Welding: just another ho-hum subject? It’s probably not the topic of the day for most of us. Our dependence on the safety of welded products in our daily lives is pretty much taken for granted. One of the reasons for this nonchalant attitude might rest in the powerful dependability of those welds – allowing us the liberty of not having to give a second thought to the welds upon which our safety rests. We have companies like ESAB Welding and Cutting Products, Inc., to thank for that feeling of security.
ESAB is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of welding and cutting equipment, welding filler metals and welding technology. With world headquarters in Gothenborg, Sweden, the ESAB Group operates 42 manufacturing facilities in 19 countries, has sales offices in 35 countries and employs about 7,500 people worldwide.
“The interesting thing about welding is that it really touches people in their everyday lives, whether they realize it or not,” says Doug Jones, ESAB’s senior vice president for North America. Commenting on his company’s strengths, Jones adds, “We are a global company with a local presence and superior engineering know-how. We provide value packages to our customers, and we are unsurpassed in delivering total solutions.” ESAB’s vast range of products provides customers with complete solutions for joining materials such as mild steel, stainless steel, alloys and aluminum. ESAB is also a leading manufacturer of metal-separating equipment such as automated cutting machines, hand-held plasma machines and hand-held gas-cutting torches.
When it comes to joining metals, ESAB does more than manufacture the equipment used for all types of welding processes. The company also manufactures the filler metals used to join materials together. These filler metals include stick electrodes, solid wires, flux-cored wires, metal-cored wires and other products. Finding the right filler metal product – depending on the material being welded, the process used and other factors – is a key ingredient to successful, cost-effective welding.
Jones cites an example of one of the company’s most recently developed products, Coreweld C6. “This is a metal cored wire that produces excellent quality welds, while allowing users to weld at high speeds previously thought unachievable,” he says. “This new product was developed especially for the automotive and other similar industries. Because of its high speed, it can be used for automated robotic welding.
“We have a complete range of products from which we can choose the right combination to provide the best-value package solutions to our customers,” Jones continues. “From manual welding to automation to mechanized cutting to new processes such as friction-stir welding – no company has the breadth of products and engineering solutions ESAB can provide.”
Welding the World
The extent of ESAB’s presence in everyday life worldwide is evident in the number of diverse industries that use the company’s welding and cutting products. ESAB products find their way into bridge building and repair, structural fabrication, equipment manufacturing, shipbuilding, power and petrochemical plants, truck and auto manufacturing and repair, and the production of everything from car seats, bicycles, snowmobiles and exercise equipment to those scooters every kid on the block is zooming around on today.
ESAB supplies specialty welding materials to a wide range of unique customers. One such customer is the U.S. Navy’s nuclear division. “We are a large supplier for the federal government as well as most of the major shipyards,” says Jones.
Welding distributors play a critical role in the supply chain between ESAB’s manufactured products and end users. “Our distributors are true partners in supplying our products to the customers who use them,” says Jones. ESAB’s innovative e-commerce capabilities help make the ESAB-to-distributor-to-customer supply process more efficient and cost-effective. Instant, on-line transactions allow distributors to maintain low inventories, while allowing ESAB to maintain cost-to-serve models that are lower than industry standards. “Automated business-to-business transactions allow us to serve the end user in as seamless a manner as possible,” says Jones.
Industry experts recognize ESAB’s superiority in this area. In the past few years, ESAB has won several awards for its e-commerce innovations. These include CIO magazine’s Enterprise Value Honorable Mention award and Midrange Systems magazine’s first-place award for innovation in applied solutions.
ESAB’s corporate culture is strongly focused on customer service and satisfaction. “Our organization is driven by our commitment to provide profitable solutions to our customers with 100 percent on-time delivery and zero defects,” says Jones. “Shipping and distribution logistics are extremely important to our business, and we have a warehouse network around the country so we can provide 24-hour service.” ESAB operates warehouses in Hanover, Pa., Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Salt Lake City. The company also has Canadian warehouses in Toronto and Edmonton as well as manufacturing and distribution centers in Mexico. “The way we interact with our distributors is critical in reducing the time between when a distributor orders product and when he can expect it in his showroom,” says Jones.
ESAB’s innovative spirit is evident in the numerous industry firsts it has achieved within the past decade: the first third-generation H4 technology flux-cored wire; the first friction-stir welding process and machine; the first interactive mechanized plasma cutting; the first ultralow fume generation rate flux-cored wire; the first new-technology metal cored wires; the first austenitic stainless steel metal cored wires; and the first automated seven-axis, oxy-fuel beveling system.
This innovative spirit is also evident in ESAB’s strong commitment to advanced training. “I think we’ve set the industry standard with the training materials we’ve developed,” says Jones. These include correspondence courses in welding and cutting (available in printed form or on the Web), interactive Internet training sessions and CD-ROM simulator exercises in welding control. “We’ve invested a significant amount of money in our innovative training tools so that everyone who uses our products also has opportunities to advance their welding and cutting skills,” he adds.
One of the facts of welding life is that few young people today are attracted to the profession, so ESAB takes an active role in promoting welding as a career through the American Welding Society. “One of the challenges our industry faces in the U.S. is the struggle to find qualified welders. As a result, a lot of the welding jobs are moving offshore or to Mexico,” says Jones. He adds that his company is concentrating on expansion efforts in its Mexican facility as well as its facilities in Asia and Eastern Europe.
The future for ESAB holds strong growth in the infrastructure arena. “There’s a lot of work replacing aging bridges and highway systems,” says Jones. “There are also some very interesting emerging markets like wind power generation and other power generation projects which require welding.” ESAB is also committed to maintaining its leadership role. “We will continue providing complete and profitable solutions to our customers in order to remain a world-class supplier for the welding industry,” Jones vows. “We will also continue to play an active leadership role by promoting the welding industry through our work with trade schools, with the American Welding Society and with other global industry societies.”