Why a Certified Welding Supervisor Really Matters Pt.1

Each year, poor cost estimation, inadequate welder training, extensive rework, and overwelding cost companies millions of dollars in lost revenue.
A CWS can help mitigate lost revenues due to poor cost estimation, inadequate welder training, extensive rework, and overwelding.

Certified Welding Supervisors combine management skills with an extensive knowledge of welding processes and welding economics to plan, staff, monitor and safely deliver welding projects according to schedule and budget. Therefore, Certified Welding Supervisors are in a unique position to increase the efficiency of the production process and the quality of products.

Yet, each year welding operations lose millions of dollars due to poor cost estimation, inadequate welder training, extensive rework and overwelding. In fact, just laying a 5/16 inch weld where a 3/16th inch was specified can unnecessarily increase labor and material costs by more than 100%! You might be surprised to learn that such cost overruns are more the norm than the exception at a large number of manufacturing companies large and small. In this revealing two-part commentary, 38-year industry veteran Jackie Morris explains the root causes of some of these systemic failures, most of which can be mitigated by a Certified Welding Supervisor.

In the following account I will walk you through the production of a tank in a shipyard in order to highlight some of the missteps that can negatively impact a manufacturer’s bottom line. However, the same issues are all-too-common in many industries that use welding as a core process in the manufacture of their products.

Like most jobs, the construction of our tank actually begins with an estimation of how much it will cost to build it. Needless to say, you can’t count on a profit if you don’t accurately assess costs. However, the cost of many welding jobs are derived from historical data, out-of-date footage charts and flawed labor-hour estimates.

Historical Data
An estimator that relies on historical data simply bases his current calculations on the cost of a previous job with similar features and parameters. Aside from the fact that material and labor costs may have increased since the date of that last project, the final cost of previous jobs often have tons of rework and lost labor hours factored into it. Those who base their production costs on historical data are doomed to make the same mistakes. Of course, the estimator is held responsible when the job loses money, but the truth is few estimators know enough about fitting and welding costs to accurately assess production costs.

Out-of-Date Footage Charts
The inaccuracies of historical data are often compounded by the use of old footage charts with no data existing to support their expectancies or calculations. Most estimators and planners do not know how to develop or use a footage chart, or calculate the time it takes to make a specific weld based on the applicable welding procedure specification.

Faulty Labor-Hour Estimates
An estimator or planner might also base his calculations on dubious labor-hour estimates. In other words, he will simply ask the welding foreman how many hours it will take to weld the tank. Of course the welding foreman often bases his reply on his past experiences—more unsound historical data that may include extra labor hours due to overwelding, rework, and below average operator factors. When the project goes over budget and loses money, the foreman is rarely held accountable and the reasons for the labor cost overruns are also seldom investigated or quantified. Thus, another problematic project goes into the historical data bank ready to be used as a means of assessing the cost of a future job.

sample WPS
Lack of knowledge or access to the applicable Welding Procedure Specification can serioulsy compromise productivty and first-time quality.

No Knowledge or Access to the WPS
Next, our tank moves on to fabrication. Ideally, the welding foreman will optimize the parameters listed in the applicable Welding Procedure Specification so that his team can weld the tank to code in the most efficient manner possible. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. The average welding foreman or supervisor is not trained to use a WPS. In fact, he rarely has access to it. As a result he simply asks 3 or 4 welders to get in the tank and weld.

Lacking the applicable Welding Procedure Specification, our supervisor does not audit his welders for weld size, quality, or the parameters of the WPS. He has never even been trained to communicate welding parameters or expectancies to his team. Instead he relies on faulty historical data and dubious rules of thumb to get the job done. For example, instead of an actual time expectancy based on any relevant information, our supervisor always gives completion times in 8 hour increments, despite the fact that not every welding job requires 8 hours (or multiples of 8) to complete.

When our tank project goes over budget and requires lots of rework, the foreman may put the blame on poor estimating and planning, flawed design engineering, entry level training, or “over-inspection” by the quality team. We already know that there is something wrong with the estimation process. But is there any validity to our foreman’s criticism of design engineering and welder training? In next week’s blog we will look at these two areas before following our tank to its last stop at the quality department.