Awelding operation is only as respectable as its attention to detail. The skill is so precise and at the same time so critical to the metal fabricator’s reputation that just one improper weld can lead to an inaccurate, or even worse, unusable final product. One mistake can be harmful enough to lose a customer’s business permanently.
At WB Industries, a custom metal fabricator located near St. Louis, this critical objective is achieved through a continuous, clear and team-oriented communication process.
Although one can find many unique philosophies among metal fabrication shops around the country, there is frequently strong crossover in the approaches as well as the execution of the steps themselves. At WB Industries, a process was instituted that was specifically designed to maximize communication and allow the team to continuously improve the understanding and details of the products created on-site.
One of the main tenets to WB Industries’ process is thorough communication before a single weld is laid down. When the company is presented with a new order, the job is briefed to the production team in every department by the planning team to communicate the high-level aspects of the job. This is followed by discussions on operational sequences, material handling and movement, as well as process specifics, which could include a variety of particulars. Examples could include correspondence, such as:
- he assembly will be welded to AWS Standard D1.1
- The joints require fillet welds
- The assembly requires preheating before welding
Frequently, the documentation calls out a specification that needs to be discussed in detail before being put into action. AWS D1.1 or D1.2, MIG or TIG, pre-heat or no heat, weld wire size, etc., are all discussed thoroughly to ensure all departments understand the requirements. Even before the new order makes its way to the floor, a signature is required from the planner, project manager and department manager to indicate that all components of the operation have been covered with an agreed-upon process.
Once the detailed approach is determined, the supervisor shares it in the daily department meeting with the welding team. During this meeting, various pieces of information are shared with the team with the intent to eliminate confusion regarding the job requirements. This is also when issues and resolutions are discussed as well as a review of the timeline for each active job in the shop.
The sequence of the morning shift startup meeting typically follows this flow: The supervisor compares performance to the target goals for completion. If there are any new developments on the job, this is communicated along with the new approach. Perhaps, due to unforeseen circumstances, a certain job is now on hold, or perhaps due to the labor outlook over the next couple of days or weeks, a team member needs to shift their work to a different project. This is all communicated during that morning meeting at shift startup.
In addition to the shift startup meetings, there is a subsequent daily production meeting where the department managers discuss operational performance on open jobs. Supply chain issues, material handling concerns and shipping requirements are all integrated into the daily schedule discussions. The primary purpose of the meeting is to ensure that the day’s production is fully supported and that all residual action items have been addressed. New action items are generated daily to continuously support the operational demands.
All of this falls under the category of “pre-job” communication. Just as critical for quality purposes, however, is the communication that needs to take place after the job is complete. Before heading out the door, the last of the multiple required quality checks are performed. Any details that deviate from the mutually agreed upon approach are noted and must be resolved prior to shipping. Adjustments are promptly and clearly communicated with the impacted team members. And once those adjustments are addressed by the production team, another inspection is performed to ensure the customer requirements are 100 percent satisfied.
Overall, the goal at WB Industries is to continuously improve the way its teams perform their daily operational duties.
Improved operational execution and communication allow the fabrication company to meet or exceed the customer’s expectations by providing a world-class product on time, every time.