California welders see 30% increase, regardless of project or skill set
Contractors like Jolson Welding seem to do it all. From welding piles and water lines to beams, heavy-wall underground pipe and bridges, owner Bob Jolson and his team tackle some of the toughest jobs on the West Coast. And they do it quickly, thanks to some recent changes to their welding equipment and consumables. ‚ÄúI always like to try new things with our business,‚ÄĚ Jolson explained. ‚ÄúI keep trying them until I find something that I like, and that works. It helps to keep us a lot more competitive on our bidding.‚ÄĚ
For Jolson‚Äôs company in Wheatland, Calif., most of the assignments are for heavy-duty commercial welding, which includes welding pipe ranging from one-half inch OD to 200-inches in diameter, with walls as thin as one-eighth inch up to unlimited thicknesses. Taking on large projects doesn‚Äôt leave much room for downtime if the company is to stay on schedule and remain competitive in their bidding. So, while Jolson has always taken care of his customers, since pairing his Bernard Q-Guns‚ĄĘ with Hobart Brothers‚Äô Excel Arc‚ĄĘ 71 gas-shielded wires, and Bernard Dura-Flux‚ĄĘ guns with Hobart Fabshield¬ģ XLR-8 self-shielded wires, he‚Äôs been able to do more than just stay on schedule: he has improved the company‚Äôs productivity by 30 percent in the effort.
Making the change
Since Jolson and his wife Colleen founded the company in 1989, they have been working diligently to gain welding contracts along the West Coast. Supporting the business is welder, Brandon Hobbs. sBetween referrals they receive from other contractors to repeat business and active bidding, they‚Äôve carved a niche for themselves as the ‚Äėgo-to‚Äô company for pile driving and pipe welding, especially.
Each of the welding contracts Jolson takes on has unique requirements. Some require strictly stick welding, which he and Hobbs usually accomplish with AWS E6010 and 7018 stick electrodes. Others call for a combination of stick welding and flux-cored welding. Additionally, the projects vary between requirements for gas-shielded flux-cored wires, like AWS E71T-1 wires, and self-shielded products like E71T-8JD H8 wires. Also, some projects entail strict attention to established codes, including the AWS (American Welding Society) D1.5M/D1.5:2002 for bridge welding and AWS D1.1/D1.1M:2006 Structural Welding Code ‚Äď Steel. But regardless of the requirements Jolson encounters, the contracts he accepts demand close attention to detail, high-quality welds, and good productivity.
For years, Jolson faithfully used a competing welding wire to achieve those results, until last year when a large, important pipe project prompted him to seek out new products that could meet the tight timeline imposed by the hiring company.
‚ÄúWe had the option to take on a major project in San Francisco. It was 96-inch diameter pipe job that the company wanted welded on a short timeline,‚ÄĚ explains Colleen Jolson. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs when we met up with our local Bernard and Hobart Brothers‚Äô representative, Willie Stubblefield. We wanted to look at new products that could help us meet that deadline.‚ÄĚ
Working with Stubblefield, whom the Jolsons met through a local welding distributor, they set up tests for different types of welding equipment and wires. The goal was to find products that allowed Jolson to weld faster and also that would be user-friendly for the other welding operators that joined them on the project. According to Colleen Jolson, the company brings on welding operators to meet the demands of a given project (with the exception of Hobbs, who is a full-time associate.) So, while highly experienced, their skills often vary.
As a result of the testing Jolson decided to convert to Hobart Brothers‚Äô Fabshield XLR-8 self-shielded flux-cored wire paired with Bernard‚Äôs Dura-Flux guns, which he has been using for some time. For gas-shielded welding, he chose to pair his trusted Bernard Q-Guns with Hobart‚Äôs Excel Arc 71 flux-cored wire.
Ever since that time he‚Äôs been using the two products together.
New approach to self-shielded welding
Jolson was introduced to Bernard‚Äôs Dura-Flux gun when he purchased his first SuitCase¬ģ X-TREME‚ĄĘ VS wire feeder from Miller Electric Mfg. Co., an affiliate of both Bernard and Hobart Brothers. The Dura-Flux gun came as standard equipment with the feeder. Since then, he said, he‚Äôs continued using the gun because of its durability and ease of maintenance‚ÄĒfeatures that together have added to his company‚Äôs productivity increases.
‚ÄúFor me, one of the most important features is the microswitch inside the trigger. It‚Äôs water-resistant so if it‚Äôs raining or we drop the Dura-Flux in a puddle we can pick it up and go right back to work, as long as all other components are dry,‚ÄĚ explained Jolson.
The microswitch is a feature that Bernard added specifically to help increase the durability of the gun in harsh construction environments. Its sealed design helps keep dirt, dust, and water from entering the trigger and damaging the internal components.
Jolson also likes that he can change out the contact tip on the Dura-Flux gun without tools, and he added that the gun‚Äôs small trigger guard makes it easier for him to maneuver around difficult joints. He also finds it more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Most competitive self-shielded guns have a large heat shield, which he said would often get in the way when he welded in tight areas.
But the best part of the Dura-Flux gun according to Jolson? It allows him, Hobbs, and his other welding contractors to get a high volume of work done‚ÄĒfast.
‚ÄúWe average probably 60 pounds of wire a day going through a gun with only one guy welding,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs a lot of wire.‚ÄĚ
In this case, it‚Äôs Hobart Fabshield XLR-8 self-shielded 0.072-inch diameter wire that he is using, an all-position wire that provides the high-deposition rates and good impact strengths that he and his team need. The wire also has the optional D designator under AWS A5.20:2005 specifications, making it usable for the strict AWS D1.8 Demand Critical welds that Jolson often requires. Fabshield XLR-8 wire also offers a large voltage window and is particularly well suited for vertical-up welds at high current levels. Jolson operates the wire at approximately 19-25 Volts and 180- 350 IPM (inches per minute), depending on the application. He explained that the ability to run the wire at such a wide range of IPM helps him and his team stay productive. He said the Fabshield XLR-8 also simplifies set-up and makes it easier to standardize the range of skill sets that his contracted welding operators bring to their work.
‚ÄúI could put any guy on the job ‚ÄĒ from a really experienced welder to a novice ‚ÄĒ and we won‚Äôt have any IPM issues. We don‚Äôt have to make sure that our wire speed is right on the money,‚ÄĚ Jolson stated. ‚ÄúWe just set our voltage and amperage and the guys can tinker with the wire speed a bit.
And, while Jolson depends on his Dura-Flux gun and Fabshield XLR-8 wire, other parts of his welding arsenal help keep the company‚Äôs productivity on track, too.
Getting the most from GS welding
After Jolson discovered Bernard‚Äôs Dura-Flux gun, he liked it so much that he sought out an option for his gas-shielded applications. The result? With the help of Stubblefield, he customized a Bernard Q-Gun with the exact neck, consumables, and cable length for his applications. (Bernard allows customers like Jolson to create their own style MIG gun with their online configurator, or by working with a company representative or distributor). In this case, he built a MIG gun with an OXO-style handle and Bernard‚Äôs Centerfire consumables, and then added a six-inch flexible neck. He also uses Bernard‚Äôs Jump Liners.
‚ÄúLike the Dura-Flux gun, the Q-Gun has been really convenient, especially welding in tight spots,‚ÄĚ according to Jolson. ‚ÄúPlus, it‚Äôs very easy to use and maintain ‚ÄĒ very user friendly. I don‚Äôt know that I‚Äôll ever change from it.
Jolson said the Bernard Jump Liners have added measurably to his productivity increases. In fact, he estimated that it takes him or Hobbs approximately two to three minutes to change a Jump Liner, compared to the 20 or more minutes to change a conventional MIG gun liner. Bernard Jump Liners connect with standard liners at the base of the Q-Gun‚Äôs rotatable neck and run through the most common wear point up to the contact tip. Jolson doesn‚Äôt have to replace (or trim) the entire gun liner when it becomes worn at the neck (the most common wear point.) The Jump Liner stays with the body tube and the main liner stays within the gun.
‚ÄúIt [the Jump Liner] saves me a lot of time because we don‚Äôt have to tear the whole gun apart in the middle of a welding process,‚ÄĚ he explains. ‚ÄúWe just remove the gooseneck, pop out the Jump Liner and slide in a new one. It‚Äôs very cost-effective, and it gets us back to work faster.‚ÄĚ
Reducing downtime and adding to his productivity are the Centerfire consumables (contact tips, diffusers and nozzles) that Jolson uses on his Q-Gun. Centerfire series contact tips ‚Äėdrop in‚Äô the gas diffuser and lock in place by tightening the nozzle. The nozzles feature a built-in spatter shield to protect the gas diffusers and provide smooth gas flow.
‚ÄúI use a small nozzle for getting into tight spots. Some people think that I‚Äôll have gas diffusion problems because of that, but I just don‚Äôt,‚ÄĚ said Jolson. ‚ÄúThe holes inside the nozzle distribute the gas evenly. There‚Äôs not a problem with that. Plus the contact tips last longer than screw-on tips. I would say three to four times longer.‚ÄĚ
Jolson couples his Q-Gun with Hobart Brothers‚Äô gas-shielded wire, Excel Arc 71‚ÄĒa change that he said has helped the company‚Äôs productivity in several ways, including improving weld quality and reducing cleanup.
The company uses a 0.045-inch diameter wire, which Jolson and Hobbs operate at 19 to 24 Volts and approximately 175 to 500 IPM using 100 percent CO2, a set-up that they say gives them exactly weld quality and travel speed they want. In many cases (as the specifications for a given project allow), Jolson said that he and his team can use the wire for the root, fill and cap passes, all with minimal downtime for interpass cleaning.
‚ÄúWe usually run two- or three-foot passes at a time,‚ÄĚ according to Jolson. ‚ÄúBy the time we get halfway through, usually the slag is already falling off.‚ÄĚ
The Excel Arc 71 also gives the team the versatility to produce a variety of different size welds ‚ÄĒ ranging from as thin as a quarter-inch to as large as 1 inch, and produces very little spatter in the process, features that keep productivity high and downtime for cleanup at a minimum.
‚ÄúWith competing wires, I find that they are a little more finicky. I get a lot of spatter even if I mess with the gas, voltage, and IPM,‚ÄĚ said Jolson. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt have time for that. I need to get the job done, and with the Excel Arc 71, we don‚Äôt have to worry about those problems.‚ÄĚ
According to Jolson, pairing the Fabshield XLR-8 and Excel Arc 71 welding wires with his Bernard Dura-Flux guns and Q-Guns, respectively, has had a significant impact on his company‚Äôs productivity‚ÄĒto the tune of a 30-percent increase.
‚ÄúThe changeover has really worked out well for our company,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe can be a lot more competitive with our bidding now, and a lot more productive.‚ÄĚ
That‚Äôs important for someone who never knows what project he‚Äôll be taking on week-to-week, but needs to be prepared for whatever comes down the pipe.
Andy Monk is a product and marketing manager for Bernard, a supplier of MIG guns and welding consumables. Tim Hensley is a distribution manager for Hobart Brothers Co., which develops and supplies welding filler metals.