These are days in American and world history of unprecedented business pressures and explosive economic upheaval. There are so many unknowns and variables that even the best “crystal balls” look cloudy. Yet there remains some general agreement from those who analyze international manufacturing trends and competition, that in the end, companies who are best able to harness flexible high-performance automation will come out the winners and leaders in 21st century manufacturing.
Many companies manufacture welded assemblies, but precious few realize that even in product design, quoting and launch, their entire business is wrapped up in selling their expertise at manufacturing welded assemblies: having never realized this, they have never sought and developed true expertise in high-profit welding – yet it’s their most complex core process. Instead, over 90% of companies (and too many welding engineers) are content to merely enable the welding processes, oblivious to the potential to achieve 40-95% improvements in them. The few competitors who grasp this potential can leverage an advantage that’s as great or greater than union vs union-free manufacturing.
For a moment, consider one picture of an ideal profitable company of the future: working as a team who is sharply focused on applying formidable expertise in the mechanisms, controls, and processes of flexible welding automation, supporting a structure that enables Continuous Improvement and “closes the loop” of design, launch and manufacturing.
To do this well will require assembling a team of technical expertise that is fully capable of effective CI, DFM, and DFSS thinking in every core discipline. The critical essentials that are perhaps most often overlooked are a smart controls engineer and a smart welding engineer (SWE). And “closing the loop” requires leadership with the experience to shape a team and craft mechanisms that can move past the traditional hurdles that are so commonplace in industry. Accomplishing this, bridging this chasm between design and production, has been my passion. So I believe that it could be worth millions to your company to consider some of my perspectives.
While I have a degree in Mechanical and Welding Engineering, I have spent most of my career focused on the welding processes because that is where the greatest needs and complexities exist, and where so much unseen profit potential languishes, untapped.
I bring invaluable levels of experience and expertise to these goals in welding processes, in welding automation, and in the design and launch of welding automation machines, tooling, systems integration, process optimization, process control, and continuous improvement. In every opportunity to assemble and train and develop high performance teams, I have excelled. In every opportunity to exceed industry standards, I have leapt far beyond what the world-leading companies and consultants have said is possible, by establishing astonishing gains in new benchmark performance levels which continued years after I was gone. In every opportunity to reduce downtime I have been able to establish effective procedures and to train and develop high skill levels in process troubleshooting and continuous improvement. In every opportunity to manage critical new-launch content in welding automation, I have dramatically exceeded performance targets.
Further, I have brought these talents to bear in multiple high-volume manufacturing industries. I have improved operations and trained their technicians and engineers. I have contributed extensively to 80%+ improvements, and have assessed many of their weaknesses.
And yet, despite huge improvements that established new world benchmarks, none of those companies have achieved the levels of welding automation performance that are possible, and some are surprisingly far away. While I certainly set new world-class performance standards in different companies, and while they “franchised” some of the most critical content worldwide, much potential remained when I left. In fact, it appears that they’ve never adequately valued welding automation expertise to secure continued progress.
I have always marveled at the huge size of the “welding blind spot” that is rampant throughout manufacturing. I could give many examples, but let’s take two.
In compressor manufacturing the most common, pervasive, profit-sapping challenges hinge on achieving consistent near-perfect welds (essentially making leak-free pressure vessels), and on keeping welding spatter and expulsion out of the compressors, and on making these welds in very short cycle times. Yet despite the fact that these are all elements which ONLY welding engineers are trained to accomplish, and despite that in a plant tour I can see unclaimed millions of dollars in annual profits that are hanging in the welding processes, smart welding engineering (SWE) is still treated as if it’s a luxury that can’t be justified.
Another example: Last year I interviewed at one very successful “household name” company who designs, makes and sells welded assemblies. They work hard, they have a lot going for them, and they are throwing away tens of millions of dollars every year because they don’t have strong welding engineering expertise. During the interview, in about 5 minutes, I explained how they could reduce their #1 welding defect by 90-98%. But they couldn’t get top-level approval to add me to their corporate design/launch group – where I was most needed.
This is a time of unparalleled opportunities for companies to not merely survive, but leap ahead. To do that requires focus on maximizing profits, not maximizing cuts, and any focus on cutting technical expertise may very well be the blood-letting of slow-motion suicide.
I’m not naïve enough to think that these are exclusively welding engineering problems. They’re not. I think the real issue is that most manufacturing executives don’t understand the power of three important manufacturing elements:
- the proper roles of engineering in becoming strongly profitable,
- the true value of Technical Expertise, and
- the speed of technical advancement which enables technical experts to leverage immense competitive advantages (when their company will listen).
The current economic downturn offers the opportunities of a century to change the market-leaders in nearly every manufacturing industry… opportunities to permanently shift the marketshare landscape. Yet most companies seem unable to recognize the full gravity of this opportunity. And most companies are finding it difficult to properly value or fully assemble high-performance teams that are capable of leaping beyond their competition.
Any company can hire to fill a spot, but that doesn’t make them more profitable than their competitors. Most companies can’t identify AND hire technical expertise, even when it hits them over the head.
I believe only 3-10% of manufacturing companies offer the potential for a great welding engineer to lead or contribute in their team, to establish a new level of profitability and quality that will be very difficult for competitors to match or surpass, and to take a firm step toward establishing strong future growth. But where are they, and how does a good welding engineer find them? Is your company ready to excel, ready to step beyond fear into success and leave your competitors in the dust? Let me know. I’m not in the recruiting field, but I’ll try to help you find the welding expertise that you need, and to position them properly in your company for maximum benefit.