to Canada, and I got involved with not only the Province of Quebec, but with the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors, with the ASME Technical Committee, and in 2014, 40 years after I came to Canada, here I am, the ASME President, and I take a lot of pride in it and I use myself as a living example. But if you look around you or go into any technical committee, look for diversity, and you will see it there. And diversity is not only diversity of culture or diversity of gender or diversity of color. I think the wealth and richness that we can get from diversity makes us bigger and stronger. So go out there and mentor people and bring them in. Welcome diversity, because diversity brings a wealth of ideas and a wealth of discussion.