Founded in 1963 and now under a third generation of ownership, Belgrade Steel Tank began business building bulk feed bins for farmers. Today – across the United States, Canada and Mexico – the company is known for producing topquality portable and stationary silos for the concrete industry. It offers solutions for ready mix, volumetric and precast storage based out of its Belgrade, Minn., headquarters.
“We evolved to the bulk powder industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” says Dan Kallevig, general manager at Belgrade Steel Tank. “And that’s our primary focus these days. We basically offer any component that you would use in a ready mix, batching plant application. I believe that because the silos we manufacture are specialized for the industry, this has contributed to the longevity of the company.”
Adding to that, Kallevig says the company’s commitment to the product line and its quality, along with their customer service, has been a factor in continued success.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the company saw an uptick in business. With more people staying home, there was an increase in swimming pool installations across the country. That led to more companies seeking storage for powered cement used in the production of Gunite (a mixture of cement, sand and water). Portland cement storage for the ready mix industry also continues to keep the company busy year round.
With a steady stream of business, Belgrade Steel Tank must maintain a high level of productivity. That means having a reliable welding operation, including welding wire that performs well and provides the expected quality. The company found these benefits with Hobart FabCO Triple 7 gas-shielded fluxcored wire.
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For Belgrade Steel Tank, customer satisfaction is a high priority. That includes offering timely delivery – even while facing supply chain issues common in today’s marketplace – and providing consistent quality.
The company mainly manufactures its silos using carbon steel material. Depending on the size of the silo and the accessories, it can take anywhere from one to two days to manufacture a smaller model or two to three days to complete a larger one. That accounts for an average of three to six welders on the project.
“It’s difficult to keep hard and fast deadlines due to the nature of incoming product and fluctuations,” says Nick Thompson, engineering manager and co-owner at Belgrade Steel Tank. “But we maintain a solid schedule so we can give our customers an accurate idea of when they can anticipate delivery. Our aim is always to fit each customer’s need and meet that need efficiently, too.”
Belgrade Steel Tank has approximately 30 welding operators on staff that they train upon employment to meet the stringent quality standards. According to Kallevig, the company demands a high level of consistency among its welders and the appearance and integrity of their welds.
“When you have several people welding on a common vessel,” Kallevig says, “you might expect to see different weld sizes or different weld styles. But we expect all welds to be held within a certain tolerance – and they are. Strength is certainly a consideration, but we want to make sure everyone is following a common set of guidelines so that all of our quality is consistent.”
That is particularly impressive considering that the welding operators primarily weld out of position, which is more difficult than flat and horizontal welding.
“Very few of our welders weld the same thing over and over, and we don’t do much bench welding,” Thompson says. “We’re doing fillet and butt welds and welding in a variety of positions. We do ups and downs, double-sided welds and overhead – you name it.”
Because of its ability to weld in all positions, gas-shielded flux-cored wire has been the go-to welding wire. However, the company noticed that it was getting porosity on the backside of its double-sided welds when welding thinner material with their previous wire. Kallevig says they were searching for ways to eliminate that. They also wanted to find a wire that was more operatorfriendly for its welders, especially because many come to the company with little experience.
After talking with their local welding distributor, Steve Schwartz of Oxygen Service Co., Sauk Rapids, Minn., Belgrade Steel Tank decided to look for an alternative.
Improving the welding
Along with considering a new welding wire, Schwartz also recommended a change of shielding gas to improve the welding operation. This involved converting from 100 percent CO2 to a mixture of 75 percent argon and 25 percent CO2. This blend offers a more stable arc and supports visually appealing welds.
Making this switch prompted Schwartz to recommend the FabCO Triple 7 gas-shielded flux-cored wire, which is optimized for use with argon/CO2.
From there, the conversion was simple. Schwartz says he “brought in sample spools and we let the welding operators weld with the wire. Collectively, the feedback was positive.
Everyone was on board and wanted to make the switch.”
Versatility is key
In addition to the welding operators appreciating how the FabCO Triple 7 wire ran, Belgrade Steel Tank discovered more benefits with continued use.
“I would say overall versatility of the wire is great,” says Steve Mueller, production manager and co-owner at Belgrade Steel Tank. “We’ve tried other wires that don’t run as well in the vertical up position or running a down pass. Being able to rely on the Triple 7 for that is among the main reasons we like it. The slag removal is also easy and there seems to be less spatter, as well.”
The company was also able to eliminate the porosity issues it experienced with its previous wire as well as achieve more visually appealing welds.
“We haven’t had any issues with any worm tracks or porosity or anything like that. Everything seems to be going really well,” Kallevig says.
Thompson agrees, adding, “it’s easily resulted in a 25 percent improvement in our quality. It’s hard to put a dollar figure on cost savings for that, but I think when you stay busy and continue to have a very generous backlog, that tells you that the customers are liking what they see.”
In addition to the improved quality, Mueller says rework to address the issues with porosity has disappeared, which adds to the cost savings they have found with the Triple 7 fluxcored wire.
The company found additional savings in reduced contact tip consumption, which can be attributed to the change in shielding gas mixture. Argon/CO2 blends tend to be less harsh on consumables than straight CO2.
All in all, the Triple 7 wire has benefited the flux-cored welding operation, leaving both management and the welding operators satisfied with the results.
“I know in years prior,” Mueller says, “we dabbled with some other products, whether it was cheaper or a little more expensive – but we would always fall back to the Hobart wire. This time, the Triple 7 wire has been a great, versatile option for us.”