Welding Watch - Managing Your Welding Operation: The basics of welding management

March 5, 2001
By: Don Lynn

Making a welding operation as efficient as possible requires from managers a commitment to understanding every facet of their particular operations and insistence on seeing their strategic plans through.

Welding management is a concept that should be mastered by any shop or business that has a welding operation. But just what welding management is and what it means for your business may not be so clear.

The first thing that needs to be understood is what "welding management" means. Welding management should be viewed as a planned approach to achieve the best possible quality, cost, throughput, and safety - not only in welding operations, but also in fabrication and related manufacturing operations.

Another way to think of welding management, and its associated system approach is to picture a coach implementing a game plan to achieve a winning combination using the entire team—in this case, all of a company's available resources. The coach does this by systematically integrating the scouting, coaching staff, play book, and training of the players in every facet of the game to bring out the best performance by the team on game day. A company does much the same when they systematically integrate the efforts of the management, designers, manufacturing engineers, production personnel, and quality assurance through documentation and training to ensure the best outcome each shift of every working day.

How Does the Concept Play Out?

In welding management and its system approach, this means making a product or component to the required quality standard, no matter if it is an internally generated quality standard or one specified by the customer. However, it is not unusual for companies to meet—or believe they meet—the required quality standard without any welding management system in place. The issue that truly separates a welding management system from the way most companies handle their welding and fabrication operations centers on the dual issues of cost and throughput.

In other words, achieving a given quality standard with the lowest cost and shortest throughput is what separates a welding management system from the plans and approaches that most companies follow for their operations. A welding management system can reach these goals by a combination of unique documentation, training, welding bay layout and controls, as well as sustainability features.

However, this entire system begins with the management of the company and managers' commitment to build, carry out, and maintain a weld management system. This commitment is one of the hardest parts of the weld management system to understand and achieve.

Management's Role

In the past, managers at most companies have not seen themselves playing a direct role in the success of their welding and fabrication operations. In too many cases, this has resulted in management playing a dysfunctional role in which they only get involved when a specific problem is discovered. Once that problem is resolved, managers typically move on to other issues.

The result of this approach is that the welding and fabrication operations revert to functioning without any specific input from the management to guide them and prevent future problems.

Often, this situation is the result of management's belief that the workings of these manufacturing operations are too detailed and specialized for them to be able to provide any meaningful input.

With a properly constructed weld management system, that thinking changes. From the time the system is implemented, managers can know not only what is supposed to happen but the results that should be gained from following the system.

To gain this insight, managers need to participate in the following manner:

1. Identify the company's needs as they relate to quality, cost, throughput, and safety requirements and identify goals that will meet those needs successfully. This identification of specific goals allows the rest of the organization to have a quantified value to measure their efforts against. In addition, goal-setting in these four areas of direct concern to management allows managers to judge the performance of the operations and effect corrective action where necessary.

2. Provide the equipment and other resources needed to achieve these goals as well as training for the operators.

3. Provide, through the sustainability features of the system, an active role and support to ensure that the integrity of the system is maintained year after year. One of the sustainability features of this system is a monitoring, auditing, and reporting function that documents feedback from welding and fabrication personnel—feedback that is tracked and reviewed for corrective action. This tracking and review is done through management and support departments so that problems that affect the quality, cost or scheduling of productions are address in a way so as to prevent their future occurrence. In this way, the use of a weld management system provides a direct role that management can play to increase the performance of their welding and fabrication operations.

To be effective, a weld management system must have the support and direct involvement of the company management. The support not only must exist during the creation and implementation of the system but must be sustained for as long as the system remains. This only can happen when management has a direct role to play in the ongoing success of the system.

The most important feature of that continuing direct role by management is a reporting feedback that the management receives that identifies the problems found in the weld management system. In addition this reporting feedback must identify the activities of the responsible support department to solve the problem and the results of that solution. Management at this point can assess these activities and judge if additional actions or input is necessary and assign the appropriate resources when required. When this type of reporting feedback with accountability is present in the weld management system not only will the system remain active and viable, but will also experience continuous improvement so that the system will continually yield better results with time.

Don Lynn

Contributing Writer
Welding & Joining Management Group
8 Cottonwood Place
Dayton, KY 41074
Phone: 859-441-1844
Fax: 859-441-2702