Roughly 75 percent of the Phoenix-based company’s business lies in the on-site maintenance and repair of mining equipment servicing the Western United States (California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico), with the remainder focused on heavy highway applications and fabrication in the private housing (subdivision) sector. Future plans for the company include establishing a new fabrication division for work on Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) structures and handrails, as well as bringing larger equipment in-house for rebuilds.
According to Kenny Bartee, president of Bar T Equipment Service, Inc., the company’s growth during a difficult time — and its continued growth — comes down to a simple standard: quality.
“The quality of our work. That’s the biggest way that we’ve gained customers and grown,” says Bartee. “We’re always there for our customers, putting our customers’ time as a priority. When they need us to be somewhere, we move, get the job done and get out.”
Achieving that quality and meeting its customers’ deadlines for equipment repair and maintenance has become, in part, a matter of simply finding the right welding equipment for the job. To meet the demand, the company invested in inverter and welder/generator technology from Miller Electric Mfg. Co., a decision that Bartee says has given him and his staff of 22 welding operators the versatility and durability they couldn’t find with competitive machines.
Facing the challenges of the industry
Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. focuses the bulk of its work on the maintenance and repair of mining equipment, most of which is on-site in desert mining quarries where the temperature can soar to extremes in the summer months. In this environment, the welding operators not only have to protect themselves from exhaustion, but they also need welding equipment that can withstand the heat. Downtime is not an option if the company is to get its customers’ equipment back up and running quickly.
Working closely with its customers, Bartee’s company has set up preventive maintenance (PM) programs to minimize unscheduled downtime in the field. These PM programs primarily address the abrasive wear experienced by haul trucks, the maintenance and repair of dippers on the large electric mining shovels, and the build-up of worn dragline buckets by way of abrasion-resistant (AR) plates or hardfacing.
“The ground in some of the mines we work in (particularly in Northern Arizona) is very abrasive. There’s some volcanic rock on top and it’s very damaging to truck beds and equipment,” explains Bartee.
Reliable, durable power
To complete its on-site mining equipment maintenance and repair (including welding overlays of abrasion resistant (AR) plate and/or hardfacing on buckets, draglines and dippers), Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. requires equipment that provides high-amperage welding and carbon arc gouging capabilities, along with consistent generator power. They found that in their Big Blue® Air Pak™ welder/generators. The Big Blue Air Pak offers the following capabilities:
- AC/DC Stick (SMAW)
- MIG (GMAW)
- Flux Cored (FCAW)
- DC TIG (DC GTAW)
- Stud Welding
- Air Carbon Arc (CAC-A) through 1/2" carbons
- Air Plasma Cutting and Gouging (PAC)
- Battery Charging/Jump-Starting
- Air Compressor
- 20kW Power Generator
Watch this video: Improving Dragline Bucket Abrasion Resistance
The company also uses Big Blue 400 welder/generators for its standard mechanic trucks that already have an air compressor and don’t require a machine with that feature. The Big Blue 400 provides 400 amps of power at 36 volts and 100 percent duty cycle.
“We like both machines. The biggest thing about the Big Blue Air Pak, though, is the amperage that we need,” says Bartee. “We need 500, 600, 700 amps of power, especially when we are air arcing [carbon arc gouging] at our half-inch carbons. And there are some cases where we’ve gotten 3-inch-thick material we have to air arc. That’s where we like the Air Pak because it has 750-amp capability. So we can get a piece of 3/4-inch carbon air arc rod and really go to town with it. ”
According to Bartee, he tested a competitive brand of welder/generator against the performance of the Big Blue Air Pak Deluxe, running a test on two trucks based on durability, reliability and general usage.
“We found that the Miller has a better reliability factor and it has a higher welding output, which allows us to air arc at a higher rate,” Bartee explains. “The air compressors on these are 100 percent duty cycle at 60 cubic feet per minute (cfm) and we have never come to the point where we’ve run out of air. It’s always constant. It’s always there for us.”
Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. has come to rely on the air compressor capabilities of the Big Blue Air Pak Deluxe for other on-site jobs, too, such as operating large and small impact wrenches, and needle scalers.
Bartee says he feels like they can really rely on the machine’s welding capabilities, too, for everything from heavy Stick welding to hardfacing.
“The welding capabilities are great,” says Bartee. “The weld and the arc current are fabulous. That’s important in a job like ours, because it brings out the steadiness and the smoothness of the welds so we don’t have any weld failures.”
Clean generator power and fuel efficiency
Working in hot and dusty desert environments, the remoteness and the extreme weather can affect the generator capabilities of some welder/generators by causing fluctuations in power. According to Bartee, that’s not the case with the Big Blue Air Pak.
“When we’re cutting our liners and the such, we use a lot of Plasma Cutting because of its cleanliness and cost effectiveness,” Bartee explains. “ It’s the 240VAC three-phase capability the generators have in them that lets us do that.”
Bartee goes on to explain that the welding operators are also able to run grinders, hand tools and their XMT inverter power sources with the Big Blue Air Pak generator capabilities without trouble.
“I had a job where we were running 1/8-inch stick electrode, and because we didn’t need as much amperage, I was able to run an inverter and the welder at the same time. The generator on the welder was able to produce enough welding power and enough electrical power … even in the weather extremes we work in.”
The Big Blue Air Pak is rated at 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), with the Deluxe model Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. uses, offering 20,000 watts of three-phase and 12,000 single-phase continuous power.
“It’s clean generator power. We have not seen any fluctuation in power with that unit at all,” Bartee concludes.
One thing Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. has seen with the Big Blue Air Pak is fuel efficiency. According to Bartee, the welder/generator uses approximately 15 percent less fuel than competitive equipment they’ve tried. That cost savings, combined with the other features the company relies on, is leading Bartee to convert all 17 of his service trucks to the Big Blue Air Pak.
“The biggest thing with the larger fuel capacity that the Air Pak has is that I’m able to work a 12-hour shift and not have to stop in the middle or three-quarters of the way through my day to go get fuel. There’s a lot of times we’ll work two 12-hour shifts on a time constraint,” says Bartee. “Having to stop in the middle of the shift to go get fuel is a cost. It costs to have to pick it up and load it up. But if we’re doing it at the end of the shift, there’s no downtime.”
Bartee also added that he was not able to achieve such fuel savings with competitive units over 10- to 12-hour shifts.
When asked what he would tell other companies about the fuel efficiency and benefits of the Big Blue Air Pak, Bartee was happy to oblige.
“I’d invite anyone to come down and run one of my machines. I have a lot of faith in the products,” he says. “They’ve saved me time and money in fuel efficiency and just in the pure power they produce. The welding, the cleanness of the welds, the power that is available … there isn’t a whole lot that we can’t do with it.”
‘Bed on Wheels’ program sustained by inverter technology
As part of its PM services for customers, Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. has also established its “Bed on Wheels” program, a program designed to address the ongoing abuse that the bed liners in their customers’ 250-ton haul trucks experience, particularly those trucks in service 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the open pit copper mines in Arizona.
The company has come to rely on the versatility, energy efficiency and durability of the XMT® 350 CC/CV multi-process as the cornerstone of the program. Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. has equipped a trailer that includes a large generator and three to four of the XMT inverters, allowing them to travel on-site to its customers’ truck yards in order to complete the process of relining the truck beds. The biggest benefits of the multi-arc system are the significant fuel savings it brings compared to the company’s previous on-site trailer setups, as well as the ability to get their PM jobs done faster. Having the multi-arc setup also means that more welding operators can weld at the same time and complete repairs in less time for their customers.
The XMT 350 inverters offer 350 amps of power at 38 VDC and 60 percent duty cycle, which is more than enough power for the jobs at hand. The energy efficiency of the XMT also allows Bartee to run more units off the available input power, rather than having to add extra generators to power them.
The inverters also offer multi-process capabilities, including MIG, Stick, TIG and Flux-Cored welding, as well as Carbon Arc Gouging, allowing Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. to complete multiple tasks with multiple operators on one job, without switching machines.
According to Bartee, all the liners are set in nine ½-inch segments in the bottom of the truck bed. These liners bolt in and weld in, and last anywhere from eight to 12 months, depending on the materials they are hauling and how abrasive they are on the beds. After bolting in the liner segments, welding operators use the Flux-Cored (FCAW) process welding capabilities of the XMT inverters to weld the perimeter of the liners, converting to the Stick welding capabilities for welding any smaller cracks that appear.
Internal apprentice program prepares welding operators to meet quality standards
Like many companies across the United States, Bar T Equipment Service, Inc. finds itself facing a shortage of qualified welding operators. Working with young graduates from local trade schools, the company trains welding operators to understand more than just laying down a weld bead. It also trains them to understand other critical factors in the maintenance and repair process: how to refine technique and control heat input to prevent the bending and warping of its customers’ equipment.
“We’re really trying to get re-established in training these younger people that are coming in,” Bartee says. “I consider what we do a dying art. We not only have to be good welding operators, but we also have to be the kind of people who can move metal … kind of like an old blacksmith. We’ve got to be able to know how heat will affect what we are doing. That’s our biggest thing.”
Apprentices go about their training in a strictly hands-on manner, working two apprentices to one journeyman from one year to two-and-a-half years, depending on the individual skills and focus of each welding operator.