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How Welding Automation Can Bridge the Skill Gap in the Manufacturing Industry

13 January, 20 3:48 pm · Leave a comment · Geoff Campbell
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Welding automation has been around for a while, but recently its role has grown exponentially in manufacturing. For years, the welding industry has faced a skill gap, which is expected to grow wider in the coming years. To combat this, employers are adopting automated welding equipment to increase the efficiency of weld operations.

What Is the Skill Gap?

The “skill gap” describes a discrepancy between the skills held by job seekers and the skills employers need. This leads to a paradox where there’s a large pool of applicants, but companies aren’t able to hire workers with the appropriate knowledge and skill set. This has led to increasing welder salaries as manufacturing businesses compete to attract skilled workers, and even then, many positions are left unfilled.

Why Is It Happening?

Two main factors are contributing to this situation: a lack of qualified applicants entering the workforce and an increasing number of employees seeking retirement. Interestingly, these two issues may be caused by social factors rather than economic ones.

Few People Entering the Workforce

The newest generation entering the workforce is the most educated in U.S. history, which is a positive thing in most regards. However, it means that fewer young people are going into trades such as welding. There’s also a feeling among parents that welding, ironwork, construction, and other industries that require hard labor are dangerous or low-paying and therefore not worth pursuing. This has created a push toward white-collar jobs despite the high wages and many benefits offered in the manufacturing field.

With a huge percentage of employees planning to leave the workforce within a couple of years, thousands of positions will open at once and, unfortunately, be left unfilled.

Many Welders Are Reaching Retirement Age

The majority of current trade workers are from the Baby Boomer generation and are nearing retirement. With a huge percentage of employees planning to leave the workforce within a couple of years, thousands of positions will open at once and, unfortunately, be left unfilled.


What Is Welding Automation?

pipe on roller
Welding automation is the term used to describe the use of equipment  which automates all or part of the welding process.  The term hard automation is sometimes used to describe the application of positioning machines designed to hold and manipulate the weldment (object being welded).  Automated welding doesn’t necessarily mean robotic welding, rather it is simply the application of automation technologies such as positioners, manipulators and turning rolls to the welding process. The weldment may be positioned for manual or automated welding processes.  For example a pipe may be rotated on a positioner while being welded by a hand held welding head or by a welding head fixed to a manipulator arm for a fully automated set up.


How Can Automation Be a Solution To Labor Shortages?

Primarily, welding automation solves the skill gap dilemma by filling positions with machines instead of people. However, the switch to robotics can offer companies several advantages and will likely continue to transform how welding is done.

Cost-Effective

While the purchase and installation of a machine may be expensive initially, businesses can save money in the long run. There are many financing options available for commercial enterprises to purchase equipment, making the process more affordable, and employers don’t have to worry about costs associated with hiring, such as wage, benefits, and professional development.

Consistent

Machines can produce higher quality goods more consistently than human workers and work much quicker, which means more production and profits. Having fewer mistakes also means less waste and more products available for sale.

Programmable

Perhaps the most advantageous quality of machines is their ability to store welding routines and settings. Human workers must dedicate time and energy to learning a new skill and are inevitably bound to make mistakes along the way, costing the company. Machines, on the other hand, perform actions exactly as they are instructed. This means you can easily alter a robot’s role by changing the programming without having to deal with a learning curve. Many modern welders come with pre-programmed routines and settings and are able to make appropriate adjustment automatically with some basic input from an operator.


What Should Manufacturers Know About Implementing Automation?

workers with horizontal tig pipe cladderWhile welding automation technologies have evolved significantly, implementation still has its challenges, especially for businesses that are just starting to automate their welding operations. For example, though it isn’t actually the case, workers may consider the shift to automation as a threat to their livelihoods. You can ease this fear by communicating with the employees about the ways automation helps improve in the production process – ensuring that a company remains competitive. It also makes the work of welding safer and less strenuous and allows them to focus on higher skilled, more interesting welding tasks. In the case of welding robotics, assigning a robot to a necessary but repetitive task can free up workers for roles that require a human’s problem-solving skills. Collaborative robots (cobots) are designed to work in tandem with human workers and offer great gains in welding productivity.

You also face the challenge of finding the right equipment for your needs and incorporating it into your line operation. These issues should be carefully researched before you make any commitments.

In determining a welding automation supplier, you’ll want to establish an ongoing relationship with a company that’s able to address both startup and longer term issues that accompany a transition to automated welding:

  • Installation
  • Employee training
  • Maintenance of equipment
  • Replacement parts
  • Repairs
  • Upgrades

You’ll want to work with a company that has a thorough solid understanding of your industry and offers reliable technical and customer support.


Are you interested in adding welding automation to your manufacturing process? Red-D-Arc offers a variety of equipment. For more information or to get a quote, give us a call at 866-733-3272 or contact us online.

 

 

Red-D-Arc Feature in Tank Storage Magazine

30 January, 18 4:49 pm · Leave a comment · Colin Brown
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AGW Automatic Girth Welder 3 Oclock Welder - Tank Storage Mag
Red-D-Arc was featured in the December/January issue of Tank Storage Magazine in an editorial titled “Rental welding equipment for storage tank fabricators”. Tank Storage Magazine is an industry leading publication, reporting exclusively on the bulk liquid storage tank and terminal sector.

The storage tank construction industry is highly competitive and fabricators gain a significant advantage by leveraging Red-D-Arc’s rental fleet of automatic tank welding equipment. Red-D-Arc supplies specialized automatic storage tank welding equipment to companies in the tank fabrication industry for projects all over the world.

Along with our specialized tank welding equipment comes a highly knowledgeable and experienced team of Red-D-Arc technicians. Sayer Hendricks – storage tank welding equipment specialist at Red-D-Arc is quoted in the article: “A fabrication company without prior knowledge of the equipment, is able to rent a turn-key tank welding automation system and increase their welding productivity by 40-50%. With on-site training, service and support, our customers are up and running quickly and making 100% x-ray quality welds without fail”

The full article is available here: Rental welding equipment for storage tank fabricators

Submerged Arc Systems Increase Productivity by 250%

28 October, 17 1:49 pm · Leave a comment ·
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A metal fabrication company located in Charlotte, North Carolina received an order for 300 small I.D. vessels for titanium molds. At the time they were using FCAW and back gouging the inside and outside of the vessels to achieve 100% penetration. On average they were producing 2 vessels per hour with 2 welders.
They reached out to Red-D-Arc to find a faster and more efficient way to produce these vessels. After discussions with Red-D-Arc the fabricator decided to purchase a turnkey submerged arc system. The custom designed system came complete with a small I.D. sub arc welding head mounted on a 9’x9′ manipulator, flux recovery system, NA5R automatic wire feeder, DC600 multi-process welderand 5 ton turning rolls. The system also included a laser and camera for precise control and monitoring of the submerged arc welding process.
The submerged arc system increased productivity by 250%. They were able to produce 5 cans per hour with half the labor cost. The safety of the work place was also significantly increased for a number of reasons:
• Back gouging was eliminated which in turn reduced the risk of fire
• Turning rolls replaced manual rotation of the vessels on tables
• Welders no longer had to weld inside the confined space of the vessels
The customer and the Red-D-Arc team were beyond pleased with the results. The customer plans to purchase two more of these systems for future projects.
Submerged arc welding can increase the efficiency and quality of many industrial welding projects regardless of the size or complexity. Red-D-Arc has all the equipment, expertise and experience to provide you with a submerged arc system to fit your needs – available for sale, lease and rent

Read more on welding efficiency

Red-D-Arc Turnkey Packages Support the World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm

23 October, 17 11:23 am · Leave a comment ·
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Red-D-Arc recently supplied a variety of equipment to a UAE based company that is fabricating pile piping and jackets for the largest offshore wind farm project in the world. The company had to meet a strict time line of only 6 months, and would require a massive amount of welding and weld automation equipment immediately. Through consultation with Red-D-Arc, the customer determined that renting the majority of the equipment would be the most economical option. Red-D-Arc was able to fulfil the customers equipment needs immediately thanks to our vast and diverse fleet of equipment.

This massive order involved equipment and support from Red-D-Arc North America, Red-D-Arc UK and Red-D-Arc Middle East. The order consisted of a variety of welding and weld automation equipment including:
• 23 column and booms with single and tandem submerged arc welders
• 20 submerged arc tractors
• 200 rotators
• 167 jack-up rotators
• 400 CC/CV inverter welders
• 200 FCAW wirefeeders
• 10 Induction Heating Systems

By renting the majority of the equipment the fabrication company avoided the need to invest heavily in specialized equipment and ensured they would meet their deadline. Red-D-Arc works with customers to address their unique challenges and develops specialized solutions. Learn more about customized turnkey packages here.

Efficient Pipe Welding with the Red-D-Arc Process Pipe Cell

13 February, 17 1:11 pm · Leave a comment · reddarc
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Red-D-Arc has launched an exciting new product designed to increase the productivity and efficiency of pipe welding. The Red-D-Arc Process Pipe Cell with oscillating welding torch is a dual wire feeder, multi-process welding cell.

The system is easy to set up and operate and reduces weld operator errors, reduces welding time, and increases deposition rates, productivity and arc-on time.

A variety of welding power sources and wire feeders can be used with the system including Miller RMD PipeWorx 400 and Lincoln STT S350, S500 and S700 Power Wave systems, with all welding functions controlled via a remote interface.

Root passes can be performed manually with solid wire using either RMD or STT technology (instead of manual GTAW or SMAW) followed up by hot passes and cap passes either solid-wire or flux-cored) with the jammer-style weld oscillator.

Choose the welding positioner, welding chuck, turning roll set or headstock to suit your specific needs. All positioning functions including welding head manipulator, oscillator, welding positioner and turning rolls are managed via a single control.

Contact a Red-D-Arc Weld Automation Expert to learn more or request a demo: 1-866-733-3272 | Contact Sales

See more welding turntablespipe welders and pipe welding positioners

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Airgas, an Air Liquide company, is the nation's leading single-source supplier of gases, welding and safety products. Known locally nationwide, our distribution network serves more than one million customers of all sizes with a broad offering of top-quality products and unmatched expertise.