A. De Grande, N. Smetniansky-De Grande, B. García and A. Etchegoyen


The Pierre Auger Project ( is an international endeavour to design, construct and operate two giant ultra high energy cosmic ray detectors in Southern and Northern Hemispheres (Refs.1, 2). The two detectors, to be located in Argentina and the Unites States, will operate as a single instrument: the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory with the goal of detecting fluxes of cosmic rays greater than 1019 eV. The existence of these extraordinarily energetic cosmic rays is a puzzle, the solution of which must lead to new discoveries in astrophysics, fundamental physics, or both.

The Auger Observatory is a hybrid detector: a surface detector array and a set of fluorescence detectors, being the first one of interest for the present work.

The first stage of the project is the construction of the Southern Observatory in Malargüe, province of Mendoza, Argentina, which is in progress and which will be briefly described in below.

The surface detector array consists of 1600 detectors covering an area of 3000 km2. The basic feature of a surface detector is a rotomolded polyethylene tank, which holds 12000 liters of purified water contained in a liner, and as such liners are a critical component of the system.

Liners are cylindrical bags of 3.60 m in diameter and 1.20 m height. They are made of Tyvek® (Tyvek is a DuPont Trade Mark) fibrous polyolefin sheets laminated with black low-density polyethylene films. Liners must be completely opaque in order to both prevent any small amounts of light from entering the tank, and any contamination from entering the water volume, for a period of approximately 20 years.

Liners were designed at the Colorado State University (CSU) in USA (Ref.3) and the first pre-production liners were manufactured at CSU. Afterwards, a private supplier manufactured liners in Mendoza, Argentina. When pre-production finished, the Argentinian groups within the Auger Collaboration, took charge of liners manufacture and decided to identify more suppliers for the production stage in Argentina. Two private suppliers were carefully evaluated and compared to the alternative option of mounting an ad-hoc facility at the National Technological University (UTN) in Mendoza. We performed a bidding among them and the UTN bidding was the best from both the point of view of the technical training involved to advanced University students to be in charge of production, and from the economical standpoint. In short, UTN was selected for liners fabrication on a production-scale.

The liners project includes: the building construction, with adequate infrastructure and equipment, the manufacture and testing of liners and their delivery and transport to the Observatory in Malargüe.

All these processes must comply with the technical and Quality Assurance (QA) requirements established by the Auger Project. The technical requirements for liners manufacture were established by CSU and constitute the bases for the infrastructure, the manufacture and the testing processes.


The aim of the liners project is to manufacture 1500 liners over a period of two years, strictly following technical and Quality Assurance requirements.

In order to achieve it, we decided to implement a Quality Management System (QMS) on the basis of the Standard ISO 9001:2000, establishing for the project a quality policy and associated objectives.

The policy consists in establishing and maintaining a QMS in order to obtain the customer satisfaction, with increasing process efficiency and as a tool to ensure continuous improvement. We have only one customer: the Pierre Auger Observatory in Malargüe.

At the beginning, all activities where performed by the Top Management, two physicists and one astronomer with a wide experience in research and development activities, together with a young engineer, as the future plant head, and a staff consultant in Quality Management Systems.

Since the liners plant technical requirements called for a Cleanroom Class 100000, such a room was built following the “U.S. Federal Standard 209 E”. Upon finishing construction, the cleanroom was successfully certified by an independent organisation in March 2003, in order to ensure its compliance with the above mentioned standard.

After the processes’ identification and their interactions, we defined the need of human resources to start production. We selected 14 engineering students to work daily shifts of four hours. We did it with an external consultant and based on the skill requirement for each task.

A training programme was defined with the idea that all personnel must be trained and qualified for his/her particular job function. This program included two plans:
  • A technical training plan, to ensure that an appropriate level of technical knowledge and skills were available, which means:
    • The training of the liners plant head, at CSU-USA
    • The training of the employees in UTN-Mendoza, Argentina; this training was in charge of native and foreign (CSU technical staff) experts
  • A QMS training plan, to ensure that all personnel in the plant knows the necessity of finding the root causes for any Nonconformity (NC) either solved with corrective actions (or prevented with preventive actions) and to eliminate these causes, so that the NC does not happen again (or it does not even occur).
Finally, before beginning with the production and during the validation process, we defined a quality plan for products and process. Products, process, production system and testing methods were validated to ensure that they were able to achieve the desired results.

We started the production process with a lot of work quite satisfactorily performed. In order to guide the production to continuous improvement, we continuously monitored it by means of:
  • Control plans for products and process
  • Control of documentation and records
  • Production and QMS indicators
  • Nonconformity treatment plans
  • A Plan of continuous improvement
The project assesses the effectiveness of the QMS by means of an Audit Plan. Three internal audits were performed during the first year of production, with satisfactory results.

The top management is actively involved from the beginning and performs a close monitoring of all activities.

In order to consolidate the quality management system, we decided to ask for a third-party audit with an external organisation to certify it. The certification was performed by IRAM-IQNet on October 29, 2004 confirming the level of maturity of the organisation’s quality culture, and the maturity of the QMS with respect to the requirements of ISO 9001:2000.


Concerning the lot of benefits we obtained with the implementation of the QMS, according to the Standard ISO 9001:2000, we consider the following items as the most remarkable ones:

a) Both a close follow-up of productivity indicators and a team work by top management, plant head and all employees allowed to obtain a great improvement in productivity effectiveness, as shown in figure 1.

Figure 1 represents the daily mean liners produced per month. We see the non-stability of daily production during the first production year and the increasing production tendency afterwards. As a consequence, during the first year the total production values were quite below the planned ones. The increasing production from May 2004 onwards, and the engagement of the personnel with the continuous improvement will allow us to fulfill our commitment with the Observatory of finishing the production of 1500 liners in time.

Fig. 1. Liners mean daily production per month

b) Monitoring both performing and testing results we identified the need of doing a repetitively and reproducibility study. A retraining on testing techniques was implemented and the result was an improvement of failure detection capability and a validation of testing techniques.

c) A systematic training in the procedure of completing records allowed us to guarantee liners traceability, which is one of the most important requirements from our client, the Pierre Auger Observatory.

d) Working with a system allowed us to have a very low scrap level.

e) The students working in the plant are continuously suggesting improvement opportunities in their jobs and are actively contributing with the study of root causes for all Nonconformities.

f) The development and implementation of the QMS in the project allowed us to adjust objectives and to determine different indicators to find the most adequate ones to follow production evolution.

g) The certification audit performed by IRAM was a remarkable “value added audit” for all of us: the management and the students working team, which is not a typical production team.


The seamless relation between top management and production personnel, together with a fluid communication with our customer, and the implementation of the QMS allowed us to reach August 2004 with clear objectives according to our quality policy and to the performance of each one of the processes identified in the quality management system.

A plant head and 14 University students have had the opportunity to learn working in the frame of a QMS defined at the very beginning of the production process, being all of them highly involved in the quality culture of the organisation. In May 2004, two extra students joined the team as back-ups.

Finally, it is worthwhile remarking that the top management continuously follows the whole production process by means of ad-hoc tailored indicators, maintaining it under control and using the results to identify possibilities of continuous improvement.

In brief, the implementation and maintenance of a management system fulfilling the ISO 9001:2000 standard has proved to be an astonishingly useful tool to guide the production of our liners plant.


1. “The Pierre Auger Observatory Design Report”, Second Edition. The Auger Collaboration, 14 March 1997

2. “Properties and Performance of the Prototype Instrument for the Pierre Auger Observatory”. The Auger Collaboration: J. Abraham et al. Nuclear Instruments and Methods A523 (2004) 50-95

3. "Installation and Commissioning of the Liner Fabrication Facility at UTN-Mendoza", B. Civit, A. Etchegoyen, B. García, N. Smetniansky-De Grande, D. Warner, I. Allekotte, and A. De Grande, GAP-2003-065

Success of Argentinian Liners Production, Pierre Auger Observatory

Project group of the Pierre Auger Observatory