Case Study - U.S. Farm Systems

StarSolver® Productivity Program Works for California Manufacturer

A popular expression in recent years is an “a-ha” moment – a reference to a point of awareness when a person suddenly realizes or discovers something significant. Thanks to Praxair and its unique StarSolver program, a lot of metfab operations are having great “a-ha” experiences. Officially known as the StarSolver Productivity Enhancement Program, the concept behind the StarSolver program is to have a team of efficiency experts conduct an onsite evaluation of a welding shop’s processes and work flow. Then based on a comprehensive audit of measurable variables such as wire feed speed, current, voltage, gas systems, and consumable selections and other factors, Praxair recommends a realistic set of actionable items which may include process, material, equipment or facility changes or improvements to lower the shop’s overhead costs and improve productivity. The StarSolver program has proven it can increase an operation’s profits with little or no capital investment. That qualifies as a real win-win: reduce expenses, create a better product, make more money. So why doesn’t everybody do it? “I think the industry has made things too complicated,” explained Jeff Ingraham, a Business Development Director. “People are used to working a certain way, and they haven’t been given the knowledge about what it takes to achieve maximum welding efficiency.” “The approach is simple,” added Chris Vihnanek, Senior Director of Metfab Productivity at Praxair.

“Effectively integrating your wire, gas and equipment can improve the efficiency and profitability of your shop. Sometimes just changing your materials and how they relate to each other will make all the difference.” “Some welding shops only buy on cost,” Ingraham said, “but using the cheapest wire, gas and equipment can actually result in a product with the greatest production costs.” Ingraham and Vihnanek know their approach is much more than theory. They’ve personally implemented the StarSolver program in many customer applications, and the resulting efficiency enhancements are impressive. One perfect example is U.S. Farm Systems in Tulare, California, a leading manufacturer of water-management equipment, made mostly of stainless steel. After Praxair conducted a StarSolver audit of the company’s operations, he was able to identify several areas of improvement. “We were looking to be more efficient and productive with our welding, and to reduce spatter,” said David Vaughn, Plant Manager at U.S. Farm Systems. “Praxair spent a day studying our welding habits and checking machine settings. Then they wrote up a plan based on their observations.”

By suggesting a number of simple process adjustments and changes in welding techniques, Praxair was able to immediately increase U.S. Farms’ production efficiency. In other words, he created an “a-ha” moment. “Praxair made the transition easy for our guys to understand, and we saw cost-savings with our welding right away,” Vaughn added. “For example, we had been feeding a 33-pound spool at 384 inches a minute. Now it’s 500.” Praxair helped them tweak process settings to enable a higher wirefeed speed without a loss in weldability or weld appearance quality. This resulted in higher travel speeds and depositions rates and ultimately, less labor per piece and improved throughput. “The system itself is the key,” said Ingraham. “With the improvements in place, the process creates its own success.” “I’m really pleased with what the Praxair system has done,” concluded Vaughn. “I’d definitely recommend it.”

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