When the snow flies, snow removal crews must keep roads clear for emergency vehicles and other drivers. Henderson Products in Manchester, Iowa, plays a critical role in this process.
“We have equipment in every state,” says Kevin Schueller, Henderson manufacturing manager. “Our motto is ‘keep America’s roads safe,’ so when we deliver a product, it needs to be the highest quality.”
A North American leader in the design, manufacture and upfit of multi-purpose equipment for heavy-duty work trucks that specialize in snow and ice control, Henderson aims to deliver reliable and durable equipment that runs every time it’s needed.
Founded more than 75 years ago, the company eventually shifted from producing agricultural attachments to its current status as a leader in snow and ice removal equipment. They sell through independent dealers and directly to government agencies such as state DOTs. At the 175,000-sq.-ft. facility in Manchester, Henderson manufactures a range of products, including dump bodies, snowplows, sand and salt spreaders, anti-ice systems and combination bodies for heavy-duty trucks.
“Our business is very customization-driven,” Schueller says. “We pride ourselves on working with customers to provide whatever changes they want and whatever products suit them well. We’re a one-stop shop for turnkey packages.”
Due to the level of customization, Henderson doesn’t have many high-volume orders. This requires flexibility on the part of the welders and welding equipment.
“A lot of times, when you look up and down our product lines, you’ll see a range of differences,” says Thomas Kenny, welding engineer at Henderson. “Our machines and our welders have to be able to accommodate whatever material is thrown at them, whatever the thickness.”
The versatile machine that Henderson relies on to tackle any job is the Miller Deltaweld welding system along with the Intellx Elite wire feeder. The system works on a wide range of materials and thicknesses while reducing post-weld cleanup and training time.
Flexibility for jobs
Henderson completes fabrication, welding, painting and final assembly at the plant, but welding is a core competency. It’s important that the nearly 80 welders at the facility are each producing the same high-quality parts. Normal manufacturing cycle time is a week to 10 days, and the parts are typically made from mild or stainless steel, ranging from 16 gauge to several inches.
“Having similar welding equipment and new technologies across the board really helps with keeping the quality high,” Kenny says.
As the facility replaces legacy equipment, Miller partners with them to choose welding power sources that best fit Henderson’s needs. The most critical need for Henderson is power sources that are easy to use, offer flexibility for welding different parts and materials, provide strong and stable arcs, and are adaptable for different input power. The facility has about 20 Deltaweld 350 machines used for pulsed MIG welding.
“It’s really remarkable how easy it is to use the machine and identify the correct settings,” Kenny says.
Post-weld cleanup is a time-consuming part of welding. Since switching to the Deltaweld 350 and pulsed MIG welding, Henderson has realized a significant reduction in spatter during welding. This cuts the time spent on post-weld grinding and cleaning.
Kenny recalls training welders at another facility on the Deltaweld system. After a while, he stopped the welders to ask how much spatter they were seeing. The welders closely inspected every weld and found only one piece of spatter among all of them.
“It really does produce much less spatter,” he says. “In my cost justifications, I calculate about a 75 percent reduction in spatter with the Deltaweld 350 and pulsed MIG, and in some cases, it’s more than that. When you take that across all of the welding cells we have, that’s huge.”
Like with many manufacturers, it can be difficult for Henderson to find skilled welders. The company started its own training program with a local community college to train welders in-house. Some people enter the training program with little welding experience, while others have none.
Using welding equipment that makes it easier for new welders to learn and train means Henderson can get them up to speed and into the production environment faster.
“The Deltaweld 350s really help us during the training of new welders,” Kenny says. “I can shave a week off of training time because the machine is very adaptive and helps them learn how to weld and achieve a good weld faster.”
The switch to the Deltaweld 350 and pulsed MIG was also embraced by experienced welders at the facility. Kenny recalls one veteran welder who did not want to give up the machine he had used for 27 years. Kenny replaced that machine with a new Deltaweld 350 and pulsed MIG and continued to check in on the operator.
“This welder didn’t really want to learn the new technology,” he says. “After a few days, he was like, ‘Well, it’s OK.’ I worked with him a little bit more and helped him understand how to adjust the arc length and get rid of some more of that spatter. After a few weeks, you could just see that he was enjoying the welding. So just for fun, I told him we had another welder go down and that we needed to take his machine and give him his old one back. Right away, he said ‘No, I don’t want my old one back.’”
Samantha Fleming has been a welder at Henderson for several years. Her typical day involves different types of welds because her job is to repair broken equipment or parts that are under warranty for customers. She has to determine the best way to weld them, and that often involves frequently changing wires.
The Intellx Elite wire feeder provides information about the weld and parameter changes, helping her grow as a welder. It also saves her time in making adjustments because the machine confirms the correct ranges.
“It’s actually been teaching me about the mistakes I may have been making with settings,” Fleming says. “You turn the knob, and it shows you the diagram of what’s going on inside the weld. It’s foolproof. I really like it.”
Henderson welder Jesse Thurn, a member of the company’s apprenticeship program, agrees that the wire feeder’s display saves him time and confirms he has the proper settings.
“You can just easily adjust it,” Thurn says. “It’s very helpful for new welders coming in.”
The wire feeder’s full-color LCD screen provides graphical information to the operator about what’s happening in the weld as they change settings. If the operator makes a change to wire feed speed settings, for example, the interface shows them if it’s out of the suggested range.
“The welders get so much information just by looking at the wire feeder interface,” Kenny says. “As they make adjustments, the screen shows what’s changing inside the weld. That’s imperative because I can talk with a welder until I’m blue in the face, but once they have that feeder showing them the information and they stare at it all day, it starts to sink in.”
That has resulted in a lot of newer welders seeking out Kenny for discussion about why certain changes make the weld react in a certain way. Even experienced welders can better understand details of the weld and how the weld is affected by changes they make.
“It really started driving the conversations to develop their knowledge of welding even further,” he says. “It’s amazing how that wire feeder has helped me share information.”
Wire feeder versatility
When Henderson welders switch from mild to stainless steel or from flat, horizontal welding to vertical welding, they typically need to adjust wire feed speed or other settings. Many parts welded at Henderson are large and hard to roll, so operators must adapt quickly and weld in other positions.
That’s where the Elite wire feeder comes in. It provides eight customizable memory settings so operators can touch a button to switch parameters for a specific weld. Memory one could be set to run on 10-gauge steel in the horizontal position, and memory two could be set to run vertical down welds on stainless, for example.
“The beauty of the Elite feeder is it makes it really, really easy to make those adjustments,” Kenny says. “Rather than having to remember what settings are acceptable, operators can push a button and jump into a new part.”
Thanks to the Deltaweld 350 system and pulsed MIG welding and Intellx Elite wire feeders, Henderson reduced training time for new welders and improved productivity by drastically lowering the levels of spatter produced during welding. The system is a game-changing solution that delivers everything Henderson needs to be competitive and meet customer demands.
“They’re capable of doing everything we need them to do, and they provide us exactly what we want,” Kenny says. “Our efficiency and quality are very important to us. We view our units as very large billboards when they’re going down the road. People driving by will see our product, and we want the welds to look great.”