Big or Small, Keep the Work Flowing
How Three Companies Made the Switch to Praxair’s Microbulk Gas Delivery System, and Increased Their Productivity – and Their Profitability
Do you know how many gas cylinders you have in your inventory right now? When your next cylinder delivery is scheduled for? How long until your current cylinders run out of gas?
Your answers to those three questions can quickly uncover the bottlenecks of gas supply management. Between having the right amount of cylinders on-hand, scheduling your delivery precisely in time to not run out, and losing production time to handle and switch out cylinders – it all adds up, and fast. When your equipment is down, even for a minute, your workflow stops. And when the workflow stops, so does your output. It can quickly become a very expensive minute.
Follow the Flow
When looking to move from single cylinders, packs and dewars, bringing a large-scale bulk gas supply may seem like a good idea, but there's a variety of things to consider, including site prep and requirements, as well as the issue of permanency vs. flexibility. Praxair's Microbulk gas delivery system can be placed almost anywhere, avoiding extensive site prep and related costs. Installation is much faster than with a bulk supply, and if your facility's layout and workflow change, the Microbulk system can be moved to integrate with your processes. Praxair’s Microbulk gas delivery system takes away the handling of traditional cylinders and replaces them with an onsite gas delivery system for a continuous, reliable gas supply. Praxair customers who have switched their gas supply to a Microbulk delivery system have seen improvements to process quality, productivity and their bottom line.
HoDoCo Wire Forming - Hudson, Michigan
We spoke with three of those customers and talked about their Microbulk gas delivery system: A small metfab shop in Michigan that wanted an easier and safer way to manage their gas supply, a metal fabricator in Oregon that has used Microbulk to increase their efficiency and grow their production log, and a large metal fabricator in South Carolina that desperately needed an alternative
to a time-consuming, cylinder-based gas supply. For HoDoCo, an automotive parts manufacturer, the time spent managing their gas cylinder inventory was overwhelming. “We spent a lot of time managing our gas cylinder inventory,” said Don Stockton, president at HoDoCo. “And we never quite knew how much gas was left in the cylinders. We desperately needed to explore other and better gas delivery system options.” But the first problem was their current gas cylinder supplier didn’t offer a bulk option, which sent Stockton and his team to the drawing board. Stockton called a number of local gas suppliers, including his local Praxair representative, Jim Newbeck. “Praxair stood apart from the competition right away,” said Stockton. “Not only could Praxair install and service my gas delivery system, but they were able to provide expert technical support for our weld process. That was not offered by the competition.”
– Don Stockton, President, HoDoCo
Newbeck and Dan Grein, MetFab Productivity Specialists (MPS) at Praxair, went to the HoDoCo metfab shop to assess their gas supply needs and work with the HoDoCo team to improve their lab productivity. “We conducted a complete StarSolver® productivity enhancement program audit,” said Grein. “We didn’t want to just go in there and install a bulk system. We wanted to be absolutely sure that no matter the gas delivery system setup, it supported their goals and controlled their costs.” Based on the StarSolver audit, the Praxair team recommended a Microbulk gas delivery system as the best option. Praxair worked closely with HoDoCo to install a single, 3,000 liter tank to provide an uninterrupted supply of gas to theirshop floor.“Given the space limitations and capital investment considerations, HoDoCo needed a Microbulk gas delivery system,” Newbeck said.
“Praxair’s Microbulk gas delivery system gives me peace of mind, especially when it comes to labor costs and shop safety,” said Stockton. “With the wireless monitoring service, Praxair can read my gas inventory in real-time and then deliver my gas supply precisely when I need it. I don’t have to keep multiple cylinders in inventory, and my team doesn’t have to stop production for cylinder handling and change out.” According to Stockton, the new Microbulk gas delivery system saves HoDoCo nearly $2,000 a month just in gas supply costs. “The savings are huge for a shop our size.”
In addition to the savings from the Microbulk gas delivery system, Praxair’s StarSolver has significantly added value to HoDoCo’s welding process by uncovering additional system improvements. “The Microbulk delivery system has cut my gas costs by 20 percent,” said Stockton. “But with Praxair’s technical experience and their team of weld experts, HoDoCo will see numerous savings opportunities in the future.”
Gunderson Company, LLC - Portland, Oregon
Gunderson Rail’s WeldTech team, led by Jeff Powell, makes sure that new equipment and processes will not only drive the company’s production but will put out a better quality product. And part of their new equipment testing is making sure that they have the gas delivery system to meet all of their needs. Gunderson manufactures a variety of rail cars, including gondolas and cryocars, and coal and chemical barges. With a recent increase in production, Gunderson started looking at bringing in newer welding technology, including the installation of a new robot line. While the Gunderson metfab shop had been previously running their whole welding process on a CO2 gas system, they quickly realized when it came to supporting their robot line, their existing gas system wasn’t going to cut it. Gunderson then turned to their local Praxair representative, Terry Reeves. “A Microbulk gas delivery system was the best option, and it was going to save a lot of time and money,” said Reeves.
“The Microbulk gas delivery system helps Gunderson more efficiently build a better product with a faster throughput.”
– Terry Reeves, Praxair
After a successful StarSolver® audit, Gunderson gave the go-ahead to install the first of the now three Microbulk tanks installed at their facility. The initial Microbulk installation was one 2,000 liter tank of argon. The new Microbulk gas delivery system significantly reduced inventory management and cut down the cost of unused gas returned to the supplier. Later, Gunderson started to experience quality issues with their oil car welding. With Praxair’s help, they developed an improved welding process and again needed the right gas delivery system to support their efforts. With the success of the first Microbulk still fresh in their minds, Gunderson was more than willing to install a 1,500 liter tank of argon to meet their oil car welding needs, and at the same time, installed an additional 2,000 liter tank of CO2. “The Microbulk gas delivery system helps Gunderson more efficiently build a better product with a faster throughput,” said Reeves. “They have significantly improved quality and increased their productivity.” Looking to the future, Reeves and Powell continue to work together towards improvements for Gunderson's processes.
Alpha Sheet Metal - Ladson, South Carolina
Joe Schady, vice president at Alpha Sheet, grew concerned as he realized he was seeing his Praxair delivery person more and more. As work increased, deliveries began to happen nearly daily to meet their needs. And every time a delivery arrived or a cylinder was emptied, Alpha Sheet Metal employees had to pause to receive deliveries or swap out cylinders. “We were using all cylinders at the time,” said Schady. “It was getting expensive and I felt like I was seeing the delivery guys almost everyday.” Praxair’s territory manager, Chuck West, approached Alpha Sheet Metal, a fabricator for the aerospace and defense industries, to discuss another option – a Microbulk gas delivery system. West and the Praxair team conducted a thorough cost and gas delivery analysis, and quickly recommended Alpha Sheet Metal install a Microbulk system. The Microbulk system would offer a big reduction in gas and cylinder handling and maintenance time – a big win for Alpha Sheet Metal and their bottom line. Schady and the Alpha Sheet Metal team agreed and quickly gave Praxair the green light to install a Microbulk system. The initial Microbulk system was comprised of two tanks, one 1,000 liter tank of argon and one 2,000 liter tank of nitrogen. Three years after the initial installation, it was clear that it was time for another upgrade to the Microbulk system.
“I don’t have to make any phone calls; I don’t have to do any maintenance. That’s the way I like it.”
– Joe Schady, Vice President, Alpha Street Metal
“The system was really paying off,” said West. “Joe and his team were really satisfied with the decrease in supply management time and their business had grown to a point where additional tanks were going to be a great pay off.” Using Alpha Sheet Metal’s existing gas piping system from the initial Microbulk installation, Praxair replaced the smaller tanks from the initial system with new, larger tanks and added two more. Alpha Sheet Metal now has one of the largest Microbulk gas delivery systems. Their system is comprised of four tanks – a 450 liter tank of CO2, a 1,000 liter tank of liquid oxygen and two 2,000 liter tanks, one of argon and one of nitrogen. And what is the Microbulk gas delivery system feature that has paid off the most? Remote monitoring and ordering. Through a telemetric system, Praxair is able to remotely monitor the gas supply levelsin the tanks and automatically submit an order for a refill. “I don’t do anything,” said Schady. “I don’t have to make any phone calls; I don’t have to do any maintenance. That’s the way I like it.” And Schady only sees the Praxair delivery truck about once a month. “There is still opportunity to expand with Joe and his team,” said West. “They have been a fantastic Praxair customer for more than 15 years. I think their business is going to continue to grow, and we’re always looking for improved ways todeliver an uninterrupted gas supply that fits their business and their budget.”
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