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Archive for September, 2011

The Truth About Chocolate Welding

Friday, September 30th, 2011

This coming week is the WorldSkills 2011 competition—an event held every other year where young people from across the world will face off for the right to be called the best at their given skill. The United States will be sending a select group of 17 individuals to compete, among them the winner of the SkillsUSA national welding contest, Brad Clink.

For the challenge, the WorldSkills welding competitors will have to fabricate various mild steel pieces using different processes for different joints. The welders will also have to complete two sheet metal projects using TIG welding methods. It is, more or less, the olympics for welding.

And while Mr. Clink and his competitors are displaying their welding prowess, event attendees are also given the opportunity to try their hand at welding and learn about the concepts behind welding through WorldSkills’ various “Have A Go” activities. At an autobody repair booth, attendees can have a go at resistance spot welding. Meanwhile, at another booth, attendees can try their hand at virtual welding and even chocolate welding.

Yes, you read that correctly. Chocolate welding. I have to give a shoutout to the folks over at the VRTEX virtual welding Facebook page for finding out what in the world chocolate welding is at my request. You can see an example of chocolate joining here. It is, in fact, engineering with chocolate as the joining medium. Both innovative and delicious.

While the WorldSkills competition is taking place over in London, the idea of a “Have a Go” is a great idea that could easily be adapted at distributor open houses, grand openings and demo days. Whether it’s through actual welding, virtual welding or chocolate welding, any time you can expose people to the field of welding, it’s a good thing. And who knows, you might even get some people to show up just for the chocolate welding.

Meet the U.S. welding representative at WorldSkills and learn how he’s preparing for the competition in the video below:

Watch this video on YouTube.

iPad Takes Hold In Gases And Welding

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

iPads are allowing salespeople to be more self-sufficient at O.E. Meyer Co.

Back in February, I posed the question “Do iPads have a place in the gases and welding industry?” Recently, I found the answer to that question: Yes.

In fact, iPads have found their place at Sandusky, OH, distributor O.E. Meyer Co. In the latest issue of Welding & Gases Today, we wrote about how the company has deployed iPads to its sales force. Regional manager Eric Wood says the iPads are allowing salespeople to be more self-sufficient and freeing up the inside sales team to spend time on other things.

Admittedly, iPads are an investment. The devices start around $500 and go up from there, depending on storage and connectivity. In justifying the investment, since most salespeople are already equipped with smartphones and laptops, the question is this: what does an iPad (or other tablet) offer that a smartphone or laptop can’t? It’s hard to pin down a definitive advantage. Email, web browsing and sharing photos and videos can all be replicated on smartphones and laptops, as can accessing inventory, ordering and more.

The key differences are minute, but still important. Smartphones are too small to use for customer interaction. Laptops take too long to boot, and are too cumbersome to carry around at customer sites.

Since the iPad launched in 2010, tablets have taken off, and they have seemingly graduated from novelty. Businesses are investing in them. Ironically, of all tablet makers, Apple has become the business standard thus far. According to Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer, 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies are deploying or they are testing iPads within their organizations. This is noteworthy.

Tomorrow, October 28, Amazon is set to unveil its own foray into the tablet market, which is already expected to be a game changer (in part because of its anticipated “aggressive” price). Will the new Kindle tablet make a splash in the business world? We’ll have to wait and see.

Has your business jumped in to the tablet world or steered clear of the craze? Share your experience by leaving a comment.

Supporting SteelDay 2011

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
SteelDay sculpture contest entry

SteelDay sculpture contest entry: "One Nation. Built of Steel."

Today (September 23) is officially SteelDay 2011. The American Institute of Steel Cosntruction President Roger Ferch describes it as “a national event for the design and construction community to explore the structural steel supply chain firsthand.” Across the country, steel mills and other members of the steel industry host events where people can see steel making and recycling in person. Other events will demonstrate steel modeling, machining and steel fabrication—something very near and dear to the gases and welding industry, naturally.

Ferch continues, “SteelDay is a chance for designers, future engineers and others to see first-hand how the U.S. structural steel industry is building high-performance and sustainable projects. There is no better way to increase your understanding of how the various pieces of structural steel systems work together than to see it for yourself and learn directly from the industry experts who are opening the doors to their facilities.”

Along with the education and networking, SteelDay offers a little bit of welding-related fun. In 2011, AISC introduced a steel sculpture contest as part of the yearly celebration. No doubt the artists that created these steel sculptures had to be handy with a welder. Along with the picture shown here, see the full gallery and vote for your favorite at the SteelDay Facebook page.

Steel construction is an area that relies heavily on welding—and as such, the well-being of the steel and construction industries directly impact the well-being of gases and welding distributors and suppliers. From the event photos, it’s nice to see so many GAWDA members supporting SteelDay events as vendors.

Supporting steel day is only one way that GAWDA members can support their customers. What ways are you supporting your other customers and their industries? Share by leaving a comment.

Welding Returns To Hollywood

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Every so often welding and gases make their way onto the big screen. Last year, we wrote about the robotic welding arm that figures prominently in Iron Man and its sequel, Iron Man 2, in “Welding Goes Hollywood.” Brian Simons, a robotic programmer with Lincoln’s Automation Application Group, talked about the challenge of programming the robotic arm on the fly. “There wasn’t necessarily a detailed plan as to what the welder would be doing in each scene. Most of it was done on the fly,” he says.

World Robot Boxing - Start Welding!Once again welding is back on the big screen. This time there are industry connections to at least two movies in theaters. First, Lincoln Electric teamed up with Picture Car Warehouse for the restoration and fabrication of the muscle cars used in the move Drive. The company has an inventory of hundreds of vehicles that it provides for commercials, TV shows and movies.

Next, just about any time you have robots, you have welding. When you have boxing robots, you definitely have welding. Since the upcoming movie Real Steel is in fact about boxing robots, you can bet some welding was used. Currently, the movie has a website for World Robot Boxing at www.wrb.com where you can design and build your own virtual robot. I admit I was excited when I clicked build and saw the button that says “Start Welding!” Despite the promise, I did not get to do any welding on the subsequent page. No word as to whether there will be actual welding in the movie either.

Of course, after welding helped create the amazing cars and robots used these movies, respectively, both of these films seem to have a common thread in the destruction of these creations.

Question of the Day: What’s your favorite gases and welding Hollywood moment?

Gases And Welding Vacation: Europe Edition

Friday, September 16th, 2011
Welded fence atop the Eiffel Tower

A view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, complete with welded fence.

Although I didn’t set out to take a gases and welding vacation, it seems that the industry follows me just about everywhere I go. As you may remember from my last post, I’ve been on my honeymoon, and as it turns out, something of a gases and welding honeymoon.

Part of the trip was spent in Paris, where I discovered (to some disappointment) that the Eiffel Tower was riveted, not welded. Then again, welding technology in 1889 was not what it is today. However, like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, many of these historical edifices that allow visitors to climb to great heights have been retrofitted with welded steel fences around viewing areas to keep visitors from falling. Somewhat like the Grand Canyon Skywalk we looked at in “The Great Welding And Gases Road Trip,” gases and welding did not create the object of awe, but allow visitors to enjoy it with a feeling of security and very little obstruction.

Welded steel arcs on display at the Palace of Versailles

Of course, in a European city like Paris, the way to get around is by Metro. Paris’ maze of Metro lines cover an unbelievable 133 miles of track. As WEMCO Chairman Jim Horvath writes in “Manufacturing Outlook,” “The manufacture and repair of rail cars is a big market for us.” With 16 lines and 300 stations where trains stop every few minutes throughout the day, you can bet they have a lot of rail cars in the Paris Metro.

Before arriving in Paris, I also had an opportunity to ride one of Europe’s high speed rails that runs through Italy. According to the monitors on the train, I watched it reach a speed of 144 mph at one point on the trip. High speed trains rely on continuous welded rails to reduce friction and reach higher speeds. These tracks typically use flash butt welding to create a continuous rail.

The famous Hall of Mirrors

Finally, on a brief trip to Versailles, I was welcomed to the iconic Chateau by a giant welded art installation. Pictured above is one of Bernar Venet’s welded steel arcs that are on temporary display on the grounds of the palace. The one shown here is called “86.5˚ Arc x16,” measuring 72 feet tall and weighing 125 tons. A series of smaller arcs adorn the palace’s famous gardens, providing an interesting juxtaposition of stripped down modern art against the backdrop of the gratuitously ornate stylings of Louis XIV.

Within the palace, while listening to the audio guide, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that a GAWDA member contributed to what is perhaps one of the most lavish and recognizable elements of the Chateau. It was explained that, at the time it was built in the 17th century, having even one mirror was a symbol of status. Louis XIV saw it fitting to outdo everyone by building a room with hundreds of mirrors. Thus was born the famous Hall of Mirrors. The Hall’s 357 mirrors were manufactured by none other than Saint-Gobain, the GAWDA member you may know better for its Norton Abrasives line.

Needless to say, gases and welding are everywhere. Even at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The Distributor-Supplier Relationship Is Like A Marriage

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Although I’ve only been involved with the gases and welding industry for a year and a half, one of the things that has been incredibly apparent from day one is the importance of the distributor-supplier relationship. Browsing through our archives of articles on the distributor-supplier relationship, one of the things that hit me was how much the dynamic between distributor and supplier is like any other relationship. In fact, the reason these articles exist is because, like any personal relationship, a business partnership takes work too.

Among these articles, words like “communication” and “trust” abound. Mark Blakely writes in one article, Trust Matters: “Trust is built through integrity and consistency. A fundamental building block of trust is listening, and if you listen well and take action based on what you heard, people and companies will place trust in you.” Who knew GAWDA’s Industry Partnering committee could also be good for wedding advice?

This advice should come in handy for me, given that I got married this past weekend. Needless to say, I had relationships on the brain. In light of my marriage, I’m going to be absent from the blog for a few days while I’m on my honeymoon. I promise to look out for welding and gases everywhere I go, and I’ll report back upon my return. In the meantime, you can keep up with our Young Professionals blog.

Hope everyone has a great week. Unfortunately, the distributor-supplier relationship does not come with a honeymoon.

Honoring The Welding Labor Force

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

In honor of Labor Day, I want to pay tribute to America’s labor force. In the original proposal for the holiday, it called for a parade to exhibit the strength and spirit of trade and labor organizations, followed by a festival for workers and their families. These days, the celebration tends to involve football and NASCAR. At least for a moment this weekend, let us remember the spirit of the holiday.

Welders are a very important part of the American work force. Recently, Welding & Gases Today looked at the shortage of welders in the work force in Building The Customer Of The Future. In the article, we looked at how distributors can help bridge that gap by not only recruiting welders, but making sure they have the necessary skills.

Gases and welding distributors are in a very powerful position. Because of their role, distributors have regular access to both manufacturers and end-users. From manufacturers, they can learn about the latest processes and technology. The ability to highlight new technologies shows students that welding is no long all about manual labor. With things like robotic welding, laser welding, virtual welding, friction stir welding, the game has changed—and yet perceptions have not.

On the end-user side, distributors can find out what skills are needed from working with customers. For example, pipeline welding may requires a different set of skills than a welder working in a manufacturing plant. Many distributors already have a hand in helping local schools. Getting involved in curriculum development only makes the distributor that much more of an asset to that school.

With all this combined, distributors are a critical piece of the puzzle in getting the welding work force where it needs to be. Now let’s remember, no white welding gear after labor day.