Photo by Ashley Cowan

Welders Welcome Lighter Load

Published July 13, 2021

Facilities Maintenance Manager John Walker (O43) is committed to help welders improve their equipment. “When I came to the shipyard in 1987, I went through the welding school and worked on units before I went into the maintenance side of the business,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with people, fixing things and making things better.”

That’s why Walker works with a team to design, purchase and deploy welding machines that are more portable and lightweight than previous equipment. About 1,300 of these machines are used across the yard.

“In the past a lot of equipment was so large it would take two people or a crane to get it where it needed to go,” he said. “Now it just takes one person to get this equipment to the job in a safe manner, where they’re not hurting their back or wrists.”

Walker is following through on a team project the company created nine years ago called Welding Systems of Tomorrow (WSOT). “The modernization project began in 2012 to update our existing fleet of welding equipment to current technologies, industry standards and capabilities,” he said.

Weighing about 40 pounds, the Miller Maxstar 210 is one of the smallest machines. Some machines have an attached strap to carry over the shoulder, making it easier for welders to take to and from jobsites. “We move throughout the ship daily so the machines are very convenient to lift, put on your shoulder, and take to where you have to go,” said Jarvis Carr (X18). “I feel 10 times better.”

Having the controls on the machines minimizes the amount of travel through production areas to set up and adjust equipment. “In my experience, it’s a much smoother welding machine,” said Michael Lassiter (X18), who has 39 years of welding experience. “I think the settings are easier to use. It’s better than what we’ve ever had by a longshot.”

Safety improvements continue to develop as equipment is deployed. “Voltage reducing device technology has been incorporated into new equipment, effectively reducing the level of voltage in the hands of operators,” Walker said. “This greatly minimizes the potential for electrical shock.”

Plans are in the works to buy additional welding equipment with safety and ergonomic improvements. Walker said welders who have a need for this equipment should talk to their foreman or call the O43 Service Desk at 688-5378.