Understanding the welding equation in the age of Industry 4.0

Lorch South Pacific managing director, David Wilton, speaks about the benefits of using advanced technology to improve commercial outcomes in the Australian welding industry.

David Wilton is determined to help every manufacturer in Australia gain big data access for their welding business. A career welding industry professional with more than three decades of experience working in markets around the world. He has seen and used the best in the world today.

The culmination of his journey led to a partnership with Lorch Schweißtechnik, a leading German manufacturer of premium-quality welding solutions for industrial applications. The South Pacific subsidiary of the company, with Wilton as managing director and co-owner, was recently launched in Australia.

The company’s engineering depth and capability is leading to new approaches to welding, the latest of which is Lorch Connect.

Lorch Connect is a platform that offers simple, entry level access to big data, with information on arc times, duty cycles, consumption of wire, gas and power. All information is displayed on an easy-to-use dashboard with useful functions to help businesses evaluate and analyse their welding production.

“The Lorch advanced engineering team are absolute visionaries. They are so far in front with welding technology and on a whole other level, with PhD-standard expertise and 60 years of experience in the design and development of smart, premium welding solutions,” Wilton said.

“Australia has never seen many of the new Lorch technologies before, and if you look on the world scale, the advanced manufacturing in places like Europe and Germany, they’re so modern and automated in so many of their processes and technologies, and we’re not. We’re so far behind.

“The welding industry is an example of where we’ve been left so far behind. We think in a different way. Many manufacturers would rather buy a cheap, low-cost piece of equipment made in Asia than invest in technology that can be game changing and drive productivity and efficiency.”

Building on the welding foundations gained during his time as an apprentice in Adelaide in the 80s, Wilton has seen the industry evolve over the past three decades.

“When I started, the most advanced product features and performance were things like one or two extra switch settings on a machine,” he said.

“Today, we’re in a digital world. We’re talking about welding machines that are like computers, resonant frequency inverter technologies with micro controllers monitoring current and voltage at 1.5 million times per second.”

Wilton believes the starting point for companies entering Industry 4.0 is to have an advanced, energy efficient, digitalised welding machine. The Lorch Connect then simply plugs and plays delivering information with big data management and showing factory floor managers information that was previously unseen.

Lorch Connect links the office, the welder and the machine via the Lorch Connect Gateway.

Managing productivity efficiency and cost

Lorch Connect enables high-level visibility on individual machines with individual operators, as well as the ability to compare performance trends over set time periods – all with remote access afforded by secure cloud-based technology.

Operations managers can then use the data to understand their welding operations and drive shop floor efficiency and productivity improvements.

“Lorch is always looking at the application and looking at the problems that the end-user customer has. How do we do it better, smarter, faster, and more cost effectively and efficiently?” Wilton said. “That’s what Smart Welding is about. It’s about looking at the application and then making it easier for that end-user customer do his job faster, with less defects, to ultimately reduce the cost of the finished product.

“We could be doing this anywhere in the world and have exact visibility,” Wilton said.

The Lorch Connect Gateway acts as the interface between the user and the welding system plus Lorch Connect.

Aside from the welding data, which is transmitted directly from the system, the gateway can also receive production-relevant data such as order numbers or information on components via a scanner.

Wilton said although there has been much discussion around digitalisation and Industry 4.0, he believed that Australian manufacturers are still at the beginning of understanding the advantages of digitalisation to improve business operations.

“The saying ‘What gets measured gets managed’ is so true. Now, consider if you have real facts and data of your shop floor welding activities with things like arc on times, operating duty cycles, welding processes and parameters being used etc you can manage it. You can say, ‘What do I have to do to get my arc on time over the next six months from 25 per cent to 35 per cent?’” he said. “On this Lorch system, this is cloud-based, with the best data security protection possible, and Lorch is responsible for maintaining the updates. The customer gets those as part of the ongoing fees for the connection.”

All Lorch equipment and processes are linked with Lorch Connect.

Keeping the costs low  

For competitive industries such as structural steel, one of the key advantages of Lorch Connect is that it allows the end-user to accurately measure and manage costs.

The cost controlling tool automatically adds up all consumption figures and monetises them. Calculations are formed by individual master data, which includes different welding wires and gases, cost of energy and labour. The end result is a comprehensive and dependable calculation on the profitability of an order or specific component.

“If they quote the same job next time, they know exactly how much it would cost them to do,” Wilton said. “Costing analysis is a really important benefit for the customer, to understand their costs on a whole new level going forward.”

“Lorch Connect is simply about delivering new information in an Industry 4.0 world with big data management and showing you information that you could not easily see before,” he said.

In summary:

Firstly, now is the time to upgrade your welding equipment to energy efficient, digitalised inverter-based technologies that are capable of advanced new welding processes that can deliver more than 30 per cent productivity improvements with welding speeds. As technology continues to improve at an exponential rate, many of these newer welding systems are “future proof” meaning they can be continuously upgraded as digital technologies continue to improve. This just makes good business sense today.

Then Lorch Connect that is supplied standard at no cost with Lorch S platform machines or at a small one-time cost on other platforms gets you into an Industry 4.0 world with the first-year access to big data included.

Wilton sees people struggling to really understand what is possible and how to use this new data information to improve their businesses.

To answer the question of what 4.0 Big Data can do for end-user customers:
1. It gives you total shop floor production visibility of all welding activity with all machines and operators with drill down ability to an individual machine or specific welds.
2. Accurate cost tracking on a project, sub assembly or a single weld.
3. QA documentation, where every weld created has a unique digital number and permanent record of parameters, time and consumed materials.

Wilton believes there are two levels of users:

Level 1 – Basic user looking at simple data

  • Shop floor arc on time;
  • shop floor operating duty cycle;
  • comparisons between operators doing the same job; and
  • accurate costing.

End customer examples: structural steel fabricators, general industry

Level 2 – Advanced user – using extra processes with bar codes and scanners

  • Tracking of orders, parts;
  • tracking welders;
  • welding procedures; and
  • QA documentation.

End customer examples: higher end where tight process controls are needed: Defence projects, marine industry, etc.

“We want this to work for all companies. This, to me, is a really valuable tool for the whole welding industry to adopt,” Wilton said.

Don’t hesitate, if you want to see more and discuss the possibilities for your own production please contact us at LSP@lorch.eu

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