In just 3 years, USA Energy Fabrication has grown from a two-man welding operation to a multi-million dollar a year pipe fabrication shop.
Founders Steve Smith and Nathan Bushey launched the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based business because they saw growth potential in the market. The two started out with some structural welding work and a few pipe pieces, working the first several months with one welding machine from Miller Electric Mfg. Co. and a chop saw in the only location available—Smith’s horse barn.
From those humble beginnings, the company continued to take on more work, adding employees and extra equipment. USA Energy Fabrication’s 25 employees recently moved into the company’s third location—a 22,000-square-foot production facility with the space necessary to fully fabricate and test pipe spools in-house.
EQUIPMENT INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY
USA Energy Fabrication’s high level of productivity and consistent, code-quality welds are driving factors in the growing customer demand. Smith and Bushey credit much of the growth— and USA Energy Fabrication’s ability to increase production and quality to the Miller equipment the company uses, specifically the PipeWorx 400 welding system, which they couple with a Pipe Jammer mechanized welding system.
This combination, an idea suggested to USA Energy Fabrication by Alloy Welding Supply of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, allowed the shop to convert from a manual TIG root pass to the advanced RMD® (Regulated Metal Deposition) process. Marrying the Pipe Jammer system with the PipeWorx power source and remote in a semi-automatic RMD process for the root pass greatly increases productivity, improves weld quality and consistency, and reduces weld reject rates to almost zero.
SOLUTION TO MEET PRODUCTION DEMAND
USA Energy Fabrication purchased its first Pipe Jammer system about 2 years ago, when Alloy Welding Supply representative Danny Burgess suggested coupling it with the PipeWorx to increase the shop’s productivity in response to greater customer demand. The shop already used Miller equipment, but was new to using the PipeWorx system.
The Pipe Jammer concept (also known in some regions as a Jimmy Jammer) has been around for years, but combining it with the power source and the RMD process for the root pass is what helped provide the productivity and quality gains to USA Energy Fabrication. RMD is a modified short-circuit MIG process that precisely controls metal transfer for uniform droplet deposition, providing a stable arc and easier puddle control. The Pipe Jammer is a positioner and oscillator that controls the gun and the puddle. The welding operator watches the puddle, making any setting adjustments as necessary during the process.
The welding operator has the ability to set parameters at the power source; then use the remote to control settings, such as voltage and amperage, at the weld joint. The remote also is necessary to start the weld, since the gun trigger is not accessible when the gun is in the gun holder on the Pipe Jammer unit. The power source and remote also offer push-button process changeover.
The combined system doesn’t take away the need for the welding operator; rather, it makes the welding operator’s job easier, adding to their productivity and comfort and greatly reducing fatigue.
“The arc is so smooth and consistent every time. A welder’s really proud of his weld, every time he produces one of them. His welds look exactly the same, every time he welds it,” Burgess says of the system. “It’s not a robot. The operator has to put the tip in the gun, the wire, feed the wire. They have to see the quality.”
ONE WELDER DOES THE WORK OF THREE
With that first combined system, a single welding operator could complete as much work as three operators manually on other machines, resulting in huge productivity gains that made it much easier for USA Energy Fabrication to keep up with their workload at the time. Bushey and Smith were sold.
“Everybody in today’s world, it can’t happen fast enough,” says Smith, USA Energy Fabrication president. “With the Jimmy Jammer and the PipeWorx working together, those tools have given us the opportunity to produce this pipe a lot quicker.”
The company eventually purchased a second system and recently added a third. The PipeWorx power sources offer the remote capabilities and dual feeder. The operator has full control at the weld joint and can make process changes and voltage, amperage and wire speed adjustments at the remote. The dual feeder provides the time-saving option of running stainless on one side and carbon on the other without changing out the wire, for example. The power source also can save different settings for different welding operators, and coupled with the Pipe Jammer, it allows the welders to weld up to Schedule 120 pipe, with 1/16 flux-cored wire.
“Those three welders themselves can basically do what 10 welders can do,” Bushey says. “The system basically pays itself off in less than 4 months, which is a pretty good return on investment for any machine.”
CONTINUING TO GROW
The more welds that USA Energy Fabrication welding operators can complete in a day, the more business the company can take on. The shop can say yes to more projects while still keeping customers happy with the quality and consistency. Smith dreams of a bigger, custom-built shop down the road, where USA Energy Fabrication can expand its business even more. ■
Modern Contractor Solutions, March 2015
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