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.
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 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 turntables, pipe welders and pipe welding positioners
MacAljon, an industrial general contracting firm, has increased the productivity of its thin-wall tank manufacturing operation by more than 50% using the Red-D-Arc RDA MFUB-TW (fit-up bed for thin-wall cans). Fit-up time has been decreased by 20% and the use of spider bracing is no longer required. With no spider bracing to get in the way, a manipulator is now used to perform SAW ID circumference welding which has increased productivity by 30%.
The RDA MFUB-TW system is specially designed for the construction of thin-wall vessels ranging in size from 10′ to 15′-6″ in diameter (custom sizes are available). Our patented system is fitted with independently-adjustable vertical-rolls to support, align and compensate for tank non-concentricity when assembling multiple thin-wall sections which eliminates the need for spider bracing.
If you work with vessels that require the use of spider bracing or that have a wall thickness of between 3/16 – 3/8″ contact the Red-D-Arc sales team to learn more about the RDA MFUB-TW and how it can increase the productivity of your thin-wall tank manufacturing operation.
Read more about the RDA MFUB-TW here.
Research and Markets, a leading market research firm, has released a research report titled Global Welding Equipment Market 2015-2019. The report highlights the growing need for the automation of welding processes. An analyst involved in creating the report commented: “One key trend upcoming in the market is the automation of the welding equipment. There has been a continuous shift from manual to automatic welding in the welding industry in recent years. The need to automate manufacturing processes is one of the major requirements of the Global Welding Equipment market.”
As a leading supplier of weld automation equipment Red-D-Arc is ready to meet the ever-evolving needs of the welding industry. We are your one-stop-shop for sales, lease and rental of welding positioners, manipulators, turning rolls and other weld automation products, available through our global distribution network. We also design and build complete turnkey weld automation packages which can include integrated controls – such as digital touch-screen interfaces and camera systems – for your complete project requirements. Our team of engineers will provide you with weld process recommendations and set up all your equipment for optimized reliability, functionality and productivity.
Learn more about Red-D-Arc Weld Automation products and services.
For more information on the Global Welding Equipment Market 2015-2019 report visit the Research and Markets website.
Red-D-Arc designs and builds complete turnkey weld automation packages for your complete project requirements. Our team of engineers and designers develop specialized solutions alongside our customers. We’ll provide you with weld process recommendations and set up all your equipment for optimized reliability, functionality and productivity.
The Red-D-Arc Weld Automation team has extensive industry experience which includes hundreds of special and turnkey installations provided to diverse sectors of industry such as Oil Exploration and Refining, Nuclear Industries, Aerospace, Defense, Steel Mills, Mining and Wind Tower Manufacture. From small positioners for integration with welding robots to 500 tonne capacity positioners with unique HMI controls complete with onsite training, services and support.
Learn more about custom weld automation packages here.
Offered at a very competitive price, Red-D-Arc’s new RDA FHV220-M NA and RDA FHV440-M NA Manufacturers Series Positioners provide 360° rotation with 120° forward tilt to position weldments for better down-hand or automatic welding and safe, trouble-free operation. These small, portable positioners are driven by worm-gear reducers and controlled using a standard forward/stop/reverse, variable-speed control. RDA FHV440-M NA tilt is controlled using a hand crank and has a horizontal load capacity of 440 lb (200 kg). The RDA FHV220-M NA offers manual tilt and 220 lb (100 kg) horizontal load capacity.
The RDA FHV220-M NA and RDA FHV440-M NA are available for sale only and include Red-D-Arc’s industry leading 3 year warranty. We have an extensive inventory of units available for immediate delivery.
Contact sales to learn more. Welding chucks are also available to accommodate your requirements.
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Red-D-Arc’s MFUB-TW Modular Fit Up Bed system is specially designed for the construction of thin-wall tanks ranging in size from 10′ to 15′-6″ in diameter. Our patented system is fitted with independently-adjustable vertical-rolls to support, align and compensate for tank non-concentricity when assembling multiple thin-wall sections. There is no need for spider bracing as the system will keep the cans concentric during fit-up and welding.
Each system is supplied with a Motorized Drive Unit (MDU) module connected to up to four Coupled Connection Drive (CCD) modules – depending on the length and number of sections to be joined. The CCD modules are connected to the MDU module by splice couplings and fish-plates at each side of the skid frame so that the wheel drums on all the modules are driven. The system is flexible enough to accommodate various lengths and sections of tanks. The MDU is driven on both wheel drums through a double-reduction heavy-duty worm and wheel gearbox with chain and sprocket through an AC vectored motor.
Each MDU and CCD module is fitted with 4 hydraulic-support-arms (upper link and lower link assemblies) giving 4 points of contact on each side of the work piece along the length of the fabricated tank. Once the tank section is lowered into position on the wheel drums, the support arms, which independently pivot, are moved into position to manipulate the shape of the tank sidewalls. After the tank sections have been welded together, the support arms – which are independently controlled through a solenoid-operated push-button station controlled via hydraulic power pack – can be disengaged and the tank can be removed.
For more information please contact Michael Keith – Director of Automation via email at Michael.Keith@Airgas.com or call 904-759-8503
Visit Red-D-Arc at FABTECH – November 11-13, 2014 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia – Airgas Booth: C1334. FABTECH is North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event; providing a backdrop for visitors to experience live equipment demonstrations, find cost savings solutions, and network with industry peers.
We will be showcasing some of our latest Weld Automation products including the Red-D-Arc line of welding positioners, manipulators and turning rolls, automated TIG cladding systems and cutting machines. See a demonstration of the Modular Fit Up Bed for Thin Wall cans (MFUB-TW). Specially designed for the construction of various diameters of thin-wall tanks, MFUB-TW is fitted with independently-adjustable vertical-rolls to support, align and compensate for tank non-concentricity when assembling multiple thin-wall sections.