Changing the welding process or investing in new technology can provide benefits
Wasted time and lost productivity are enemies in any welding operation. Contractors, manufacturers and fabricators alike are always looking for ways to reduce costs, improve quality and finish projects faster so they can be more competitive.
However, the right solutions may require a willingness to change to new welding processes or procedures. Making these changes can deliver benefits — and savings — to help a company reach its goals.
Don’t overlook the benefits that new welding processes and technologies can provide to help reduce costs, improve productivity, shorten project timelines or impact quality.
Consider your goals
The shortage of skilled welding operators is being felt across the welding industry. A company may want to find ways to improve productivity and decrease training time for new welding operators. Even in markets where labor is plentiful, there may still be a push to reduce the time it takes to train a skilled laborer and get them on the job. The faster that workers can be trained, the more productive the operation.
Or perhaps the welding operation must adapt to changing materials or an increased pressure to meet shorter project timelines.
Whatever the challenges, it’s important to determine the key goals in the welding operation. This will help in finding the right solutions to deliver the desired results.
Meeting those goals may require changing from standard welding processes to advanced welding technologies that offer greater reward — but that may require additional investment or training. Rather than seeing this change as a risk or a barrier, look at these solutions as an investment that can positively impact the bottom line.
When it comes time to update the welding fleet, companies should consider how welding technologies have evolved — and how newer solutions can provide greater efficiencies and savings — rather than continuing to order the same equipment time after time.
New welding processes and equipment, filler metals and pre- and post-weld heating techniques can offer benefits above and beyond traditional welding processes and procedures.
A change to welding processes can deliver results
Many companies have seen significant productivity increases, without sacrificing quality, by converting from traditional welding processes such as stick or TIG to advanced wire processes.
Advanced welding processes such as pulsed MIG and , a modified short-circuit MIG process from Miller Electric Mfg. Co., offer consistent weld quality and increased productivity thanks to travel speeds that are three to four times those of stick or TIG. These advanced wire processes are commonly used in the fabrication shop, and are now available in machines designed to meet the demands of jobsite and field applications.
A modified short-circuit MIG welding process such as RMD offers easy weld pool control thanks to more forgiveness to variations in stickout and gun angle. This helps reduce operator training time, along with delivering quality arc performance that helps boosts productivity. Using this process also produces less spatter and allows for the elimination of backing gas. These factors help save time and money.
Pulsed MIG offers benefits of better fusion and fill at the toes of the weld, higher travel speeds and deposition rates, and shorter changeover time, since the same wire and gas can be used with modified short-circuit MIG processes.
Keep in mind the importance of operator training when making these changes and note that a new process may require recertification of new welding procedures.
Technology can help address challenges
Think of the constant advancements in technology in our everyday lives — from televisions to cell phones. Industries are always working to create better and smarter technology, and that is also true for welding. New welding technologies are available that offer benefits for productivity, quality, power efficiencies, ease of use and portability.
For example, new welding power sources can quickly sense and react to what is happening in the weld pool — improving the ability to control the welding current and produce a calm, stable pool with less heat input. Directing the arc energy where it is needed allows both novice and experienced welders to improve their skills. A stable, more consistent arc is also easier to manipulate to ensure good fusion — which results in improved weld quality and less time-consuming and costly rework.
Advancements in remote control welding technologies also offer numerous benefits, particularly in jobsite applications. With remote control solutions on the market, operators have complete control of welding parameters at the weld joint using the wire feeder or remote — eliminating the need to walk back to the power source to make changes. This results in less wasted time and more arc-on time, helping operations complete more welds and achieve higher overall productivity. Remote control technologies also benefit safety by reducing trip and fall hazards.
Other welding equipment technology advancements, such as push-button process changeover and digital interfaces, have made welding equipment more intuitive and easier to use, which impacts productivity by reducing the time spent on machine setup and changeover.
What can be gained?
There are many financial and business benefits that can be realized by converting from traditional welding techniques and processes to more advanced solutions. Consider these key benefits:
- Increased productivity. The financial benefits of any productivity improvements will vary based on the specific situation, but they can be significant. The return on investment of new machines is not long because of this increased productivity and other factors. If an operation is currently operating at or near full capacity at current facilities and considering a capital expansion, increasing throughput and productivity at existing facilities could postpone that need. If operations are struggling to find and retain a skilled welding workforce, productivity improvements can help meet demands while utilizing the current workers. If a company operates in or sources fabricated components from regions of the world where labor costs are high, productivity improvements provide a significant cost reduction.
- Reduced scrap loss. This is a key issue in some markets because so much money is lost in scrap. If a company is using a stick welding process, it’s relatively easy to calculate the potential savings related to reducing the scrap from stub loss. The nature of stick welding produces stub loss, which is the portion of the electrode that is not able to be deposited in the weld. A common goal for welders is to achieve stub loss lengths of 2 to 3 inches. Depending on the original length of the electrode, typically 11 to 18 centimeters, it is easy to figure the “planned scrap” in the stick welding process — generally 16 to 25 percent of the electrodes. A change from stick welding to a wire process not only eliminates the costs of this stub loss, it also produces labor savings thanks to a more productive process.
- Reduction in failures and rework. Consistent arc performance and filler metal selection are key to achieving higher first-time weld pass rates and fewer weld failures. Welding processes and technologies that offer more consistent arc performance can help reduce the time and money spent on weld failures and rework. While there is some risk to changing from one welding process to another, advancements in the technologies and filler metals have helped diminish that risk over the years. Quality is obviously an important factor in the success of a welding operation. A high level of rework not only impacts quality, it also can lead to delays since unplanned rework disrupts the entire flow of the fabrication, manufacturing or construction process.
Keep in mind that change can be difficult and it sometimes requires an organized effort. This is the classic risk/return trade off. Companies that are willing to the accept some level of risk can be rewarded with faster project completion, potential cost reductions and a better utilization of assets.
To mitigate the risk involved in such a change, proper training programs should be implemented, since different welding processes or technologies weld differently than what a workforce may be used to. It’s also important to outline a testing plan when necessary to ensure quality and productivity goals are achieved in the welding operation.
The bottom line
Welding equipment in many cases has evolved to provide a level of control that wasn’t possible in the past. Technology advancements have brought welding processes leaps ahead and will likely continue to do so in the future.
Understanding the potential productivity gains offered by advanced welding processes and new technologies and procedures can help an organization ensure that jobs are completed on time — and on budget.
Investing in new welding techniques and equipment can help companies address critical industry challenges — from a shortage of skilled welders to shorter project timelines or changing materials. Being open to changes in the welding operation can result in reduced costs, greater productivity and shorter training time for welders — helping to make a company more competitive.