Welding Companies vs. Client's Vetting

Vetting welding companies process includes variety of factors

Vetting welding companies for your welding project is paramount for the project’s success. And, the proper vetting process is very important for project’s leader career. In each industry, the ordinary vetting process of welding companies starts slightly differently since it involves different selection categories. However, we all know at which category the vetting process ends. The cheapest price usually gets a deal. We like it or not the dollar talks the loudest at beginning of the project but then at the end its voice becomes less important. As in anything, something that is cheap is usually very expensive at the end. This is also very common in a welding business.

The client’s welding companies’ vetting process involves at least 4 main vetting factors:

  1. location of the project
  2. project type and material welded
  3. technological capabilities and human factor
  4. price paid for welding service

The combination of these semi dependent factors determines the project’s success. Therefore, a very cautious research and investigation of welding companies is very important prior each project. Obviously, the welding companies’ vetting process should involve attributes of welding companies. But, I must be clear, also leader’s understanding of welding technology limitations. Moreover, you should also consider welders’ skills necessary to accomplish the project and their training certifications.

Additionally, the client should also consider additional welding requirements such as rather unusual materials, difficult access, or project’s characteristic that makes quoting impossible. These additional projects characteristics should also be treated as minor vetting factors when selecting a welding company for your project.

Location of the project is a main vetting factor for welding companies.

The locations of the project should become the first vetting criteria. Some projects can be shipped or delivered to the welding shop and/or can be shipped or delivered from a welding shop to the client. Other projects must be done in place due to variety of reasons. Such reasons as size of the equipment, type of work , management input, or security issues including intellectual property. Therefore, the vetting process of welding companies should start with a clear understanding how you want to run your project.  Majority of companies operate from welding shops. Then there are welding companies employing mobile welders that come to you for relatively short projects. Also, there are companies that come to you for a relatively long projects. And, finaly, there are welding companies that can do everything.

The traditional welding company’s setup involves a welding shop

Many welding companies just operate from the welding shop. In the welding shop, they have all the machinery and equipment to finish your project. These are most often fabricators, and the size of the shop usually determines their specializations. Large shops are occupied by construction fabricators and large processing equipment fabricators. Smaller welding shops specialize in fabrication in particular metal such as stainless steel, mild steel, or aluminum. The small welding shops offer variety of services for small fabrication projects.  These companies do not offer welding services in place and their welders are unable to come to you.

Mobile welding companies and their mobile welders with truck and/or trailer

Other welding companies employ the mobile welders that have their welding machine on truck or trailer. Mobile welders come to you, but they often do not have a shop for complicated welding or fabricating tasks. These mobile welders also are not able to handle projects that lasts many days in the same location. And more importantly they are not able to accommodate more advanced welding technologies for welding stainless steel or aluminum. Certainly, the mobile setups for GTAW and GMAW are available to mobile welders. But, they are rather basic and expensive and therefore not as popular.

Portable welding companies and their portable welders

Portable welders also come to you with their sophisticated welding machines, then they unload their welding equipment. Finally, they must plug in their welding machines to power in your facilities. I consider portability of welding machines as an advantage bring the high welding technology to the client’s project.

However, there is also a negative subgroup of portable welders. This subgroup consists of poorly financed welders that can not afford engine driven welding machines. They come to clients with their small portable welding machines and hobby welding machines. Then they connect these machines to 110V and trying to weld steel 3/8 of an inch thickness steel. These portable welding companies will cause more trouble than their cold welds generated by their machines.

Remember, reputable portable welding companies bring high and powerful welding technology for your sophisticated project. Next, they tarp up a working space in your facilities to separate their working space from your operation. The reputable company also brings plenty of tools to help them do your project. This is how they finish their setup on your premises in order to stay for many weeks to come.

Within the tarped area, portable welders establish a small welding shop with multiple tools helping them with your projects. More importantly however, they bring these sophisticated welding machines that make welding of your project possible. These new generation, relatively light, welding machines weld elements the way that even heavy welding machines in the welding shop can not follow if they are 5 years old. The portable welders bring the latest innovation of welding technology including sophisticated welding consumables right to your doorstep.

Full-service welding companies

The full-service welding companies offer welding services of a welding shop, mobile welding, and portable welding. They offer modern technology, mobility, flexibility, and convenience for higher price. They can run sophisticated welding projects on your site as well as in their shop. This can become very handy since certain tasks can be accomplished in the shop and then finished up on-site. Such project management combines efficiency, practicality and common sense with time management and risk avoidance.

Project type and material welded form the second vetting factor.

Each welding company specializes in some type of projects and this type of projects they do the best. Most companies advertise their best projects on their websites to promote their specialization. The welding company’s specialization is rooted in some other trade or profession.

Many owners have strong background in only one of field such as ironwork, plumbing and pipefitting, boiler making, sheet metal, mechanical repairs, and artwork. Very rarely they mix their specialization due to the welding and auxiliary equipment setup and prices quoted. Please keep in mind that the auxiliary equipment necessary to accomplish the project within the welding company’s specialization can costs tens of thousands or even hundred of thousands of dollars. The welding equipment and other supporting equipment provides the competitive advantage to the welding company with the demanded specialization. Therefore, the specialized welding companies very rarely branch off to unknown territory of unfamiliar project.

Fabricators and their specializations

Same applies to fabricators, that is companies making new fabrications or weldments. They manufacture new product using welding technology. These fabricators could produce elements for construction industry and their workers are skilled ironworkers. Other fabricators manufacture boilers, and their working crew are certified boilermakers. Pipefitters, on other hand, are masters of welding pipes on site. Millwrights specialize in welding equipment that performs some mechanical function. And artisans and forgers that specialize in metal art. It is important to realize that each welding company’s specialization provides the competitive advantage to the company. But, also limits the welding company’s flexibility. Therefore, as long as your project stays within specialization of the welding company which is related to their trade and/or profession, you will do just fine. Of course, as long as the price quoted will meet your criteria.

Lack of flexibility among specialized welding companies

The lack of flexibility is clearly visible in selection of materials the specialized welding company uses in their projects.  The specialized welding company’s employees, their welders do excellent job and do this very efficiently as long as you do not change one welding variable in their welding machine. In fact, even changes to material thickness can cause major production disruption. The welding company’s specialization limits also materials their welders are comfortable to weld.

However, be careful if your project includes some rather unusual materials for the industry or includes rather unexpected thicknesses. In this case, you will have to continue searching within these specialized welding companies and find a welding company with technological capability to accommodate your requirements.

When facing searching difficulties for a welding companies with additional welding capability, it is sometimes beneficial to reverse the objective. For instance, if your project involves welding of aluminum pipes, you could start searching among companies that weld mild steel or stainless-steel pipes. However, you could become more successful, if you reverse the objective. You can start looking among welding companies that comfortably weld aluminum. And, then ask them if they would weld aluminum pipes for you.  

Technological capabilities and welding company’s employees – the third factor in your welding company’s selection.

Extended technological capabilities provide solutions to project challenges and lower the risk of your project going soured. Most project managers do understand budgetary and managerial project challenges and are prepared to deal with these challenges. These project mangers respond to these challenges by hiring an additional contractor and/or firing the old one. However, in case of technological challenges, the decision process is not as clear.

For instance, if your project contains multiple metals such as mild steel, aluminum and/or stainless steel, it is better to hire a welding company that welds these metals, this is for sure. Now, the question remains what welding technology they use to weld these metals. And more importantly, in what setup they employ these technologies. Surely, without going into detailed description regarding different welding technologies, each welding technology has its positives and negatives. Therefore, a clear understanding of technological attributes for welding specific metal in particular environment is very important for selection of most beneficial and efficient welding technology. Consequently, this is paramount for selecting the most appropriate welding company for your project.

Additionally, one must consider also supplementary equipment and supplies such as auxiliary welding equipment, advanced welding consumables, and advanced abrasives. These supplementary welding equipment and supplies will make all the difference in your project’s success, efficiency and cost saving. Technology is expensive, however, in comparison to excessive labour cost the technology offers multiple returns.

Technologically advanced companies – Price, Risk, Efficiency

Please keep in mind that technology cost money. Prices quoted by technologically advanced welding company are much higher per hour than prices of traditional welder with 7018 rod. But because the welding technology makes welding process much more efficient than the total cost of your project could still be the same. The technologically advanced welding company makes your project possible. Their welds have much more superior characteristics whereas other welders just can do holes and burn rod.

Moreover, the technologically advanced company usually employs welders exposed to variety of welding technologies and variety of metals. Therefore probability of damaging your project by such company is much, much smaller. Additionally, such companies are well equipped and therefore they can react relatively quickly to implement necessary setup changes for more efficient welding performance. Therefore, these companies not only reduce risk of project failure but also are able to increase their efficiency.

The human factor in technological capabilities

The human factor affects the welding capabilities the most. Every welding process must comply with multiple factors to provide the desired result. A one factor malfunction could ruin the whole welding process leaving a welded project damaged and unrepairable. Therefore, welder’s experience in elimination of malfunctions is crucial for your project success.

The experienced welders are in high demand. Therefore the reputation of the welding company can be severely impacted by loosing one of the more experienced welders. Managers of large welding companies rarely understand the knowledge void caused by loosing an experienced welder. However, managers of smaller companies do understand very well the experienced welder’s contribution into the project’s success. And, they understand experienced welder contribution to welding company’s reputation. Clients having more advanced welding projects should rather focus on small and medium size technologically advanced welding companies since they will perform the best in these challenging projects.

Price paid for welding service.

Price paid for welding service is very important but, in my opinion, it should be considered as a last vetting factor for selecting welding companies for your project. Obviously, when dealing with a standard welding project the project’s leader can quickly jump to price consideration. However, more sophisticated welding projects demand more sophisticated price consideration. The more sophisticated welding companies offering more advanced welding technologies and employing more skilled welders tend to price in the risk elimination factor.

Client should shop for better price in case of simple welding project.

Considering that in every town or city there are tens of welding companies. In large metropolitan areas are sometimes hundreds of welding companies offering basic welding services. In such environment, the client takes advantage of competition between these companies and should shop for better price. Most often, however, clients will find that certain projects are priced almost the same in this category. The minimal differences between the quotes do not really impact the project’s budget.

Technologically advanced welding companies are in demand.

Technologically advanced welding companies are relatively difficult to find. Their technological advancement consists of multiple specializations and the company’s description not necessary says technologically advanced welding company. Moreover, these technologically advanced companies do not exist in every town or even in every city. Therefore you could be unfamiliar with their names or their technological capabilities. Because these companies are not as popular in your neighborhood and their services are highly demanded. Therefore prices offered by these companies could be much, much higher.

When vetting technologically advanced welding companies for your sophisticated project against your price criteria, I highly recommend focusing on specialization required by your project. Selecting companies that mainly specialize in area that you need will lower the cost. In this way, you could sometimes receive better deals since these companies do not offer many other specialized welding services. Unfortunately, such approach focused on price reduction bears an increased risk if something goes wrong with your project. And the welding company hired to do this project is technologically and financially incapable to provide a remedy.

Negotiate the price.

Negotiation of price is advisable in cases of more advanced welding projects requiring technologically advanced welding services. The areas to negotiate should include

  1. markups on materials and components supplied by the company,
  2. subcontracting markups,
  3. and use of flexible price for labor if functions do not involve directly welding or fitting

However, I must note that price will increase with increased technological sophistication related to complex project involving multiple alloys, complex welding procedures and engineering input. I also suggest to insists on free of charge destructive testing of welds performed within custom welding procedures. These custom welding procedure will be implemented in your project, so why not test it before implementation. Also, obtaining specific certification at no cost to the client should be included. Moreover, I would also insist on video and proper documentation regarding the destructive testing.

Summary and suggestions for clients

In summary, know what you want and research the welding companies well. Certainly, the welding company’s website should begin the vetting process. If you do not see projects on their website that are at least similar in nature to your project, than do not contact them. They could probably offer you a good price, but they would underperform greatly.

If you have a sophisticated project involving welding of multiple metals in different thicknesses do not contact a welding company that deals strictly with one metal. If you face project that involves strange alloys, and you are unsure about welding procedures, do not contact a welding company that has never tested their welds before. They have never written their own welding procedures and then they never follow them.

Facing a relatively sophisticated project, client should develop some technical knowledge regarding critical factors involved in the project. These factors should lead to development of precise questions that can be used as vetting questions against welding companies’ technological capabilities. These questions should be specific enough to build concerns surrounding some tasks.

For instance, a good leading question would be “Have you ever welded 2” thick aluminum alloy?, Would you preheat at all? To what temperature? What kind of joint preparation would you recommend? What kind of welding machine are you planning to employ on our project? Do you think this welding machine is powerful enough?” The answers provided by management could be misleading or could be truthful. Their answers can be checked against statement from another welding company. These answers could be also researched on internet.

Hire a general contractor

Alternatively, client could hire a general contractor that is specialized in welding and/or mechanical repairs. The general contractor should be a technologically advanced welding company. In this way, you will reduce number of welding contractors and increase number of options available to you.

Welding companies perceive client’s vetting process differently

Client’s vetting process is not often so simple since welding companies perceive it completely differently. Many small welding businesses will use undercut pricing to get the contract but then will insist on additions since the project’s cost is too high. Other small companies will lower their welding quality to reduce the project’s cost. Medium size welding companies could avoid your project since it could involve increased risk or could involve additional capital investment. Here is welding companies point of view on client’s vetting process.

Talk directly to welders prior project start.

Clients should also insist on talking to welders that will be involved in the project. These people will make the daily decisions regarding consistent welding practices on your project. First, check if they understand the welding procedure that is going to be implemented on the project. These welders have to understand that cutting corners in welding business does not work. Therefore they have to know the welding procedures they are going to use on your project. Second, these people should be able to explain to you in simple terms how they going to setup their welding machines based on tests performed by them in the welding shop. If somebody else performed the test in the shop, these welders will start experimenting on your project. You can not allow this to happen since damages could be irreversible.

Please contact the owner of JW Portable Welding & Repairs on LinkedIn in case you want to discuss these matters farther.