Luca Costa, Chief Executive Officer, IIW


“Italy is considered as the second country per welding applications in Europe, after Germany.”

 Luca Costa,
Chief Executive Officer,
IIW – International Institute of Welding,
Genova – Italy

Could you brief us about yourself? What made you choose welding as a career?

I was born I 1973. I graduated as a mechanical engineer at the University of Genoa, with a graduation thesis on welding and preheat. After a year of service with the Italian Navy, I started working at IIS (the Italian Institute of Welding) as a teacher and researcher, but also gathered experiences in the industrial metalworking sector. I also offered courses at university. In 2013 I received the responsibility for the training department of the company, kept until the end of 2019.

In parallel to this activity, I thoroughly served as the Italian delegate to many technical working units and committees of IIW, and chaired the commission “Health, safety and Environment” for 8 years. In 2011 I entered the Board of Directors of the IIW, serving as IIW vice President (2011-2014), chairman of the IIW Technical Management Board (2014-17) and IIW Treasurer (2017-2019).

In 2019, I applied for the position of CEO and was selected to start on 01/01/2020. Basically, all my professional life has been devoted to welding industry, training and research. This has been inspired by my father, as he was in the welding sector as well, and mostly driven by may participation at IIW. I knew about welding since I was born; at IIS and I realised the importance of the technology, but with IIW my interest on the scientific grew to a real passion.

Since you hold a vast experience in the field of Welding, can you share some of the interesting learning’s so far?

The major learning about welding is that you’ll never understand enough. It is a wide area of technology, and still not all the relevant aspects have been well understood, specifically if considered in the continuously and fastly evolving scenarios we live. Materials, specifications, standards and designer expectations are always changing and becoming more challenging. In other words, you’ll never be bored by welding.

Another point I can share from my experience with industry is that every situation is different, and that there is no standard solution or recipe to a problem. I saw manufacturers approaching same problems in many different ways, the most of them being successful. The application of welding technology offers many possibilities and parameters that allow different valid solutions.

Involvement and awareness of the management are essential elements of industrial success. The major failures I saw were due to underestimation of the importance of welding by the management. The most successes, were always shared with decision makers that understood and allocated appropriate resources.

However, the most important lesson I learned is the importance of education and training. Given the complexity of the technology, the variety of solutions to problems, and the multitude of applicable parameters, one should be well trained to understand the consequence of any decision taken. In my involvement in the IIW training for welding Coordination personnel, the most fantastic gratification I could receive was from thousands of students thanking not for having found a solution to their manufacturing issues, but for having allowed them to find the solution by themselves.

Finally, like for any other career, everyone should be so lucky to make their passion their job. I deal with welding and work for IIW, and I consider myself as very lucky.

You are currently the CEO of the International Institute of Welding. What type of projects have you worked upon so far? What are your upcoming plans for the betterment of the institute?

I started my activities as CEO of IIW in 2020. A part from the ordinary business, I was selected to bring into action the IIW strategic Plan 2018-2023. The plan is focussed on the IIW Vision” To advance welding and joining through a worldwide network”, and mission “The leading global community linking industry, research and education to the advancement of welding and joining for a safer and sustainable world”. As the IIW is already recognised as the international forum for exchange of knowledge in the field of welding and associate processes, I had to concentrate on improving the delivery of services for our members and, mostly, on marketing IIW to industry, with a special focus on multinational companies aimed at getting the IIW recognised as the best international provider of certification and best practices, to ensure the highest standards for all welding projects with global scope and impact. Unfortunately, this activity has been almost sopped in the early stages of the pandemic, and has just restarted.

The major project I faced was the digital transformation of the IIW activities and mostly the events. Despite cultural and technological barriers, the IIW hosted the IIW annual Assembly online in 2020 and 2021. This is the major annual event for the welding community, when participants in the range 600 to 1000 meet every year in a different place of the world to share experiences, develop best practices and exchange knowledge. By selecting the appropriate tools and adapting the approach to online meetings, IIW had two very successful events, with technical production and interaction amongst participants almost to standards.

In the future, hopefully the IIW will turn back to face to face events, but will also consider in parallel hybrid and online meetings. The plan is to use technology to increase participation.

As a part of the IIW Strategy, IIW is concentrated on industrial involvement, as we need to increase the input from global industry to produce deliverables which may improve their manufacturing abilities.

Finally, the impact of emerging countries in the operation of the Institute should be increased. We have plans to raise the level of services to our members and to help and support the development of national welding capabilities.

Can you please discuss with us more on the role of International Institute of Welding for the upliftment of welding industry?

This is mostly focused on two aspects.

We need the industry input to direct our efforts. This year the IIW is building an advisory council, that will support the IIW Board of Directors in defining were the efforts of the association need to be directed. The council is populated by different stakeholders, and industry representatives are an essential part of it.

IIW Is active in the delivery of best practices and certification for industrial uses. These are in form of ISO standards, IIW guidelines for the education training qualification and certification, IIW Recommended practices and Position statements. The welding industry is using these since IIW was founded. Common examples are the IWE diploma, the Carbon Equivalent Formula, the IIW criteria for the fatigue design of welded components, the calibration blocks for Ultrasonic testing, the ISO standards on qualification of consumables for arc welding, and the full list could fill at least a page of your review.

 The institute is constantly working to develop the qualification and certification system. Elaborate.

In 1999, the IIW International Authorization Board was created to develop the International system for the qualification of welding personnel. Since then, many IIW guidelines were developed and updated. Three main lines of development are identified.

Technology is evolving and the training curricula and examinations need to be up-to date to include this evolution. The IIW is in the most favorable position, advantaged by being the reference community of researchers and industrial representatives.

Harmonization is another area of development. The system is based on criteria for the training and examination bodies that include the training curricula and requirements for trainers, training centers, examiners and exams. A process is undergoing on the latter, to ensure that the exams are exactly the same in all the countries of the system, even if translated into national languages.

Last but not least, continuous efforts are taken to ensure that the IIW qualification and certification is consistent with the industrial needs. This may result in adapting the guidelines or in the development of new products. In this respect, the most recent product to be made available is the IIW Welding Inspector Certification program, highly demanded by industry and to which the IIW is assigning a lot of energy.

What type of international standards for welding quality management are been practiced in Italy?

Since many years, Italy abandoned national standard to move to European/ISO Standards. In this respect ISO 3834 is the standard I would cite as the main reference for welding fabrication activities. A huge amount of the welded products produced in Italy and delivered to Europe shall comply to EU directives and shall comply with ISO 3834 requirements. Nevertheless, some industrial sectors still don’t have to comply with directives, such as shipbuilding, automotive, machinery, and aerospace. These generally refer to other standards or customers specifications.

Nevertheless, Italy may be rated as the second manufacturer of welded products in Europe, and many of these products are delivered outside Europe and shall comply with US standards (ASME, AWS or API codes and standards).

IIW’s role towards Welders Skill Development?

IIW well recognizes the essential role of welders in industry and their importance for the welding manufacturers. As already stated, one oftheactivities IIW is concentrated on is creating welding awareness. Recognizing the importance of welding and of the welder role is essential for the wellbeing of industry, and for welders.

IIW developed guidelines for training and qualification of welders that are well exceeding the requirements set by ISO, AWS, ASME or any other standard adopted nationally printer nationally. As the role of standards is to have qualifications guaranteeing a minimum of skills, the IIW program is aimed at training individuals to be good welders. Those who have experience with welding and welders, can definitely recognize the difference between a qualified welder and a good welder, as the first is performing the assigned tasks, and the second is capable of solving manufacturing problems.

Another area is on the use of digital training of welders. As technology is improving and costs are decreasing, virtual welding simulators are becoming the most sustainable training tool in the future, but only if properly approached by teachers and students. IIW keeps an eye on the sector and may consider developing protocols on virtual training of welder in the future.

You are currently chairing the Italian Standardization Committee on Welding. Please elaborate on your role, and projects your have worked upon so far.

I have been appointed as Chair in last May, therefore there are no major project I can report. Nevertheless, the committee may soon be consider expanding his range of activities form welding to permanent joining, to include brazing and adhesive bonding. Users of this technologies are commonly used to welding standards and are requiring the national standardization body of Italy to develop guidance for these fields, to approach these two manufacturing processes similarly to welding.

What is the committee’s goal towards Welding?

The goal has been changing through the years. Currently, the main goal is to provide International Committees (ISO and CEN) with a view of the Italian stakeholders and corresponding the national position.

You are deeply involved in the Research and Development in Welding. Could you brief us on latest developments? Also share details on some of the past projects?

IIW published a document titled “IIW White paper – improving the global quality of life through optimum and innovation of Welding and joining Technologies”, delivered in 2012 under the authorship of IIW and edited by Mr. Chris Smallbone and Dr Mustapha Koçak. The book describes strategic challenges and agendas for the welding industries, personnel, scientists, and end-users through the years 2012 to 2021. The content is visionary, and the time span can be further extended onwards. It is available for download on the IIW site. I also recently published an article on a national welding review titled “IIW: assisting industry in following the key trends in Welding and Allied Processes”. The scope is to expand the IIW white paper into those areas which came up in the few last years. The main area of development are;

  • Efficient design of welded structures
  • New, high-performance materials
  • Modern welding technologies and manufacturing processes
  • Welding personnel to meet industrial needs in a global market
  • Healthier and Safer welding environment
  • Modern communication

Your activities in the field of welding started from the year 2000. Can you brief us on your journey so far?

As already stated, my journey in welding started when I was born. My father was employed at IIS, and I heard talking about welding since then. What I realized afterward was a milestone in my career was the first time I attended the IIW Annual Assembly in my life, but in the role of accompanying person. It was in 1985 in Strasbourg (France) and I was 12 years old. When I started working with IIS, I was asked to attend the Assembly in Florence, Italy and it was the year 2000. I always felt enthusiastic of attending the event, as the best opportunity to contribute to the development of welding globally, but also to meet with my “International Friends”. Since then, my IIW journey started with attendance to Commission VIII “health and Safety” and the International Authorization Board. Through these year, I entertained professionals relationships with welding representatives in all continents. My passion and enthusiasm drove me to my current position.

What is your say on the quality, environment, health and safety in Welding?

I would reinforce the concept I already expressed with the major lesson learned. Transversal knowledge and competence is the key. Welders, welding leaders, decision makers need welding awareness, each at the appropriate level. This allows manufacturers need to realize all the aspects related with welding and take the necessary actions. These does not exclude health, safety, and environment experts, which should be aware of welding technologies and practices at their level.

Through proper qualifications this process becomes easy.

What welding safety measures are considered in Italy?

Being Italy a member of the European union, the requirements are driven by the European Directives. The general approach is to carry out a risk analysis, taking corrective action whenever the level of risk is considered too high. Unfortunately, there are not welding-specific scenarios available at the European level, and national or local requirements apply.

The result of the process is that every welder should wear appropriate PPE and fume extraction is required in almost all cases where there is not enough general ventilation. In addition, periodical assessment of biomarkers may apply, depending on welding conditions. In Italy welding is considered a safe job, but vary heavy to be performed. As automation is growing, risks are diminishing and attractiveness of the career is increasing.

Can you describe on the welding market scenario in Italy?

Italy is considered as the second country per welding applications in Europe, after Germany. Up to the ‘80s, the internal market was very strong due to the need of infrastructures and industrial installations. Since then, the internal demand diminished, but the experience gathered helped Italian manufacturers to access the international market. Nowadays, the majority of the production has an international customer as final destination.

Through years, the welding technologies have changed. Automation, real time monitoring, high productivity processes are used more and more widely. Therefore, many of the professional schools for welders closed, to the extent that welders demand is higher than offer. This brought to the employment of workload from other countries, commonly the eastern Europeans. Given the rise of interest associated with the increase of automated applications, we are possibly assisting to a change in the trend. 

What is the country’s effort towards encouraging welding as a career?

Unfortunately, there is not any governmental campaigns to encourage welding as a career at view. However, in my former experience at IIS in the training department, I never met an International Welding Engineer or and International Welding Technologist that was unemployed, and I trained thousands of these. Similarly with welders, there is a high demand from the market, but further efforts should be taken to generate ‘welding awareness’ at the institutional level.

Luckily, Industry well understood the importance of qualifications, and supports specific actions. I have examples of organization sponsoring post-graduate University Masters on welding coordination, an example that I would love to see repeated in every country of the IIW network.

What new technologies have been introduced in Italy, especially when welding is concern?

As already mentioned, automation is an area of major investment. To answer the question in a few words, I would underline Robotic applications, advanced NDT andon-line monitoring systems, and remote management of procedures. As an aside aspect, remote training and distance learning are also emerging approaches, fostered by the necessity to keeping on feeding industry with qualified workforce during the pandemic.

To the above, I would also add Metal Additive Manufacturing. A lot of research is devoted to the subject and the industrial applications are growing. Time will say how much this technology will be able to replace conventional manufacturing applications.

 What major challenges do the welding industry faces in Italy and globally? What can be the ways to resolve the same?

The case of Italy can be considered as an example of what happens in more industrialized countries. Welding is a special process, and requires good competence. The threat from countries with low-cost workforce is limited, as welding requires highly qualified skills, and these have a cost. In the case of welding, globalization may be interpreted in the good sense of pushing countries under development in acquiring the competence needed to efficiently manufacture welded products.

However, there is a risk associated with purchasers not recognizing the value of welding, and this brings to two main challenges. The first is to let the tools to raise the competence levels be readily available worldwide. Industry has to recognize the need and choose the most appropriate reference to bring real added value. The risk here is the huge amount of qualifications available in the market, both nationally and internationally. IIW and its members are the reference organizations in the world, and are obliged by their statutory role to support industry at best in finding the most appropriate references.

The second challenge is on specifications. These may not properly define welding related requirements, allowing access to poor manufacturing practices and, again, not proper recognition of good manufacturing practices. Once more, given the role of the IIW as developer of international best practices, purchasers are encouraged to contact IIW and its members to seek for assistance.

Closing note?

Everyone is welcome in the IIW family, through accessing the IIW network and its members (the Indian Institute of Welding – IIW India) and contribute to the IIW Mission and Vision, taking benefits both personally and to the employer.

IIW is the best International provider of certification and best practices, to ensure the highest standards for all welding projects with global scope and impact.