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Minimize Downtime with the Right Filler Metal Package

Delivering the right size and style of filler metal packaging on a timely basis contributes meaningfully to overall efficiency. Tim Hensley of Hobart Brothers explains how to assess your current filler metal usage to determine if you have the most appropriate size to support your production goals.

Posted: September 25, 2012


Delivering the right size and style of filler metal packaging on a timely basis contributes meaningfully to overall efficiency. Here’s how to assess your current filler metal usage to determine if you have the most appropriate size to support your production goals.

When a company improves its processes and simplifies its workflow, it can also improve its productivity. The lean manufacturing trends of recent years support this fact across many industries. Faster, more efficient workflow ultimately creates greater throughput.

Having the right filler metal package can be part of this workflow solution, too.

We’ve talked before about how having the right filler metal package for your application can help fabricators yield cost savings and improve the effectiveness of their welding operation, but let’s take a closer look at how it calculates into real time savings – time that can be spent toward greater productivity.

First and foremost, having the proper filler metal packaging can reduce downtime for changeover. The less time welding operators spend moving a package off the line, retrieving another and readying it for welding, the more time they can spend welding. But changeover is necessary, so the question is then: How can this be minimized?

Filler metals – solid, flux-cored and metal-cored wires – are typically available in packages as small as 15 lb spools to as large as 60 lb coils and 900 lb or 1000 lb drums. In a one- to two-man shop where the welding operation uses 150 lb to 200 lb of welding wire each month, a mid-size filler metal package would work well to minimize changeover.



For example, 33 lb spools (as compared to a 15 lb spool, for example) would be appropriate to the volume of products welded. On the other hand, if a 15-person shop uses 33 lb spools, the welding operators would very likely use these spools in one day to meet the shop production demands. In this scenario, converting to 60 lb coils could minimize the changeover to once every two days and allow for more arc-on time – and greater productivity.

These situations are relatively straightforward: use a smaller package of filler metal for smaller volume production and increase incrementally for mid-size operations. However, when a welding operation has a higher volume of production or when a shop uses an automated welding system(s), it can become a bit more complicated to choose the right size and type of filler metal package.

For example, a manufacturer that employs robotics or hard fixture automation in their facility obviously requires a greater volume of welding wire in a larger package to meet its production goals than a 15-man shop. In many cases, 400 lb or 600 lb drums work well in such welding operations.

But consider this. If a company consumes a million pounds of welding wire per year paid out in 400 lb drums, they would require approximately 208 drum changes per month, or about 2,496 changes in a year. At an average of 30 minutes per changeover, those employees could spend about 104 hours of their labor each month doing nothing else but changing out the drums.

In this scenario, it makes sense to move to an even larger weight drum to minimize downtime for changeover. So instead of using those 104 hours for changeover, a larger drum could allow for longer arc-on time to be used toward meeting greater production goals.

Here’s how. A 900 lb drum takes the same 30 minutes to changeover, but requires only about 93 changes per month or 1,116 during the year. That adds up to about 46.5 hours of time needed for drum changeover and a savings of 57.5 hours per month of labor (104 hours (for the smaller drum) minus 46.5 hours). It also saves that company approximately 690 hours each year when compared to the changeover required when using a 400 lb. drum.

All of those hours can then be reallocated to additional welding and/or other parts of the welding process, such as fixturing, that helps support productivity increases.

(1) When possible, select recyclable filler metal drums to reduce the amount of downtime and labor required to care for waste, then redirect it toward production instead. These drums eliminate the need to separate metal and fiber parts into the appropriate waste containers and they also lower the cost of that waste disposal. Because recyclable drums tend to be safer, they also reduce the risk of injuries caused by cutting away the metal chimes.

(2) Always make sure there are enough packages of filler metal in storage to prevent stoppages in production. Fabricators should work with a filler metal manufacturer or welding distributor to ensure timely delivery of welding wire to a designated location.

(3) Rotate stock to ensure that no packaging sits in storage for an extended period of time. Those filler metals that are delivered first should be used first to gain the best welding performance. Following this FIFO (first in, first out) method helps minimize quality issues associated with old filler metal stock . . . and with it the downtime that accumulates for rework.

Combined with other lean practices, choosing and using the right size and style of filler metal packaging and ensuring it is delivered on a timely basis, can all contribute meaningfully to a shop’s overall efficiency. Take the time to assess your current filler metal usage and determine if you have the most appropriate size to support your production goals. If in doubt, consult with a trusted welding distributor for assistance.

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