How Does Weld Data Monitoring Fit Into Your Manufacturing Operation?
Weld data monitoring can help maximize throughput, eliminate bottlenecks and reduce costs in manufacturing operations.
Benefits of weld monitoring
Digitalization and data collection in manufacturing aren’t new concepts, but adoption of these practices is now becoming more widespread. As more manufacturing operations implement digitalization in product assembly and overall workflow, how does welding fit into this changing landscape?
Integrating the many aspects of the manufacturing operation using a data-centered approach can help companies optimize production, produce higher-quality parts and control costs. Tracking and analyzing weld data plays an important role in this process. Learn more about trends in welding intelligence and how weld data fits into a digitalized manufacturing environment.
Benefits of digitalized manufacturing
Many larger manufacturers see the value of an integrated, holistic approach, and these companies often have the resources to implement full-scale digitalized manufacturing. But digitalization can also deliver benefits to small- and medium-sized manufacturers that have the personnel to implement it.
Some of the benefits that can be gained include:
- Improved process planning
- Accurate data documentation
- Real-time information on process changes, productivity and throughput
- Up-to-date inventory management
- Interactive work instructions
In a digitalized manufacturing environment, things previously tracked by hand and often on paper can now be digitally tracked — automatically by the system in some cases. This helps ensure the most accurate, current information can be used to reduce errors and rework, which saves time and money. Having a digital database of information also makes it easier for companies to identify problem areas or bottlenecks where improvements can be made.
Connectivity in digitalized manufacturing can extend to every piece of equipment on the shop floor, allowing work orders or changes to be processed and prioritized immediately.
Productivity problems? Help welders of all skill levels get more work done.
Where does welding fit?
Many companies have digitalized the planning, assembly and finishing processes upstream and downstream of the welding operation but may hesitate to digitalize the welding itself. They may view welding as too highly specialized to incorporate into the digital integration.
But including welding in this integration is important, because it provides visibility into what’s happening in each weld cell. Evaluating the welding operation is critical when a company wants to improve overall throughput and productivity. Key weld data that can be tracked includes filler metal used, shielding gas used, electricity used, voltage, arc-on time and part production. Another benefit of digitalizing the welding environment is the ability to create digital documentation, which provides an accurate record of every weld performed on every part produced by the welding operation. This helps companies ensure for customers that exact parameters and specifications are being followed, and it can help operations track issues that may be slowing down production.
Knowing what’s happening in the welding department is valuable for both the upstream and downstream processes. For example, identifying a problem in the welding cell can help pinpoint when it’s better to bring pre-assembled parts into the upstream process, or when a certain task downstream should be outsourced.
Without digitalization, welders in the cell may be dealing with issues by adjusting parameters — but not reporting these problems so they can be tracked and properly addressed. When the weld cell data is digitalized, even small issues can be tracked and monitored to help improve productivity and results.
Consider these real-world examples:
- One company is using digital welding data to justify capital spending on new equipment for welders (other than welding power sources) in order to increase arc-on time by as much as 10% — increasing productivity and making the workplace safer and more efficient.
- Another company identified a problem with staffing on the second and third shifts where a piece of equipment would malfunction temporarily and no maintenance or repair staff were available to fix the faulty equipment. The company added third-shift maintenance staff to address problems in the welding area immediately, increasing arc-on time from 18% to 35%.
- Another company had a problem with missing or incorrectly performed welds, which was costing $400,000 per year to visually inspect, repair and repaint the parts they were producing. After installing a welding intelligence solution, they were able to save $400,000 per year.
The bottom line: Not including welding in digitalization efforts means you’re not getting the entire picture of what’s happening in your manufacturing operation.
Trends in welding intelligence
The results that companies typically see from weld data management solutions hinge on how much planning and effort they put into them. Simply installing weld data monitoring isn’t enough. To reap the most ROI, operations must study the data and look for ways to improve. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be difficult. Most weld data management solutions can be easily integrated into an operation.
Two trends in welding intelligence are driving more companies to use these solutions.
- Greater documentation: Many industries, including automotive and oil and gas, are seeing more stringent requirements for documentation of the welding in the manufacturing or fabrication process. This is often at the request of customers or OEMs, and in some cases the welding specifications may require it. In the past, this might have been an actual piece of paper that traveled with the part. Today, this documentation can be digitalized with a solution like Insight Welding Intelligence™ from Miller Electric Mfg. LLC. A digitalized process helps ensure that accurate information is being captured. Customers can see that all welds were done within specified parameters and with all proper preheating or post-weld heat treatment methods.
- More accessible and intuitive: As welding intelligence solutions become more common, they are also becoming easier to use. Insight Centerpoint™ software is a real-time welder feedback solution that provides guidance and control within the weld cell to ensure consistent weld quality. Insight Centerpoint has drag-and-drop capabilities in part creation, as well as a customizable operator interface that shows information relevant to the user across all screen sizes. More systems are also moving toward mobile and browser-based platforms that don’t require hardwired Ethernet cables at every workstation. When real-time feedback or digital work instructions are available in the weld cell, this helps less-experienced welders get up to speed faster.
Choosing a weld data monitoring system
Whether companies already have some digitalization in other areas of their operation or they are just getting started, there are some key questions to ask when choosing a weld data monitoring system.
- Are the right people in place? Before making a purchase, it’s important to evaluate if the right people are in place to help the company get the most from the system. Personnel are needed to implement it, maintain it, and track and analyze the associated data.
- How portable is the data being collected? Some weld data management solutions are designed to integrate easily with other systems already in place — and they allow the data being generated to be consumed by and inputted into other software programs.
- Is it compatible? For many companies, it’s important to have a weld data monitoring solution that is broadly compatible with the operation’s existing fleet of welding power sources. ArcAgent™ solutions from Miller are devices that enable weld data software integration with any brand of welding power source. This allows manufacturers to integrate the entire welding fleet regardless of brand or age to get a complete picture of performance.
Making weld data a part of digitalized manufacturing
Implementing a digital workflow throughout an entire manufacturing facility requires cross-functional buy-in from management all the way down. While employees may spend some time on optimization activities outside of producing parts, the resulting benefits can help maximize throughput, eliminate bottlenecks and reduce costs.
It’s also critical to include the welding operation in this integrated digitalization. Identifying problems or issues in the weld cell can help streamline processes both upstream and downstream — for a more efficient production line.