When it comes to welding, many customers are looking for suppliers that make them more productive and bring them on the journey to understand the new technologies and solutions available to achieve smarter, safer and more efficient welding.
Many Australian businesses are faced with unique challenges, however, it is clear many are grappling with common issues including skills shortages, rising inflation and increasing global competition.
Taking action to review welding operations can deliver immediate productivity benefits. It could be as simple as switching the type of gas used for a welding application or upgrading the gas supply method, right through to more complex activities that support changing the welding process and automation integration.
We spoke to several owners of manufacturing businesses in regional New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland to hear how they are innovating welding operations, and strengthening their operational and commercial capabilities.
Gas switch delivers growth opportunity in regional NSW
Custom steel fabrication manufacturer Rose Valley Steel Works upgraded the welding technology and gases at its Armidale facility, increasing its capability to develop innovative new products including a flat pack animal feeder that is now being shipped nationally.
Owner Phil Macfarlane was interested in the latest welding machines, and positive differences certain gases can have on quality, efficiencies and output.
He invested in a fleet of EWM welding machines including the Tetrix 300AC/DC, Taurus 400, Phoenix 355 progress pulse and a Phoenix XQ 400.
To support the equipment investment, they switched to BOC performance line gases for different applications. These included Alushield®, a helium-blended mixture for aluminium processes and Stainshield® for MIG welding stainless steels.
Since making these equipment and gas upgrades, Rose Valley Steel Works has improved its weld quality and productivity including reduced spatter, reduced weld time and eliminated pre and post welding work. It has also delivered cost savings on abrasives, filler metals and running costs, while also improving quality and efficiency with a cleaner weld in less time.
“We operate with 14 full-time staff and BOC’s help with upgrading technology and welding techniques has been key,” said Macfarlane. “We can now find many innovative solutions to the most challenging needs and make anything out of metal for our customers.
“Our BOC representative taught us how to maximise our new machines and use the best gases to create top quality outcomes. The added benefit is that the local TAFE now has the same technology resulting in good cohesion between work and training for our five apprentices.”
Victorian manufacturer embraces new era of Industry 4.0
Entegra Signature Structures is a national manufacturer of steel sheds and signature structures with globally patented designs that deliver exceptional quality and reliability.
The team prides itself on its long history but remains firmly focused on the future, investing heavily in research and development to strengthen its position as a leading manufacturer and increase its capability to deliver complex engineering tasks.
Laurie McCalman, general manager at Entegra said the business has experienced strong growth over the past 3 years and invested heavily to expand and modernise manufacturing capability at its Swan Hill and Gympie facilities.
“We are transitioning these manufacturing sites to a modern, digital workspace that paves the way for future growth and prepares our business for industry 4.0.”
David Green, Head of Operations at Entegra is managing the transition to industry 4.0 across all facilities, and oversees the modernisation of the team’s welding capability.
“We are big on standardising processes and associated machinery to ensure the outcome from our facilities is predictable.”
Investing in new welding technology is important to Entegra as they understand the value of advanced manufacturing in operations. Entegra engaged BOC’s application specialists to investigate new technology solutions and trial various welders to replace traditional transformer-based equipment.
“It made sense to go down the path with BOC. We needed a supplier we were comfortable with. They had always been reliable with a good delivery model for getting product in.”
As the exclusive supplier of EWM digital welding machines in Australia, BOC worked with Entegra to replace all welding machines with EWM MIG inverter welders, set up to also use EWM’s industry-leading forceArc Process.
“We trialed the EWM machines a few times, and what interested us the most was the xNet software that could connect them all digitally, produce data and develop welding procedures.
“The buttons that can be installed at each work station to identify who is welding what, when and what their qualification is was also an attractive feature.”
While replacing its welding machines, Entegra also commissioned its first welding automation robot with BOC and Automation & Robotic Services providing a turnkey solution. The automation system included an ABB robot paired with an EWM MIG inverter welder. This was set up to weld Entegra’s Taperflow® high volume box gutter systems.
“We see it as an investment in our people. The robot isn’t about making it faster, but rather learning as a team. To manage robots and these new welding tools, we need to ensure we are developing our industry 4.0 experience in-house.”
The xNet software has provided meaningful data for the Entegra management team that is being reported regularly at a board level.
“With this software, we are now on the pathway to industry 4.0. To me this means being able to look at data from a machine-by-machine level, and then at an overall operational level. Then using this data to make meaningful business decisions.”
This investment in welding systems and IT infrastructure has delivered a blueprint for the future.
“We now have a robot that we can learn from and train. As we continue to use it and analyse data, we will have a blueprint for rolling-out automation systems at any of our sites nationally.
“If we wanted to install any IoT application down the track, we now have the IT infrastructure in place to be able to do that.”
Cylinder upgrade delivers immediate benefit for QLD business
When Queensland-based Alltype Engineers won its largest ever order to weld aluminium trench shoring boxes, it was essential that they had the best equipment and gases on hand to increase staff productivity and save time.
With up to 12 workers on the floor and out onsite on any given day, a top priority is ensuring premium product quality and production efficiency.
After a survey of the market, owner Darren Aldridge found the BOC F3 VIPR cylinders exceeded expectations, which resulted in an upgrade of all its G size cylinders.
“We were ordering gas every second day and now with the F3 VIPR bottles, we only order once per week. It has relieved me and my staff as we aren’t moving around huge gas bottles and it saves me money as there is less down time. In essence, it improves the profitability of our own products.”
With an in-built regulator, the innovative F3 VIPR cylinder provides value for money by eliminating the need to replace or service regulators and gauges. The cylinders are also filled to a pressure of 300 bar and contain up to 15 per cent more gas than a G size. This meant Alltype Engineers could get an extra day and a half out of a cylinder.
The cylinders also have improved safety features including a handle, protective casing for the regulator and a shorter height for easier transportation, manual handling and putting on the back of the welders.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do the aluminium trench box project 5 years ago but thanks to our gas and welding solutions, we are the only aluminium panel maker in Australia with panels that are 35 per cent stronger than our US competitors. That makes us very proud.”
Supporting customers into the future
BOC understands the importance of helping Australian manufacturers thrive in an increasingly competitive global market, and is committed to making our customers more productive from gas and welding equipment (including filler metals and welding safety), right through to industry 4.0 welding solutions.
We have invested in Application Technology Centres in Brisbane and Western Sydney to showcase new world- leading technologies that make welding processes smarter and more efficient, with a strong focus on safety. At these technology-enabled facilities, we also provide face-to-face and virtual training for customers.