How do you track the data from all the welds that happen on your production floor?

Traditionally, operators have used a “weld log”- a paper sheet with fields for data points on each weld. This concept of a worksheet filled with fields on a repetitive, manual task is common across many other documents in a production environment, not only in the welding industry.

At the end of the day, a team member could read each weld log and type it into a spreadsheet. But that could take hours, and it creates the risk that the data might be copied incorrectly.

If an executive wants to know what is happening on the shop floor every day, paper weld logs do not give you a chance to offer any data beyond the total number of work orders completed.

What is an Automated Weld Log?

An “automated weld log” allows you to capture real-time data from welders as well as track inspections. Operators and inspectors can input their data into a ruggedized tablet (or laptop) at a workstation. You can build a manufacturing app in Tulip for this weld log and then automatically store all the data.

Here’s an example that asks an operator to complete the same weld on two parts in a row:

Basic workflow for weld log in Tulip

This will require some process changes in order to work with all members of your manufacturing team. So here’s how to plan and execute your first automated weld log in a Tulip app.

Step 1 – Automate Data Flow Throughout The Factory

Here are 5 common steps to tracking data in a paper weld log:

  1. The manufacturing engineer prints out a work order
  2. The engineer fills in high-level information and hands it to an operator
  3. The operator fills out the weld log
  4. For each entry, an inspector must sign their approval
  5. The operator gives their weld log to a supervisor at the end of the day

Here’s an example:

Example paper-based weld log
Holland Applied Technologies

To collect data automatically, you must be able to capture steps 2-5 in the tablet/laptop at the operator’s workstation.

  1. The operator will input the work order information once at the beginning of the day
  2. The operator and inspector will use the automated log after every weld
  3. Since the data is automatically collected in real-time, there is no need to deposit a piece of paper at the end of the day.

This changes the fields that you will need to include in the log. For example, in the table above, the date, weld procedure, machine ID, size, and welder details fields are repeated over and over again. You can include default text for each of those fields, and allow the operator to make changes when they occur. And you don’t need to ask for date and time since those will be automatically captured.

Step 2 – Making It Easy To Enter Data

When an operator needs to drop the tools in their hands in order to enter data, time is wasted, and the operator is getting distracted from their real job.

You can integrate devices with your Tulip app to reduce this waste. If you use a borescope to inspect welds, you can take readings from the borescope directly rather than asking the inspector to manually input data.

Or, if you have a series of instructions, you can use a foot pedal to allow the operator to advance without touching a screen.

When the operator needs to use the screen, your fields should be big enough for an operator to easily select them with a finger on a touchscreen.

If operators also use a weld map, you can turn that into a clickable diagram that leads to the weld log.

Example weld inspection diagram
Inspection for Industry LLC

Step 3 – Communicating the Value to the Operator

When it comes to new technology, most people are stuck in their ways. Operators, like anyone, are cautious around new tools that feel like “big brother” is watching every one of their moves.

Make sure you get the operator’s buy-in for the Tulip App. If the operator does not use it correctly, your data may be flawed.

The system should eliminate repetitive data entry that interrupts the operator’s day. And, the data will help the entire team build higher-quality devices that do not put customers and end-users at risk.

Step 4 – Choosing Data To Analyze

Every single entry from the operator can be saved and later analyzed. It’s up to you to determine which data are most valuable.

Some common ideas:

Average Process Completion Time by Operator: You can combine all the welds within a process into one chart, and compare the average by operator. This will help you understand where operators spend their time. This example uses a stacked bar chart and examines daily results.

Process completions by operator over time

Average Process Completion Time by Part: You can investigate which parts have the longest cycle time, and then dig deeper to see which user completes a part quickly. Then, you can speak to that operator to see if there are any lessons you can share with the rest of the team.

Common Errors by Part: If you allow operators to report issues via their tablet, you can track common defects and segment it by part number to learn which processes you need to revise.

Step 5 – Sharing Data Throughout Your Organization

You can use the automated weld log to notify relevant team members of issues in real time. If a particular tool requires maintenance, an operator can easily send a text or email to the maintenance team. If an operator needs guidance, they can easily notify a supervisor.

Other manufacturing engineers and executives may also be interested in daily or weekly weld data. In order to share with them, you can choose:

  1. Emailed reports
  2. A real-time dashboard
  3. Printed charts

For example, a traveling executive may ask for real-time access to data on their phone. Or you may want to make a report for a weekly meeting.

How To Get Started

You can try building an automated weld log in Tulip for free. Here’s an example of a form that allows operators to add detail on each individual weld.

Screenshot of weld log app in Tulip

You can build the app yourself, and then share a read-only version with operators and inspectors. Once operators start using the app, you can share data with executives and other engineers.

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