Typically a welding or production supervisor introduces the idea of gathering electronic weld data to top management. These individuals, along with the welding operators, are most closely engaged in the welding process. Therefore, they can speak to the need for the technology; the key is to speak in the right language.
Among top management, the justification for adding any new technology comes down to the expense and the potential return on investment (ROI) — after all, they need to operate a profitable and competitive business. Help top management understand the payback of this technology through a trial run. With the assistance of a welding equipment manufacturer, conduct a brief trial or pilot test that enables the business to identify opportunities for improvement, as well as conduct an assessment of their internal network and infrastructure to determine the proper IT support for the technology (e.g. wireless coverage or wired Ethernet connections needed on the shop floor).
During the trial, focus on the most relevant factors to monitor and share with top management in order to secure buy-in with successful proof-of-concept results. Consider the history of the welding operation and problematic issues that have been encountered. For example, has the company had liability claims due to missed welds? Encountered workflow challenges or arc-on productivity concerns? Whichever the case, monitoring the appropriate information illustrates the best way to maximize ROI and improve the welding operation.
Provide progress reports throughout the trial to further secure top management commitment and reinforce the benefit of the system.
Do identify an internal project champion
After a company decides to invest in the technology, choose an internal project champion. This person is the backbone of the project, serving as a liaison to work with both top management and the welding operators. Welding or plant supervisors are strong candidates for the job. They should be encouraged to create a cross-functional team dedicated to assessing the weld data, discussing potential modifications to the welding operation and executing those changes.
The internal project champion can also help generate interest and acceptance of the new technology on the plant floor by educating welding operators of the benefits. Since welding operators play such a vital role in the day-to-day welding process, securing their participation when making any changes is imperative. In some cases, it may be necessary to engage the welding operators in additional training to gain the best results.
Ultimately, the internal project champion’s goal is to identify and address the opportunities revealed by the welding information solution. He or she holds the responsibility and authority to drive the process of continuous improvement and deliver results.
Do have a clear plan of attack
Generate a baseline for improvement as a first step when implementing a welding information management system. Doing so helps establish expectations for success. The baseline can include an assessment of current arc-on time and deposition rates, as well as part cycle time and weld quality defects. From this baseline, the company can determine goals for improvements.
Moving forward from the baseline, stakeholders should use the available information to monitor trends and challenge status quo. For example:
- Where is the company compared to the baseline after a given period of time?
- How can the company use insight from the weld data to make improvements?
- What procedural changes will help increase productivity or achieve better quality?
- How can the company improve operations upstream or downstream from the welding cell?
Commit enough resources to the process and take a disciplined approach to the plan. Make sure there are enough people to help implement and sustain the improvements made visible by the welding information. Additionally, focus on logistics to further ensure success, such as establishing the appropriate network capabilities so there is minimal downtime for troubleshooting IT issues. There should also be a plan for the frequency of data review and reporting, and improvement progress.
Do share in the results with all stakeholders
The success of these systems is the result of collaboration among all stakeholders. Keep everyone involved apprised of the information being monitored, and the improvements being targeted and achieved. Encourage ongoing involvement and partnership to work toward and reach operation goals.
The data shared with stakeholders and the changes being made in the welding operation will vary accordingly to the audience. Top management will likely want to focus on the cost-saving element of the systems; they want to understand how changes generate a positive ROI and drive better profitability. Welding supervisors and welding operators should be made aware of the results of changes on the plant floor, including the successes, as well as ongoing challenges.