While the practice of welding has remained relatively unchanged over the years, the work environments and technologies involved are consistently changing. How is your
operation embracing these changes?
Adjustments can be made to the welding environment to help meet changing welder expectations, save time on new welder training and reduce time spent on non-welding activities. When you learn how your operation can adjust, you ultimately help your welders create higher quality welds.
Numerous factors are driving changes in manufacturing welding operations. These include:
- Experienced welders reaching retirement
- The newer workforce with different expectations
- New and evolving technologies
The skilled labor shortage ultimately means manufacturers are spending more time recruiting and training new welders. In addition to the training aspect, companies may also be dealing with more weld quality issues as less skilled welders are integrated into the operation.
The influx of new welders is also driving changes in the welding environment to meet the needs of the newer workforce. Part of this evolution is the expectation for a more comfortable, cleaner working environment. The type of environment that people want to work in is changing. As a result, the manufacturing environment as a whole is undergoing changes, including a greater emphasis on a comfortable environment and more digitization and automation in processes.
Consider these five factors that can help operations adjust to the changing welding environment and expectations of new welders.
No. 1. Meeting expectations
As experienced welders retire, they are replaced by a new generation of younger welders that often have different expectations for their work environment and what an
employer should provide.
While offering Wi-Fi and occasional phone access may not have been important in the past, in today’s environment they can be recruitment incentives for the new generation of welders.
These generational differences happening in the industry may also require companies to take a different approach from an HR perspective. For example, the mechanisms for hiring and retention may be quite different from what they have been in the past.
No. 2. Modern tech and products
Legacy welding power sources have been workhorses for many years, but with the changing environment and the varied
skill levels of today’s welders, upgrading to newer technologies can help manufacturers address a variety of challenges.
Today’s welders expect equipment and systems that are easier to use and navigate. Newer welding
power sources are often designed with technologies that can help welders improve their skills as they’re learning – and still create high-quality welds, even with variations in technique.
Look for welding solutions and processes that offer a wider operating window, which can help reduce spatter and weld defects, saving time and money. Pulsed welding isn’t a new technology, but the Accu-Pulse process is a pulsed MIG welding process that provides a 28 percent wider operating window and a more forgiving arc. This helps welders of all skill levels get into production quicker.
Deltaweld systems are available with Accu-Pulse technology and also include EZ-Set technology, which simplifies parameter setup based on material thickness – removing complexity and reducing welder training time.
In addition, newer welding equipment often includes easy user interfaces and graphics to aid new welders.
Weld data monitoring technology can also assist in training new welders by providing real-time feedback along with digital work instructions and quality control within the weld cell. Insight Centerpoint weld data monitoring includes technology that provides guided work instructions for pre-welding, intra-weld and post-welding activities, leveraging resources like images, videos and audio to directly improve quality and productivity.
No. 3. New training solutions
Newer training solutions are another way to help engage the younger generation of welders and get them producing high-quality welds faster.
The AugmentedArc augmented reality welding system simulates multiple welding processes, blending real-world and computer-generated images into a unique, augmented reality environment. This type of training solution can foster an environment of continuous improvement while helping welders build on their training and skills.
Companies that don’t have the resources for an in-house training program can also look to partner with other companies or trade schools to launch a welder training program.
No. 4. Gamification
Continuous improvement – and striving to reach a series of goals – can also be aided by gamification of the workplace. The concept of gamification involves bringing principles from gameplay (such as point scoring, rewards, competition with others) into the work setting to make it more engaging.
For example, the same way gamers earn badges or points to level up as they play, employees can build skills and improve themselves as they work. Applying gamification principles to welding could mean providing bonuses or extra time off for every step in a process the welder learns or achieves – incentivizing their progression through a skill tree. This can help employees and organizations reach continuous improvement goals for skill levels, efficiency and productivity.
No. 5. Focus on comfort
There are many solutions to help make the work environment comfortable and inviting for new welders.
Appropriate and effective personal protective equipment (PPE) provides safety and comfort. Technology advancements, such as ClearLight lens technology, provide a high-definition view of the workpiece and weld puddle,
resulting in improved visibility, comfort and quality.
The welding environment also plays a key role in welder comfort. Each environment should be evaluated to determine the best solution, which may include fume extraction equipment or other means of respiratory protection, such as powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) or supplied air respirators (SARs).
Beyond proper welding safety, a comfortable manufacturing environment may also include regular cleaning, better lighting and air conditioning. Welder comfort pays dividends through employee retention, increased productivity and improved quality. When welders aren’t distracted by uncomfortable working conditions, they are more efficient at getting their work done.
As technology evolves and the workforce changes, being able to adapt is crucial for staying competitive. Companies that embrace the changes and react to the new expectations of today’s workforce will be more successful. Consider how new welding technologies, updated training solutions and providing a comfortable working environment can help in attracting and retaining the next generation of welders.