Solutions for Gaining Production Efficiency in Pipe Welding
Evolving technologies provide opportunities to increase productivity and maximize efficiency in pipe welding operations. These solutions include more productive advanced welding processes, filler metals formulated to better meet specific needs and welding equipment designed for ease of use and improved productivity.
Finding ways to increase productivity, maximize efficiency and reduce costs can help pipe welding operations improve project timelines and be more competitive. This is especially important as the industry faces an ongoing welding operator shortage, which can make it difficult to find qualified workers.
Evolving technologies provide opportunities to increase productivity and maximize efficiency in pipe welding operations — both in the field and in the shop. These solutions include more productive advanced welding processes, filler metals formulated to better meet specific needs and welding equipment designed for ease of use and improved productivity.
As welding technology evolves, pipe welding operations can take advantage of these advancements to complete projects faster and do more with the resources they have, resulting in improved productivity and reduced operating costs.
There are welding technologies on the market that can help improve productivity, quality and safety, all while offering simple setup and ease of use for operators. Implementing easy-to-use technologies that improve productivity can help an operation reduce costs, since labor is one of the largest costs associated with producing a weld — nearly 80 percent of a field welding project is labor, for example. These technologies can also make it easier to train qualified welding operators.
Innovations such as advanced remote control capabilities and point-of-use welding controls can reduce the need to travel to and from the power source. This optimizes arc-on time at the weld joint, reduces setup time and simplifies process changeover, which in turn helps improve overall weld quality and productivity.
The Miller PipeWorx FieldPro™ system offers these advanced capabilities and technologies without the need for special control cables, instead using the standard weld cable. This eliminates the hassle and expense of special control cables and reduces clutter. The system offers a remote that basically allows welding operators to take the capabilities from the front panel of the power supply right to the area where they are welding. This makes process changeover easier, which eliminates the need to “get by” with less than optimal settings and helps reduce weld defects and associated rework.
Software in this advanced system also allows the creation of welding programs in all welding processes that are specifically designed for welding pipe.
Technologies are also available designed specifically for the shop environment, offering productivity, quality and safety benefits for pipe welding operations in the shop. Rolling induction heating, available for preheating rolled pipe in a shop environment, leverages the benefits of rolled pipe welding while also addressing some of the concerns associated with other heating methods. Induction heating can bring the part to temperature quickly and hold the machine at a steady output, making it a good option for getting consistent temperature levels.
Optimizing the process
Many factors come into play when choosing the appropriate welding process: the application, position of the weld, material type, welding procedure and possible job or contract requirements. With all the welding processes, selecting the right consumables and equipment can help optimize the arc for the best results.
While TIG and Stick welding are familiar processes in the field that offer benefits for that environment, wire welding processes are another option that offer significant productivity benefits.
Switching to advanced welding processes, such as Pulsed MIG or modified short-circuit MIG, is another way pipe welding operations in the field (and in the shop) can improve productivity. These processes offer a more forgiving weld to help reduce weld failures, and they can reduce the necessary training time and make it easier for a welding operator to complete an X-ray quality weld on the root pass.
Productivity gains can result from using a modified short-circuit MIG process for the root pass in pipe welding due to the potential to eliminate the need for a hot pass. This advanced process (one example is RMD®, or Regulated Metal Deposition, from Miller) provides the ability to create a thicker root pass of 3/16 inch or greater — enough to support the heat input of Pulsed MIG or Flux-Cored welding for the fill pass.
The faster travel speeds and higher deposition rates offered by advanced welding processes allow welding operators to complete code-quality welds in less time. A 24-inch Schedule 160 pipe that might take two days to Stick weld with two operators can be completed in nine hours or less with one welding operator using advanced welding processes, for example.
These advanced welding processes are available in systems with remote control technologies, so welding operators can maximize productivity with the faster advanced processes while also taking advantage of the ability to change processes and parameters at the weld joint with the push of a button.
Addressing the challenges
Focusing on equipment, process and consumables solutions that offer ease of use, enhanced productivity and improved performance can help address the labor and timeline challenges facing many pipe welding operations today.
Adapting to new technologies and processes can separate the profitable from the unprofitable. These advancements help companies address critical industry challenges such as the shortage of skilled welders, shorter project turnaround times and the need to increase quality standards.