Lives depend on accurate welds. Not following the proper procedures has led to welding failures that have disrupted railways, brought down cranes and set ships adrift. Bridges have collapsed, oil rigs have capsized and airplanes have crashed. A turbine, a ship’s hull or a building in an earthquake zone – get the cooling rate wrong and the welds will be weak. This is why welding organizations, such as the American Welding Society and International Standards Organization, have emerged to draw up international standards and police them.
Fundamentally, quality department managers, welding engineers and even managing directors need to know how the welding bureaucracy works. Writing a welding procedure specification, or WPS, is one thing, but navigating the bureaucracy – making sure all the right boxes are ticked – is on another level.
To begin, an important part of the equation is the welding engineer – the person who defines the procedures and processes and who sets the parameters of the weld. The welder has the technique, not the overall knowledge. Welding engineers, welders and really an entire organization rely on having the right procedures in place.
Most of the industry still uses paper, which most people probably don’t need reminding is a laborious, time-consuming process that is prone to gaps and errors. There is an easier solution that takes minimal time to learn, load and navigate. Weld tracking software, like ESAB’s WeldCloud Assembly, simplifies the documentation process by providing templates and drop-down menus that make it easy to fill in the required information.
Every single piece of weld information is then held securely in a central repository where it can be easily stored and accessed via the cloud. Plus, the software application automatically updates documentation whenever a change is made, ensuring that everyone has access to the most recent information. Increased transparency means greater reliability and eliminates the need for manual records.
Digitization enables the effective tracking and traceability of all welding processes. By using digital systems to record and store information about welds – such as welding parameters, inspection results and materials used – it becomes easier to trace back any issues or defects to their source. All the relevant data is tracked, recorded and easily retrieved when needed. This traceability helps in identifying the root cause of quality problems, implementing corrective actions and preventing recurrence. It also supports quality assurance and compliance with industry standards and regulations.
Software applications like WeldCloud compare the parameters and variables that define a project with all the data stored in the procedure qualification records (PQRs). The user just clicks on a button and it tells them any gaps that need to be filled. Companies that do not have this tool may have an Excel sheet with hundreds of entries, one for each PQR, and they have to search each parameter. This takes a lot of time, is stressful and is far more prone to error.
Audits, inspections and certifications are nerve-wracking necessities. Digitization can help ensure compliance with industry standards, codes and regulations. With digital systems, companies can establish robust documentation processes that capture all relevant information for weld quality and compliance measures. PQRs, WPSs, certifications, inspection reports, audits and more are all there when needed, making it easier to demonstrate compliance with any regulatory requirement.
The welding industry changes slowly, connectivity is only just getting started and most companies still track welds manually. But Industry 4.0 is the future, and for welding it means investing in digital.
The biggest problem is migrating existing PQRs into the system. There is no accurate way of transferring the data into the software apart from doing it manually. Importing data directly from an Excel spreadsheet is never reliable. However, the software uses the industry terminology, so it is straightforward – albeit a time-consuming initial investment – for the user to fill in the drop-down menus themself.
The learning curve is insignificant and does not require a lot of training; the buttons are clear and self-explanatory. For WeldCloud Assembly, for example, there is a “chat” option on the website if help is needed. The main thing is simply changing the status quo: “We’ve done this for 30 years, why change?” Once they try the software, the “aha” moment comes quickly and people grasp the potential for what the software can do. It saves time, frustration and money.
How does the software translate into cost savings? Fewer re-welds to start. Rework due to weld defects can be a major setback, leading to wasted time, materials and labor costs. Digital weld tracking systems help minimize rework by enabling real-time monitoring of welding parameters and quality metrics. By continuously capturing and analyzing data during the welding process, these systems can detect potential defects early on, allowing for immediate corrective action. The ability to identify and address issues promptly helps reduce the number of re-welds required, ensuring that projects progress smoothly and efficiently.
Digital weld tracking systems also provides welders with real-time feedback and performance metrics. By monitoring parameters – such as amperage, voltage and wire feed speed – these systems provide valuable insights into welding technique and quality. Welders can use this information to optimize performance and compliance to welding procedures, make necessary adjustments, and achieve consistent and high-quality welds. The ability to monitor and improve welder performance not only boosts productivity, but also enhances the overall quality and reliability of welded structures.
For projects involving multiple subcontractors, coordinating and managing welding operations can be a complex task. Digital weld tracking simplifies subcontractor management by providing a unified platform for collaboration and data sharing. Real-time visibility into subcontractors’ progress, welding procedures and quality control measures enables efficient coordination and ensures adherence to project timelines. This improved subcontractor performance eliminates delays, rework and communication gaps, leading to enhanced productivity and successful project outcomes.
But, most importantly, knowing, tracking and following a WPS leads to less weld failures and less catastrophes. What will your business gain from tracking and following a WPS?