As fabrication shops aim for consistent or increased production, quality always needs to be a top priority. Regardless of whether a shop focuses on custom projects or more general
fabrication, the proper steps need to be taken to ensure quality standards are met and mistakes are prevented. These steps can vary depending on the type of fabrication work the shop does.
When a fabrication project does not need to be customized, the process can become very tedious. The approach typically remains the same throughout the process. It may be refined from time to time, but overall, very little changes.
After the initial project is completed, the welders have everything they need before the next one begins. Fixtures have been determined as have the proper settings on the welder. They already know how much distortion, if any, the heat will cause. They also now know how long it takes to complete a set quantity of parts and the best way to ship them. Because all of that is already figured out, the operation will run much smoother moving forward. The welders can improvise further, but improvements or changes in the results will likely be minimal.
With custom jobs, the welders are starting from scratch at the beginning of every project. With certain projects, they can use experience to serve as a guide during manufacturing. They may even combine methods used on different projects and implement them on a new project. However, if the welders have never worked on a similar project in the past, they do not have experience on which to fall back. This may lead to some trial and error throughout the process and, thus, take a bit more time.
Regardless of the type of fabrication a shop performs, training is essential when it comes to efficiency and product quality. With general fabrication, the training is more specific. When the groundwork has been laid, it makes training relatively easy for fabricating the same part. The welders are trained step by step on how to make the part.
In custom work, as mentioned, the best training is experience. Welders should build on previous experience to create a new custom project. Talking with co-workers who have worked on similar projects can also be beneficial. Learning from those that have already “done that before” helps speed up the learning curve for newer employees.
No matter the amount of training a welder receives, mistakes are going to happen. How to eliminate these mistakes or at least mitigate them is the question. One way welders make mistakes is by moving too fast to increase productivity. The proper steps are not always taken, and this can lead to oversights or lower quality work.
Another reason mistakes are made is due to lack of focus. Far too often, welders go on “autopilot.” Safeguards should be created to prevent these mistakes. Taking certain steps can make it more difficult to make a costly mistake. For example, if there are similar parts that are slightly different, organize them in a way that they are not near each other and ensure they are labeled properly.
Mistakes can also be prevented by measuring similar parts and ensuring they match up. By doing this, the welder is checking the cut size and the layout at the same time. They can also put a square corner on a table to ensure that the part is at a 90-degree angle, if that is required. That way, the welder will know it is square without having to continuously check it.
Being efficient isn’t just about moving faster; it’s also about figuring out ways to get things done in a timelier manner. Organization is key.
For example, knowing where tools are located and placing them strategically can help with efficiency. Even doing an extra step or two adds up over the duration of a long job so keeping the
necessary work components close by helps, as well. Depending on the quantity, it may be necessary to refine the process, but every bit of time shaved off can help finish the job faster. A welder may not find their best approach until they are almost done with the job if there are only a few items. On larger projects, they may not get in the groove until after the first three to five parts are finished.
One challenge is getting people to buy into trying new methods, especially to increase production. Among other things, rewarding innovation can go a long way in accomplishing this. Whether the reward is financial, material or just an extra day off, rewarding employees for trying new production methods can be very effective.
People also tend to buy-in more if they are allowed to figure out their own ways to be efficient. Most welders do not want to be pigeonholed into only having one way to complete a task. Experimentation can end up leading to new methods that save the company time and money.
A good culture is key, and that starts with the hiring process. To keep production strong, it is essential to assess employees and put them into roles where they will succeed. Placing innovative welders into roles in which they can thrive prevents them from getting bored and lackadaisical in their work, which can lead to mistakes. This also allows them to find ways to improve the efficiency of the shop as long as other workers will get on board.
In fabrication shops, efficiency better ensures projects are completed on time. However, quality cannot be sacrificed in order to be more efficient. The proper steps need to be taken to ensure quality standards are met and mistakes are prevented. Staying focused, utilizing the best production methods and receiving the right kind of training are among the ways efficiency can increase properly. Not only can this help the production and bottom line of a company, but also the engagement of the shop’s welders.