Team Industries' welding technology trio takes training, traceability, timetables to new levels
Power supplies, induction heaters, software help Team train welders, beat deadlines
In its efforts to train welders consistently and deliver products on time, Team Industries Inc. looked for welding equipment that would minimize training time and maximize consistency. It discovered three Miller products that helps it achieve these goals.
“Fabricated right the first time” is a Team Industries pledge to customers. Since it was founded in 1987, the company has grown in capabilities and size and now has three locations in Wisconsin (Kaukauna and Oconto Falls) and Texas (Port Arthur) to serve industries such as petrochemical, power generation, refining, agrichemical, and mining.
Team aspired to become an industry leader in pipe and tank fabrication, focusing on deadlines and budgets, and therefore established a one-stop shop process. Team provides materials purchasing, receiving, and storage; in-house engineering; pipe and tank fabrication; support fabrication; heat treatment; blasting and coating; painting and finishing; and in-house nondestructive testing. A recently completed expansion at its headquarters, the Kaukauna location, increased total fabrication space to 473,000 square feet, allowed for the addition of more services, and helped to optimize work flow.
The key for the company is to deliver more than its customers expect. “In the field is where Team gets evaluated on what’s been delivered, because it fits the first time,” said Jon Viestenz, business development for Team Industries. “For customers, that means a great deal because it keeps the cost down on the overall project.”
Two key factors in Team’s success are employing a skilled workforce and keeping up with technology. Team uses identical welding equipment in its pipe shops to help ensure that all finished products conform to customer requirements.“Technological advancements are a must, whether it’s your welding equipment, your software systems, [or] your tracking systems,” Viestenz said.
Welding to Code, Consistently
Employing more than 200 welding operators company-wide working on 50 to 70 jobs at a time, Team has enough capacity at its three shops to produce up to 6,500 spools per month.
Given the shortage of welders in the industry, the company focuses on training and retaining skilled welding operators. It designed an apprentice program conducted with Local UA400 at its Wisconsin locations and run in-house at its Port Arthur shop (see Sidebar). The program develops a talented labor pool dedicated to pipe and pressure vessel fabrication, providing training in gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW), flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), and shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) on materials such as stainless, carbon, and chrome-moly steels.
Quality requirements and the need to get trained welders on the job quickly play a role in the equipment that Team Industries chooses. The company has standardized its welding booths with the Miller® PipeWorx 400 welding system. The multiprocess machine fits the company’s varied welding requirements and takes the work out of setup and process changeover.
“We have seen a decrease in X-ray failure. The consistency of the arc definitely plays a role in that,” said Jim VanZeeland, shop superintendent.
Training and Retaining Welders
“With the lack of welders out there today, it is critical to get people up to speed, get them welding and productive, to get our product out the door to meet demands,” VanZeeland explained.
Users push a button to select the welding process, and the machine automatically selects the welding process along with the correct polarity, cable outputs, and welding parameters. The system also changes the shielding gas required.
“They have enough things to learn already, like techniques and torch angle,” said Mike Schmidt, vice president of manufacturing. “The quicker we can get people to pass X-ray, the better it is for us.”Eliminating the need to manually switch polarity or cables and hoses between processes helps new welders hit the ground running. Consistent arc quality also helps as they learn to control the arc and the puddle.
“Coming into this, I’d never turned a welder on,” said Jerica Bohman, a welder in Team’s apprentice program. “After my first class I had it figured out.”
After a GTAW root pass, fabricators can press a button to change over to FCAW for the remaining passes. Each welder can save their process parameters on a memory card, so they can access their settings when they switch booths or start a shift.
Of course, welding doesn’t always start with a weld. In many cases, a preheat is required, and customer specifications often specify an electric preheat. Team uses Miller’s ProHeat™ 35 induction heating system to help eliminate some of the safety concerns associated with open-flame heating. It brings the piece up to temperature quickly and uniformly, eliminating hotspots.
The company provides traceability for every pipe project using Miller’s Insight™ pipe and vessel system in conjunction with the welding system. It tracks and records welding parameters for each weld joint, providing productivity and quality data. The system provides information on any out-of-parameter welds, including the operator’s identity, so that potentially defective welds can be corrected.
“Materials are traceable from the day we receive them,” Viestenz said. “We can report back to the customer about what’s happening on a daily basis with their investment.”
Electronic instead of paper-based, it offers ERP integration so fabricators can import and export jobs in a generic file format, and it can be integrated with existing software programs. Data entry time and possible errors associated with manual weld data collection are reduced.
Team Industries, Inc. 1200 Maloney Road Kaukauna, WI 54130, 920-766-7977, www.teamind.com
Miller Electric Mfg. Co., 1635 W. Spencer St., P.O. Box 1079, Appleton, WI 54912, 800-426-4553, www.millerwelds.com
Training New Teammates in Texas
Southeastern Texas is a hotbed of industrial construction and maintenance projects that require significant labor, including welders. The area is home to some of the world’s largest refineries, in addition to many petrochemical and power plants.
Team Industries, Port Arthur, produces pipes and tanks for customers in all of those industries. Its hallmarks are quality and on-time delivery, but the skilled labor shortage has been an issue for Team. It’s a problem facing the welding industry nationwide, but it’s especially critical in the highly competitive region of southeast Texas. In addition, many of the welding jobs in the region require working on high-pressure pipe, so codes and procedures for these applications are stringent.
“Within a 4- or 5-mile radius of this facility, there’s about 5,000 manned jobs going on. We just can’t find qualified people,” said Nate Jacobson, shop superintendent. “On average we have about 15 welder positions open at any time.”
To deal with that shortage, Team launched an in-house training program to teach welding skills. The goal is that many of the students will work for Team after they complete the 12-week program.
“It’s not a short-term fix, but in the longer range, we hope to gain their loyalty and have a steady workforce,” Jacobson said. “We are able to train people to our quality, our standards, and our culture.”
Team launched the program with grant funding from the Port Arthur Economic Development Corp. and the Texas Workforce Commission. A new training session starts every 12 weeks with six students. When the program first started, Team received about 10 for each session. That has more than tripled, with each session now drawing 30 to 40 applicants.
The company looks for students with some welding experience, though it’s not required. The students first learn gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) before moving on to flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) and gas metal arc welding (GMAW). Students must pass a certification test after each process is covered.
“Once they finish the program, we gradually move them up in jobs here, and some of them are doing really well,” said plant manager David Cherry.
Team pays the students during training, which is one incentive to help draw interest. The program runs four days a week, for 10 hours a day, and many of the students augment the schedule by practicing in the weld booths during their off hours.“We think it’s a fantastic opportunity,” Cherry said. “Not only are they getting free training, they’re paid to train, and then they’re pretty much guaranteed a job, if they can learn the skill well enough.”
The short duration appeals to students who want to learn and get to the field as quickly as possible.
“Here with the training program, you get 40 hours a week. You can learn a lot faster than you will anywhere else,” said Joshua Desper, a student in the first training class who is now full-time with Team.
The program fills a gap between traditional, semester-by-semester educational programs and years of experience.“I like the in-house training because it gives me the real experience that I need to get a welding job,” said Kyle Steeby, a student in the training program. “I was trying and applying for jobs, but they said I needed two to five years of experience. This was an opportunity to be paid to learn to weld.”
Students in the Team program who land jobs with Team will be on familiar ground on Day 1. The power supplies used in Team’s school are the same as those used in Team’s production facilities.
The in-house training has been so successful that Team has applied for additional grant funding to expand the program from six to 12 welding booths.
“The largest benefit is that people who have gone through it are finding jobs, and we’re using them in this facility,” Jacobson said. “We’ve had students who have excelled and become some of our best welders.”
The Tube & Pipe Journal
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