When Pierre Mack first made contact with EWM at Euroblech 2012, he could hardly have imagined just how much the leading German provider of arc welding technology would be able to help him, with both its product portfolio and its "maXsolution" innovation and technology consulting, including the associated service offering. The Managing Director of Mesa Metall-Stahlbau GmbH based in Carlow, near Lübeck in the German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, was looking for a welding technology specialist partner that could offer him not just impressive technology, but also effective solutions. The discussion at the trade fair, and the subsequent meeting with Toralf Pekrul, manager of the EWM branch in Rathenow, was to be game-changing for his company.
Ever since Mesa was founded in the former GDR in 1962, welding has been one of this medium-sized handicraft enterprise's core functions, and remains so to this day. After reunification, the company became a specialist supplier to the maritime industry. It now has a workforce of 55 who generate around four million euros per year from, among other things, the manufacture of marine equipment and structures for plant engineering. The product spectrum includes manhole covers for shipyards, where the company is the market leader, and, for example, stairs, hatches and ventilator covers. Mesa also supplies metal and steel structures for crane construction and ventilation systems, and for filling equipment in the food and mineral oil industries. Stairway construction for external installations is another key pillar of the company's business.
While the maritime sector still makes up 75 percent of Mesa's business, the company has been very deliberately focusing on expanding new business areas for some time. "Because of the increasing changes in the global shipbuilding market, we are systematically expanding our business in other industries," explains Mack, outlining the company's strategy. One of these is rail vehicle construction, an area where Mesa is making more and more of a name for itself because in this sector, quality requirements are particularly high. Every supplier must be certified to DIN 15082-2 and be able to guarantee correspondingly high welding quality. "The perfect terrain for us to stand out from our competitors," explains Mack.
An important key to this was the enquiry from Dräger, one year after the initial contact with EWM. Based in Lübeck, Dräger was looking for a supplier of steel water tanks for use in the Deutsche Bahn fire and rescue trains, of which there are seven throughout Germany. Each train has one carriage with two water tanks, each with a capacity of 10,000 litres. Mesa has now been manufacturing these since 2014. Welding is a key process for the steel structure consisting of three segments and a baffle. Mesa Managing Director Mack costed the project, but realised after design and during production of the first tanks that the manufacturing outlay was significantly higher than originally assumed.
EWM consulting led to completely different manufacturing process
He picked up the phone and called EWM in Rathenow, from whom he had already purchased a few welding machines, and asked for advice. Branch manager Pekrul came to his aid immediately. To solve the problem, Pekrul proceeded step by step according to the EWM "maXsolution" innovation and technology consulting concept. He analysed the production process and worked out in detail with Mesa the areas where there was room for improvement and concrete ways to plan and implement these improvements. "It was certainly rather a challenge developing a reliable production process for this complex application, but that's precisely where our strength lies," explains Pekrul, adding that the structured "maXsolution" process is extremely helpful for cases like this.
He recommended his customer Mesa a completely different production process, using EWM power sources with the new directionally stable and powerful "forceArc puls" arcs, which save time, material consumption and electricity costs significantly. Rather than positional welding of components, the PA and PB positions were to be used in future. A core feature of the new solution was partial mechanisation with a track-guided welding tractor for welding long parts. Welding torches and welding consumables precisely matched to the welding machines would also ensure further increases in efficiency.
"In addition to our technical solution and the required welding tests, the first thing was to successfully complete the necessary welding procedure tests," recalls Pekrul. EWM performed these for the customer, then briefed the Mesa employees and supported the whole commissioning process. This is also part of "maXsolution", with its underlying approach of supporting the customer not just with innovative technology, but also with consulting and all the services throughout the whole process chain. "The extraordinarily intensive and personal commitment of EWM gave us a great deal of confidence and security," stresses Mack. "And the improvements and increases in efficiency are really striking."
57 percent time saving and direct payback
With the new EWM solution, Mesa was able to save 57 percent of the time taken to perform welding and grinding tasks, compared to the conventional welding technology used for the manufacture of the first four water tanks. While a tank set previously required 781 working hours, the change to the new technology allowed a reduction to just 339 working hours. The mechanisation of the welding process plays a significant role in this and improves quality by 30 percent thanks to the high level of consistency that it allows.
The considerably shorter welding time is, however, above all a result of the innovative "forceArc puls" arc. Because weld preparation is no longer required, this alone speeds up welding by 30 percent. "Whereas we used to spend more than half our time on preparation, pass grinding and finish grinding of contact points, this has now virtually been eliminated," says Tino Volkmer, welding coordinator at Mesa. The heat-minimised process also reduces distortion and spatter formation by ten percent. A further effect is that the process requires half as much electricity, and the consumption of shielding gas and welding consumables has been reduced by 40 percent.
Mesa Managing Director Mack is delighted: "We have made such huge savings with the EWM technology, and 'maXsolution' has allowed us such a major reorientation that our investment paid for itself with the first batch that we produced after introducing the new measures." This allows shorter lead times, he explains, completely different costings, and frees up capacity which the company has been able to put to productive use elsewhere. "EWM has therefore significantly helped to increase our competitiveness."
Close partner for strategic orientation
Mack is certain that Westerwald-based EWM will play a crucial role in his company's strategic orientation going forward. For him there is no question that EWM plays a major role in helping Mesa to offer new products and implement projects. He sees EWM as a firmly established and close partner to assist the company with its reorientation from a medium-sized handicraft enterprise to an industrial manufacturer, albeit one who remains committed to manual skills. His goal is to become one of the top 5 suppliers to the metal and steel construction industry in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony.