Data. These days, it’s everywhere. From our personal lives to our office cubicles and all the way to the manufacturing floor, data collection has become a constant activity that influences almost every aspect of our lives. And there is a good reason for that. Thanks to our connected world and the ever-increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT), data has been a key driver into how individuals and corporations alike make smarter decisions and improve quality – whether it be the quality of our lives or the quality of the product rolling off the production floor.
For fab shop managers and supervisors, the same holds true. With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the Big Data it creates, data plays a significant role in all aspects of production, including welding. Yet the question always remains, how do you use that data to your benefit – specifically to achieve weld quality initiatives – without finding yourself overwhelmed by it?
With today’s advanced power sources and cloud-based weld data monitoring solutions, shops can reap vital, real-time, at-the-weld information easier than ever. Using interactive dashboards and advanced reporting, shops can see through the mass amount of raw data with clean visuals and virtual paper trails to help digitally track the welding process, boost efficiency and maintain quality.
Data in quality initiatives
Quality standards and certifications are becoming increasingly stringent across the manufacturing spectrum. Welding is no exception. Many of these rigorous standards demand
verification, tracking and backup materials. In other words, data.
As such, data has always been an important part of quality assurance. Without data, weld quality assurance teams would struggle to identify the reasons behind a good weld or a failed one. Good data provides the transparency needed to track the entire weld production process, providing traceability from the individual part to the consumable and weld parameter settings down to each welder or robot.
All of these factors contribute to a part’s weld quality assurance. They also have a part in creating the actionable data that’s collected and analyzed for the sake of quality assurance documentation and verification.
This data reveals the whole journey for any one part, from revealing where problems occur on a welding line to verifying how a final, approved part made its journey across the shop floor.
Data in weld monitoring
Maintaining quality and tracking data for both quality assurance and verification is not easy. Even in the pre-Industry 4.0 days when things weren’t digital, welding supervisors and quality engineers still collected data. They did it manually using logs and spreadsheets to track and manage quality efforts.
This was time-consuming. Manual data also became outdated rather quickly, sometimes even well before the team could manually sort it, review it and determine what information was actionable.
The connected world of IIoT has streamlined all of that and provided fab shops with an efficient way to collect and analyze meaningful data versus raw information from any location using a computer, tablet or mobile phone.
Modern solutions offer simple, user-friendly dashboards that allow users to visualize data and key performance indicators to identify meaningful finds in real time. These systems also gather data at the source and store it in the cloud for easy traceability.
By viewing real-time, at-the-weld data, fab shops get full visibility of their welding operations as it happens. This allows them to examine multiple weld quality factors for each part, including the number of welds made, weld parameters used, wire deposition rates and more.
Through weld data monitoring systems, shops can track these quality factors across the entire weld floor, from the proverbial 30,000-ft. view down to a single weld on a part, who made it, on what power source and during what shift.
These weld data monitoring systems can then collect and store this information, providing a virtual paper trail that can be readily available for each part for future quality assurance documentation and verification initiatives.
In addition, weld data monitoring solutions can allow shops to take proactive steps to help stop failures before they leave the weld station. With the ability to collect and monitor real-time quality assurance measurements, such as weld durations, current, voltage, wire feed speed and arc time, shops can establish parameter ranges that the system automatically flags when breached, stopping the process in its tracks for further quality assurance inspection.
Implementing data monitoring
Weld data monitoring systems can be beneficial across the entire spectrum of the fab shop. Welding engineers, quality assurance engineers, plant managers and maintenance, tech support workers, senior management and more can all capitalize on the real-time weld data to improve their job functions.
Thankfully, with the current surge of IIoT and data-ready equipment in the manufacturing space, setting a fab shop up to collect data has become a simple task. With today’s advanced welding power sources, such as Lincoln Electric’s Power Wave platform, weld data monitoring systems have become standard, out-of-the-box features that require nothing more than a simple network connection. All the data that’s needed to track and monitor weld quality in day-to-day operations is already collected within the power source, meaning data is quickly accessed, leading to the move into data-driven quality assurance.
Simply put, if your fab shop is looking to take the next step into improving quality assurance, don’t overlook the power of weld data monitoring systems. With our digital-driven world, the access and implementation of weld data monitoring systems have never been easier, leading to the question of not if your shop should use weld data for quality assurance, but when.
It’s important for all stakeholders across the shop to fully understand that the system is valuable for obtaining meaningful, actionable information, not just raw data, which drives quality improvements and provides traceability. Simply put, today’s weld data monitoring tools help fab shops improve operations through increased overall efficiency that yields better quality welding. And it’s all driven by data.