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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
While 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:
- Employee training
- Maintenance of equipment
- Replacement parts
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.
Are you unsure whether to buy your own equipment or to enter into a welding equipment rental arrangement? Renting your welding equipment may well be the better option for your business. There are many advantages to renting. We outlined a few of the them below.
Renting Your Welding Equipment Will Save You Money
The first thing you should take note of is that a welding equipment rental arrangement will save you a great deal of time, energy, and money.
Are you looking for the best rates on portable welder rentals? We can fulfill your welding equipment needs. At Red-d-Arc, we offer you a wide variety of welding equipment for almost every purpose. We provide customized recommendations on each piece of equipment that we rent out.
Get in touch with us today to learn more about our welding equipment rental and long term welder leasing programs. We make it our goal to provide you the correct welding tools for any job you have, delivered in a timely and cost effective manner.
The method you select for welding pipe will depend on the location where the welding is taking place, materials and pipe size.
For welding steel pipes in the open (e.g. pipe installation in trenches), manual arc welding (SMAW) is most common. This technique used is downhill using cellulosic electrodes (also basic electrodes are used for higher strength steel applications). A root pass and a hot pass are followed by the fill passes. The weld is finalized by the top pass. Welding units optimised for downhill welding are utilised.
Welding Smaller Pipes
For small diameter and short length pipes which are free to rotate, the pipe is rotated while the welding torch is held stationary. The processes used are MIG (GMAW) and TIG (GTAW). In the case of TIG welding a wire feeder is necessary. A process cell is best for this type of welding.
Welding Large Pipes
In applications involving larger pipe sizes, welding is generally carried out using the orbital process. MIG is usually employed, but TIG with automatic feed of the filler wire can also be used. Orbital process using closed head welding units is also utilized for applications where smaller pipes cannot be rotated.
There are a number of advanced methods of depositing pipe welds currently in use. These include precisely controlled short circuit transfer for root pass (Miller – Regulated Metal Deposition), optimized pulsed welding (Miller – Pro-Pulse) and high frequency waveform control (Lincoln – Surface Tension Transfer) in order to speed up and improve the quality of the pipe welds.
Red-D-Arc has a wide range of pipe welding equipment for rent including the following:
- Closed head orbital welding units for small pipe diameter
- Orbital TIG welding system for larger pipe diameters
- Orbital MIG welding system
- Process pipe cell with oscillating open arc welding
- TIG and MIG welding power sources suitable for above
- Cutting and bevelling saws for up to 12.75” (325mm) pipe diameter
Have a look at our entire selection of pipe welding equipment which includes pipe cutters and bevelers.
Read more on orbital welding
A Red-D-Arc customer based out of the UK was awarded three large offshore wind farm projects …all commencing simultaneously. This manufacturer was comfortable taking on so many large scale, specialized projects because they have a reliable, knowledgeable, tier 1 supplier capable of meeting all of their welding and weld automation equipment needs! Red-D-Arc was able to quickly accommodate all of the welding equipment requirements for the project, providing more than 150 welders and a variety of weld automation equipment. The equipment consisted of multi-operator welding paks, diesel welders, advanced power sources, wire feeders, submerged arc welding packages, and rotators.
Two Red-D-Arc technicians were assigned to the facility to install, service and maintain the equipment to minimize downtime. The facility allocated a permanent workshop and storage container for back-up equipment which could be used to quickly replace any equipment as necessary. With Red-D-Arc’s support, the customer was able to work on all three projects simultaneously and avoid lost time due to equipment breakdowns.
By guest Blogger Katarzyna K.
Katarzyna has an Msc in Materials Science and has worked in the oil and gas industry in jobs related to hydraulics, welding and the retrofitting of oil rigs.
Stainless steel is used extensively in the petrochemical industry due to its high resistance to severe conditions. When welding inox steels, the smallest details matter and have an impact on weld quality. The following are some tips for stainless steel pipe welding based on my oil rig repair experience:
During an oil rig repair project that involved 2205 duplex stainless steel pipe TIG welding, we could not achieve the required weld properties. Despite using the recommended filler metal with higher nickel content, compared to the base metal, and controlling the interpass temperature, the weld tensile strength was still too low. In order to reach the required weld quality we dug deeper and found a solution – (more…)
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.
Red-D-Arc carries an extensive inventory of welding equipment designed specifically for pipe welding professionals. The latest pipe welding equipment can increase productivity and produce the highest quality welds. We have an extensive fleet of innovative solutions like the Miller PipeWorx Welding System, Red-D-Arc Oscillating Pipe Welder, Bug-O Systems, Orbital Welding Systems from Lincoln and Axxair, and pipe end prep equipment from H&M and E.H. Wachs.
Check out the new Pipe Welding section of the reddarc.com website to learn more.
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Red-D-Arc is running a limited time, special offer on Quality-Checked used welding equipment. Until June 30th, a selection of pre-owned welders are available at significantly discounted prices. These welders are in “like new” condition, include a 12 month warranty and are in stock – for fast delivery. Don’t miss out! See the flyer for more details.