April 9, 2009
So you’re partial to your UWE (Unqualified Welding Engineer) because he has 15 years in welding and he’s brought your welding automation where it is today?
I love these two, but welding engineers they're not.
I understand. I’m partial to these couple of girls because I’ve known them for several years, they give heartwarming hugs, and they look great in sunglasses. They also do great on 2 and 3 wheel scooters, and in less than 15 years they’ll drive a car. They’ll always have a place in my heart. But they’re going to need some training before I let them do a brake job on my truck. So let’s face it: wearing a welding hood to weld won’t make them welding engineers any more than putting on sunglasses and dancing in a department store makes them the next Hanna Montana.
If you manufacture welded assemblies, it’s no longer optional to be excellent in the welding processes. You’ll have to move quickly toward welding excellence to survive.
The business reality is that welding is – by far – your most complex process, involving more sciences and physics and variables than anything else you have. So no matter how good he is, your non-welding-engineer probably cannot enable you to survive. He certainly can’t enable you to take leadership in your manufacturing segment. If you’re going to make money in today’s flailing manufacturing economy, you must understand what your UWE is capable of vs what he is not capable of, and limit him to appropriate roles and authority. How do you do that? By hiring the real expertise that’s needed to guide him, further develop him, protect you from the self-serving interests of your supplier salesmen, and fill your profit gaps before you drown in red ink and close your doors.
But how? You don’t have 5 years to find your way across the financial desert by trial and error. How can you quickly make the critical changes you need without splitting your tribal welding culture into factions warring and squealing for authority and recognition? For 20 years I didn’t have a solid plan to answer that question. Now I finally do. Read the rest of this entry »
March 21, 2009
After reading my recent article about Welding Engineering Compensation salaries, Garrett asked me some great questions:
What is the difference between a welding engineer and a welder with a certificate? Would it be difficult for one to get into a school for W.E.? And where is W.E. offered? Thank you for your time.
Many people have those questions, and I don’t know of any central place to send you for complete answers. So here are my answers, and if any of our rapidly growing audience can add comments or valuable links to the discussion, please do!
What is a welding engineer? What is the difference between a welding engineer and a welder with a certificate?
In my mind, a “welder with a certificate” has been trained and tested in personally making specific types of welds on specific types of materials with specific welding processes requiring specific qualification test types. A welding certificate is usually very limited in scope, and the focus is on physically making the welds needed for those exact types of parts – there is nearly zero training on the sciences of physics, chemistry, electricity or photonics, or on the design, maintenance and troubleshooting of the welding systems and equipment. Extensive training in those areas is all part of a “4-year” Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in welding, plus extensive exposure in all types of welding processes, thermal processes (like cutting and heat-treating), and materials joining (including polymers and ceramics).
The National Center for Welding Education and Training is an important new effort that I’ve linked to in my sidebar. They do a superb job of explaining some of this, like in these job descriptions for various types of careers in welding. And their welding career videos should be seen in every high school in the country. But breaking it out further, here’s what I would add:
Read the rest of this entry »
February 27, 2009
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. Read the rest of this entry »