International food and agricultural producer Cargill purchased an unfinished corn wet-mill ethanol plant in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 2011, a facility with the capacity to grind 150,000 bushels of corn each day and produce 115 million gallons of ethanol per year.
But before production could start, Cargill needed to finish construction on the facility and bring it up to Cargill standards for quality and safety. With an aggressive schedule for completing that work and bringing the facility online, Cargill turned to Modern Piping, a full-service mechanical contractor headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Modern Piping completes about 1,100 projects each year all over the United States, for clients as varied as hospitals, educational institutions, food processors and power plants. The company’s work ranges from small commercial projects to large industrial jobs with as many as 100 employees on-site.
Company leaders proudly tout the fact that more than 85 percent of their business is repeat or referral, a reflection of Modern Piping’s commitment to meeting project timelines, safety and quality work. Modern Piping previously has worked on projects for Cargill at corn milling facilities across the country and was selected for this job based on past performance and the ability to provide great value and quality.
Given the aggressive timeline of this Cargill project, Modern Piping relied on the PipeWorx 350 FieldPro System from Miller Electric Mfg. Co. The equipment saved time and enhanced safety for the 33 Modern Piping workers on the jobsite while also producing high-quality welds in a field setting that included challenging weld locations hundreds of feet in the air, far away from the power source.
Modern Piping was already using the PipeWorx 400 welding system in its fabrication shop at the home office. When they discovered the same technology was available in a machine designed for the field via the PipeWorx 350 FieldPro System, they knew it would provide productivity and safety benefits for the Cargill job, while offering high-quality welds and ease of operation.
“When our fab shop went to the PipeWorx 400 machine utilizing the RMD and Pulsed technologies, we saw a great increase in quality and speed,” Modern Piping president, Ken Brown, says. “When Miller introduced the FieldPro System, we jumped right in with both feet and purchased 10 of them for this project.”
Evaluated for safety and performance
Modern Piping owners evaluated the safety, quality, value and performance of the PipeWorx 350 FieldPro System before selecting it for the Cargill site. It exceeded expectations on all counts.
The PipeWorx 350 FieldPro offers industry-leading arc performance like what Modern Piping gets in its fabrication shop with the PipeWorx 400, but in a field-ready package. The FieldPro machine is capable of stick, TIG, MIG and flux-cored welding, as well as the advanced technologies of Pulsed MIG and Regulated Metal Deposition (RMD), a modified short-circuit process. The optimized welding performance offered by the system specifically meets the needs of open root pipe welding and helps reduce training time.
Modern Piping used the system at the Cargill site for stick and TIG welding. The company was tasked with laying out, fabricating and installing piping systems, including multiple process piping systems, compressed air lines, vacuum piping, chemical lines, cooling water supply and return and steam. Much of the welding required was schedule 10 stainless steel pipe to be welded in elevated areas, requiring the use of scaffolds and man lifts. That made the remote control capabilities of the FieldPro System a time saver that also increased jobsite safety by reducing trips up and down stairs and ladders to change welding processes and parameters at the machine.
“It’s good for us because it increases productivity, improves value to the end user as well as reduces safety concerns. There is great value to have a system that is very safe,” Brown says. “All the products we’ve had from Miller have been high-quality, high-performing units.”
Made for the field
Constructed to withstand the rigors of field use, the PipeWorx 350 FieldPro offered Modern Piping simplified cable management, complete remote control at the weld joint and optimized arc performance for critical pipe welding.
The simplified cable management saved Modern Piping journeyman pipefitters time by eliminating all of the communication cables that cause clutter and hassle on jobsites. There were no control cables to string and manage.
The remote control at the weld joint was another time saver and safety feature that benefited Modern Piping on the job. It gave workers the ability to make process and parameter changes at the weld, as far as 200 feet away from the power source.
Modern Piping journeyman pipefitters using stick and TIG processes were able to change process selection, amperage adjustment and stick electrode selection remotely, and the push-button process changeover eliminated the need for swapping cables. They were also able to reduce the opportunity for weld defects because the correct polarity is automatically set for each welding process, and the FieldPro System alerted Modern Piping journeyman pipefitters if the weld cables were connected incorrectly.
The machine’s ability to set optimal parameters automatically improves quality control by helping ensure a consistent bead profile and by minimizing defects caused by incorrect welding parameters, such as porosity or lack of fusion. Each setup of a new weld process can be done with the touch of a button, so the streamlined system helped avoid downtime and let the Modern Piping journeyman pipefitters maintain focus on the weld.
Because the FieldPro Remote minimized trips to the power source to make changes in welding parameters, the system’s remote capabilities also reduced the potential for trips and falls, which increased site safety for the Modern Piping workers.
“It’s nice to have it within arm’s reach,” says Tony Hensley, a journeyman pipefitter with Local 125 in Cedar Rapids. “Every time you have to go up and down on that ladder, that’s another possibility that you could get injured, that you could drop something, and that causes problems. That’s something you don’t want.”
These capabilities are important because many jobsites, like the Cargill plant, are expansive. Modern Piping workers sometimes were 200 feet in the air, far away from the power source, when they needed to change welding processes and parameters.
Saves time, money
With the PipeWorx 350 FieldPro, the ability to make adjustments quickly from the weld site also helped save time and money.
“It’s speed more than anything else. The efficiency that you get from this machine and this equipment, especially the FieldPro Remote, being able to turn up and down your amperage when you need that done,” Hensley says. “It’s right there, it’s right next to you. It’s a tool in your toolbox that makes you that much better.”
That ability to make finite adjustments at a rapid pace without interrupting the work for long stretches resulted in improved job quality and productivity.
“It does give us the ability to provide a higher quality weld because we can make those adjustments when we need to, in the right location,” Brown says.
Quality and ease of use
Modern Piping journeyman pipefitters said they also noticed the quality welds they get from the PipeWorx 350 FieldPro System. According to Josh Van Thournout, a journeyman pipefitter with Local 125 in Cedar Rapids, the arc is smooth and the end of the tungsten doesn’t blow upon startups, which helps prevent weld failures.
“The quality of the machine is everything,” he says. “It doesn’t break the end of your tungsten off, the heat stays consistent to it, not up or down. You start out, it’s smooth, it’s right there; you don’t get a fast start or a pop or anything like that. The differences are on your starts and stops, really.”
Ease of use is another benefit. Journeyman pipefitters with Modern Piping are skilled at multiple types of welding, and they said it was an easy jump to the PipeWorx 350 FieldPro.
“It took about five minutes to show how to use it, not even that,” Hensley says. “It was great. It’s efficient; it makes things faster. In effect, it makes you a better tradesman.”
According to Brown, the PipeWorx 350 FieldPro System provided many benefits for Modern Piping.
“One of the goals of Modern Piping is to be so good that we don’t have competition, and the FieldPro System is another step in that direction,” Brown says.
Thanks to the system, Modern Piping more efficiently completed several months of work to ready the Cargill plant for grinding corn to produce ethanol and other bio-based products. The PipeWorx 350 FieldPro kept Cargill on schedule to open the facility, and it makes Modern Piping more competitive.