In our last post we talked about the design approval process and the role of the DAPIA in the Manufactured Housing Program. Today we should talk about the inspection process, and the role of the IPIA.
The term “IPIA” stands for “Production Inspection Agency”. Simply put, the role of the IPIA is to determine if the manufacturer is capable of following their quality control procedures (which were approved by the DAPIA), and then to provide on-going surveillance of the production process.
There are currently 13 IPIAs authorized by HUD. Five private agencies: HWC, NTA, PFS, RADCO & TRA, and the eight states that operate as IPIAs for factories in their respective states. The state IPIA agencies are: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington.
Before we start talking about the inspection of manufactured housing, we all need to understand that the primary responsibility to conduct inspections belongs to the manufacturer! It is the manufacturer that “certifies” that the homes they produce comply with all applicable standards. Their quality control process requires that every step along the production process be inspected by their own people, and they document these inspections on their quality checklist. At the last stage of production, the manufacturer performs electrical, plumbing and fuel line testing and attaches the certification label. Post production, the manufacturer must review all the information they received in order to evaluate if their homes are performing as required by the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards.
Now, the IPIA is responsible for determining if the manufacturer is capable of following their quality control processes so they can build manufactured homes that meet the standards, and providing on-going production surveillance to assure they continue producing complaint homes. Basically, IPIAs are keeping watch to be sure the manufacturer carries out the inspections that are outlined in the quality process.
Typically, the IPIA inspector will inspect each manufactured home one time during its production process. So, depending on the size of the facility and the number of homes being produced, an IPIA inspector may only visit a plant once every few weeks, every couple of days, or if needed, every day.
Just as the manufacturer documents their internal inspections on the checklist, the IPIA maintains detailed records as well. They document every problem they find in every home being produced, as well as the steps the manufacturer takes to correct these problems, including the source of each breakdown in the quality process. If the IPIA finds too many problems in a particular area of the plant, they can increase inspections until things improve.
The IPIA also looks over the manufacturer’s service records to make sure the manufacturer is performing the proper analysis of information received from outside sources. Not just customers, but also installers and retailers as well! That is why it is so important that you report any problems you encounter back to the manufacturer for handling.
Just as they do with the DAPIA’s, HUD also evaluates the performance of the IPIA’s. Using a contractor, teams of auditors go into each factory to see if the IPIA is providing proper oversight. HUD then generates a performance review, and provides recommendations if the IPIA is under performing.
Anytime you want to know who the IPIA is at a particular factory, take a look at the label on the home. The first three letters stamped into the label are an abbreviation for the IPIA operating at that plant.
I personally believe that the manufactured housing inspection process is pretty good and just as effective as the inspection process for site-built housing. Most states require a very similar process for their state labeled modular homes.
But I do believe that there is one area in need of improvement that directly impacts manufactured home professional installers. HUD does not require that the IPIA inspect the materials and documents that are shipped loose in the home. In my opinion, this has made things more difficult for not only the retailers and installers, but ultimately for consumers. As you know, often missing materials or conflicting information can be supplied with the home. With that mind, you must be certain to report any and all problems you encounter with ship-loose materials and documents.
Ok…hopefully this post and the previous post can help you better understand how manufactured home production is regulated. There are processes in place for review of construction designs, quality procedures, and to oversee the inspection process on every manufactured home before being released from the factory.
But the most important steps to assure that every new manufactured home will be safe, durable, high quality and affordable must be taken by you! As the professional manufactured home installer, it is your responsibility to follow the installation instructions for every home being installed and provide feedback to the manufacturer for problems that you may find.