InterCon Construction in Waunakee, Wis., has seen two decades of steady growth as an underground utility contractor for gas and electric companies. With nearly 450 employees, InterCon has personnel working at more than 100 jobsites during the peak construction months of April to December.
Like many contractors in the utility and construction industries, InterCon looks for ways to be more cost and labor efficient. With so many projects and employees, reducing fuel costs and increasing worker productivity on jobsites can have a big financial impact.
To gain more fuel efficiency, InterCon transitioned to Miller Trailblazer® 325 welder/generators with Excel™ power and Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) for their field trucks. The improved fuel efficiency of Trailblazer 325 welder/generators means fewer stops for gas fill-ups, which impacts jobsite productivity. The less time InterCon workers spend on refueling is more time they can spend on value-added tasks on the jobsite.
Previously, InterCon welding operators spent as much as an hour each week fueling up their engine-driven welder/generators, a task that typically required a trip to the gas station every other day. Those frequent gas runs cost InterCon money, both in fuel usage and employee downtime.
The switch has paid off in decreased fuel costs of up to 20 percent and as much as four or five hours of added productivity time each month for InterCon’s welding operators.
“The crews I’ve spoken with went from fueling up every other day or every day with the previous machines to fueling up maybe once a week, sometimes once every two weeks,” says Matt Flanigan, InterCon field operations manager in charge of purchasing and training. “If you consider that you save an extra hour per week, that’s huge throughout the course of a work year. With 40 to 50 engine drives out in the fleet, that could be substantial savings, which would more than pay for the cost of new machines in a short period of time.”
Finding ways to boost efficiency helps make InterCon more competitive. The contractor has completed jobs throughout the Midwest for customers that include Alliant Energy, WE Energies and AT&T — all key industry players with which InterCon has long-standing relationships.
InterCon has hundreds of workers and dozens of jobsites, and expects to see the benefits of the Trailblazer 325 on jobsites both large and small. That shows the fuel and time savings provided by even just a few of the machines can make a substantial difference for smaller companies as well.
The Stick, MIG, Flux-Cored, DC TIG and Pulsed TIG capable Trailblazer 325 engine-driven welder/generator has industry-first technologies such as Auto-Speed™, Excel Power and EFI that helped InterCon reduce fuel use, extend runtimes and lessen jobsite noise.
Real fuel savings
The Miller-exclusive Auto-Speed technology helps welding operators complete most jobs while the machine is running in low idle, offering significant fuel savings for InterCon. The speed-regulating technology, standard on all Trailblazer models, greatly enhances fuel savings and further extends runtimes.
If the machines are in constant use on future jobs, Flanigan says the company can expect to see fuel savings of up to 35 percent and extended runtimes of up to 50 percent.
“We know we can count on a number of hours with each machine out in the field,” he says.
Auto-Speed automatically adjusts the engine speed to match actual weld load requirements. For InterCon, this means that 75 percent of the time that operators spend welding, their engine drives run at idle, or 2,400 rpm. This is a huge benefit over other welder/generators, which always run at high speed rpm of 3,600, no matter the load requirement.
InterCon’s fuel savings also are a result of the optional EFI technology, which optimizes the air/fuel ration for all engine speeds and loads, so operators see peak fuel efficiency, regardless of how they are using the machines.
At a residential jobsite for gas service installation in Fond du Lac, Wis., InterCon workers used the multiprocess Trailblazer 325 for wire welding on pipe welds, butt welds and fillet welds, and also as auxiliary power to run equipment such as heating irons, grinders and cutting tools.
Another optional technology, Excel power, allows InterCon welding operators to run most tools at idle speed, or 2,400 rpm, which also contributes to fuel savings. A traditional machine automatically ramps up to 3,600 rpm when a generator load is applied. With Excel power, InterCon welding operators get 2,400 watts of pure 120-volt, 60-hertz generator power completely separate from the machine’s standard generator power. This allows workers to weld and simultaneously run a variety of tools at idle speed, such as lights or grinders.
“I’m doing a lot of grinding with it, and we’re putting wall brackets up at the houses and fusing pipe together, and that’s all done on low idle, so 75 percent of the time it’s on low idle,” says Brent Lentz, welding operator with InterCon “The fuel economy of it, all day running 10 hours a day, it’s really good. Before, I would pretty much fill up every other day and now I’m filling up once a week. That’s fantastic savings.”
Reduced jobsite noise improves safety
The marked reduction in jobsite noise is another favorite Trailblazer 325 benefit for InterCon welding operators. The ability to vary engine speed based on demand with the Auto-Speed technology and to operate jobsite tools in idle speed with Excel power significantly reduces noise on InterCon jobsites, some of which are in residential neighborhoods.
The reduced noise levels mean a safer and more comfortable jobsite for InterCon workers.
“It’s so much quieter than any of the other equipment that we run. I don’t get a headache, I don’t put in earplugs. It’s that quiet,” Jason Kope, a welding operator for InterCon, says. “It’s a lot easier to hear each other. We’re not yelling and screaming over it.”
Less noise means InterCon workers can better hear what’s going on around them and communicate with each other.
“The communication factor of it is actually really important because a lot of times when you’re down in a deep hole, you have to communicate with the guy on the top and a lot of times you can’t hear them,” Lentz says. With the Trailblazer, “it’s unbelievably quiet.”
Weld quality and performance
InterCon welding operators also gain quality arc performance with the Trailblazer series welder/generators on top of the fuel economy and noise benefits from the machines.
The Smart-Cor™ technology in the Trailblazer provides InterCon with independent weld and generator power, so there is no interaction between the welding arc and jobsite tools the welding operators use, such as grinders and plasma cutters. Without this technology, there could be fluctuations in the welding arc when a load is simultaneously applied to the generator, creating an erratic arc. This isn’t a problem with the Trailblazer 325.
“It strikes a nice, even arc and it’s very consistent with what our standards are for welding,” Kope says.
Size and weight reductions
The reduced size and weight measurements on the Trailblazer 325 also offer more truck placement options for InterCon. The Trailblazer 325 is up to 5 inches shorter and 108 pounds lighter than previous Trailblazer models, making the machine more compact and efficient than other engine-driven welder/generators with similar output capabilities.
That smaller size allows InterCon to put the welder/generators on the outside of the truck between the cab and the box, making for easier machine accessibility and maintenance, such as oil changes. This placement also helps the machines stay cooler.
Another benefit of the smaller size is that the machines take up much less room on the field trucks, so InterCon workers can carry more supplies, such as tanks and cylinders. This means fewer trips to pick up materials for the jobsite, which results in time and fuel savings.
Adding up the improved fuel efficiency, reduced jobsite noise and gains in worker time equals a winning solution for InterCon. The Trailblazer 325 helps InterCon continue its 30-year record of safety and quality, while also providing tangible fuel savings and worker productivity benefits.
“We’re thrilled with the new Trailblazer 325,” Flanigan says. “The fact that we were able to gain fuel efficiency and reduce noise. The welding operators that I’ve talked to absolutely love the machines. We look forward to putting them in more of our vehicles.”