Total Upstream Process Improvement Prior To Welding

A company’s success is often based on the wise use of limited resources.

Welding companies are faced with the task of searching for ways to do things with greater accuracy and efficiency, and with less effort in a shorter period of time to compete in today’s marketplace. Management is looking to purchase fast, accurate, easier-to-use and lighter weight pipe fabrication equipment for the overall purpose of increasing product output per man hour. This represents an opportunity for distributors to work closely with their customers to offer total upstream, prior to welding, improvements. These improvements will benefit the customer’s entire fabrication process to reduce overall fabrication cost.

Many times, the distributor offers a solution based on the fabricator’s immediate needs; often this solution has little impact on the quality and cost of the end product. Distributors have a unique opportunity to assist fabricators to examine their current operations, shop practices and material flow for today’s competitive market, particularly those connected with cutting and clamping processes.

Cost Determination
Lowering labor cost and locating better quality pipe fabrication equipment with shorter delivery time has become a mechanism of survival for American companies. Recognition is long overdue in identifying cutting and fit-up processes as a significant contribution to “product output per man-hour.”

Estimated Welding Cost = Power Requirement + Electrode Cost + Labor Cost + Overhead Cost

Help your customer look at his shop layout. Poor shop layout considerably decreases output per man hour as excessive material handling significantly increases operational cost. Prior to welding, the distributor should have the customer consider the total cutting and clamping processes as they relate to shop layout, material handling, cutting, cleanup and alignment.

Power cost is determined by dividing the power cost per hour by the arc speed per hour. Electrode cost is obtained by multiplying the electrode pounds per foot by the cost of the electrode per pound. Labor cost per foot of joint is gained by multiplying the shop labor by the estimated production time and the overhead cost is normally equal to the labor cost.

Material handling accounts for a majority of fabrication costs and when more people and equipment are added with specific training, there is a significant reduction to the company’s bottom line.

Persons responsible for operating and maintaining the cutting and beveling equipment should be involved in the product decision making. However, most shop managers fail to see that the operator can make or break the success of a capital expenditure, as the equipment is only as good as the operator.

Efficiency and safety are major factors when increasing output per man-hour. The following factors should be considered when laying out a pipe fabrication shop for the cutting and clamping process:
  • Arrange the pipe storage racks for best use of material handling man-hours.
  • Structure the flow of material to proceed smoothly in one direction from raw material to the finished product.
  • Minimize the number of times material is handled.
  • Investigate ways to improve process times and material handling to avoid product bottlenecks.
  • Arrange buffer zones between processes to accommodate differences in process man-hours.
  • Rearrange shop scheduling to accommodate improved process times and escape production bottlenecks.
  • Reduce the amount of material handling time to remove scrap and unused products.
  • Make the best use of carts, trailers and jib or overhead cranes when investigating the movement of material between processes.

Assisting customers to increase their output, prior to welding, marks the distributor as a true partner and industry expert. The sales relationship can only be win-win.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Shannon D. Fanning Meet the Author
Shannon D. Fanning is vice president of Mathey Dearman Inc. & CIA Mathey srl located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and on the Web at