Thursday, March 10, 2016

Powerful Tips to Boost Welding Productivity and Profitability

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4 biggest welding challenges that create headaches for employers are justifying new equipment, increasing productivity, reducing cost, and finding skilled welders and/ or training new welding operators. How do you address these challenges? Below are practical tips for overcoming these pains, increasing productivity and profitability. 

These pains are shown differently depending on a company’s business emphasis, organizational structure, management outlook. They are often interrelated, and the remedy to one pain usually improves the other areas. 

Before giving you helpful tips, this post will first help better your understanding of your true cost of welding, which is an important 1st step when addressing the welding challenges. 

Understanding your true cost of welding

Many welding companies claim that people are their most important asset. In fact, most of the time, most of welding costs comes from labor (50%-85% of total expenses).  According to various different industry sources, labor almost always constitutes manual and semi-automatic welding costs (85%), while 10% of the costs come filler materials, 3% from shielding gas and 2% from power. 

But if human resources are so important, why do so many firms spend an excessive amount of effort on reducing equipment and consumables costs while neglecting the most important cost component – optimizing labor and welding efficiency?  That can only be because these companies haven’t measured, tracked, analysed and enhanced the variables that impact their welding cost and operator factor (arc time/ total labor time). Unless you measure something, you can’t manage it. To this point, here is list of items and costs that you should measure and track over time to get a baseline for managing welding operation and deciding operator factor: 

Fixed costs (hard goods):
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Labor rate
Overhead
Filler metal (including deposition efficiency)
Shielding gas (if used)
Other consumables (grinding wheels, gun components, backing bars, anti-spatter compound, etc.)
Electricity
Raw materials (per part, if applicable)
Materials related to rejection rates (important when working with exotic or highly allowed metals)

Time-based costs and operator factor:

Preparing welding metal (degreasing, shot blasting, etc.)
Preparing the joint (cutting, beveling, grinding, if applicable)
Assembling components (place in fixtures, etc.)
Applying anti-spatter compound, if used
Pre-heating time, if required
Positioning/ repositioning weldment, if required
Tack welding components, if required
Arc-on time
Air time (moving between welds)
Interpass cooling time, if applicable
Chipping slag
Grinding spatter
Grinding/ polishing the weld bead to final size/ appearance
Getting rid of anti-spatter compound
Welder self-inspecting the weld
QA/ QC inspection and tests
Reworking/ repairing the welds and subsequent re-inspection and re-testing
Time lost because of rejected components
Changing electrodes (spool of wire, new stick rod, etc.)
Process changeover time (switch between Mig root and flux cored fill passes, etc.)
Cylinder swap-outs
Post-weld heat treating costs and time, if applicable

Fixed costs are quite easy to track (just by looking at vendor invoices), which can reason why procurement analysts often focus much on them. Time-based costs and operator factor ask for more effort to measure and track. Still, the results are worth it. 

How to spot waste

To detect waste in a system, ask yourself this key question: Is step B in a true preparation for step C or is it a compensation for inefficiency of step A?

If you spend time on such activities as chipping slag, grinding spatter, grinding welds down to the final size or re-working/ re-pairing parts, you aren’t really preparing the part for the next step in your manufacturing process. Indeed, you’re compensating for the inadequacies or undesired result of the previous step. Statistically, the labor time wasted by the compensatory activities decreases operator factor to 20% or lower in many operations. Efficient firms have an operator factor of 20-30% or higher, and they get significant financial savings as a result. 

Tips for reducing welding costs

Understand the true cost of welding and react accordingly
Lower the weld metal volume (prevent over-welding, etc.)
Minimize the rejection, reworking and scrap rates
Eliminate pre-weld preparation steps (applying anti-spatter spray, etc.) 
Eliminate post-weld grinding of spatter and excessive weld metal
Avoid paying overtime
Lower wasted effort, unnecessary motions and delays
Decrease arc time

For example, OEM Fabricators, Inc.- leading custom metal fabrication company in US., reduced its welding costs after using one type of machine, one wire and one gas for almost all of its welding. In the process, OEM managed to eliminate grinding, spatter, chipping slag, gas changeover time. The company also decreased weldment reposition and enhanced operator-to-operator consistency. 

In case you like reading:

Tips for increasing productivity

Decrease cycle time and arc-on time
Improve the operator factor (arc time/ total labor time)
Raise the deposition rates/ travel speed
Minimize rejection and reworking rates by welding it right first time
Eliminate unnecessary/ unplanned downtime
Understand root causes of bottlenecks and eliminate them
Eliminate activities that fail to add value (implement Kaizen, etc.)
Implement lean manufacturing techniques

For those who are interested in:

Tips for justifying new equipment

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Understand payback and ROI calculations that are used by owners, senior managers, accountants, banks
Analyse and understand the true sources of welding costs
Get energy efficiency and utility rebates
Reduce maintenance costs/ time
Minimize unscheduled downtime

For example, by working with the local utility Puget Sound Energy, Bellingham Technical College (USA) got a $1000 per welder financial incentive that help compensate for the cost of XMT and Maxstar welding power sources. The new inverters draw 1/3 to 1/6 less amperage the college’s old welders, removed nuisance circuit breaker trips and decreased utility bills by about $200 per year per welder. 

Tips for improving operator efficiency and/ or dealing with welder shortage

Use machines that are easier for your operators to set up and understand to reduce training time
Use machines that maintain/ ensure the optimum welding parameters ( for example, machines with parameter limiting/ lockout features)
Enhance operator productivity/ efficiency to help remove the need to hire additional welders
Conduct programs and procedures to improve operator skills and enhance consistency. 

For example, Greenheck Fan Corporation - leading supplier of air movement and control equipment in U.S, had hard time finding welders, so it started its own internal training program. The company hire people that will be good employees for it, or take some of its existing good employees that are interested in becoming welders, and the company trains them to weld. It is good that they already know how to weld. Still, whatever welding experience, all welders are involved in the training program and learn what they need to know to weld at Greenheck Fan Corporation.

If you have hard time finding welders, you can rely on our welding manpower service. VMST supply Vietnamese welding workers at all levels. They are dependable, have good code of ethic and willing to learn and will be well integrated into your workplace environment. 

The post is based on one article by Millerwelds.

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