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Tube & Pipe

Bigger & better

Fabricator trims production time on pressure vessels that require larger capacity and greater complexity

October 2019 - When deadlines are looming, you don’t want to be the subcontractor that cannot meet its commitment and messes up a major project timetable. At J.W. Williams, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based AECOM, fabricators were spending “too much time cutting joints and prepping pipe,” says Jeremy Watts, director of production systems design. “It was taking two full days with four men to cut, bevel and prep all the pipe pieces we needed for a project.”

The engineering and fabrication company has expertise in modular assembly of large industrial projects in the natural gas and crude oil industries. Since 1963, J.W. Williams has been a turnkey solution provider for process equipment, including engineering design, fabrication, installation, assembly, startup and field service needs. It has over 325,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and fabrication facilities strategically located throughout the United States.

“We needed to upgrade our machinery,” says Watts. “We were getting more projects calling for large pressure vessels and larger pipe. We had an older machine capable of cutting up to 48-in. pipe, and we needed a larger machine for our fabrication facility in Casper, Wyoming.”

J.W. Williams also was facing some issues that are common among many of the fabrication companies that come to Watts-Mueller for a CNC machine. “We had a growing number of projects calling for significant quantities of pipe that required several joints and bevels,” continues Watts. “Cutting joints on our older machine was far too slow and required too much prep work for pipe fit-up. We needed a machine to increase both efficiency and quality.”

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The WM Series plasma or oxyfuel thermal 3D profile cutting machines are available for pipes from 3 in. up to 100 in.

Advanced capabilities

Watts has been working at J.W. Williams for 15 years and, as part of the engineering team, he is involved in machine purchasing and installations. He began searching for a more advanced piece of equipment, attending Fabtech to look at the many options.

“I noticed that Watts-Mueller had a booth, so I stopped and talked with David Carr.” The two men knew one another from an equipment installation several years earlier. “I became more interested when I learned the larger machines are coupled with advanced software.”

Carr, who has logged 34 years in pipe cutting sales and support, scheduled a visit for Watts and his team to Houston so they could watch the different Watts-Mueller machines at work in fabrication shops.

“I was able to see a WM-120 machine cutting 120-in.-diameter vessels. I also paid close attention while watching a bunch of Watts-Mueller videos,” comments Watts.

“We were landing more contracts calling for 60-in. OD vessels,” Watts continues, “so we purchased a WM-60 machine with a 40-ft. bed and a 40-ft. conveyor.” That line is set up outside the fabrication building and includes an onloading rack.

The WM Series plasma or oxyfuel thermal 3D profile cutting machines are available for pipes from 3 in. up to 100 in. The WM machines handle round pipe and are operated with Watts-Mueller’s CAD/CAM software. The Watts-Mueller machines can be programmed manually or through import from virtually any 3D design package quickly; parts are then nested based on priority.

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J.W. Williams' WM-60 has a 40-ft. bed and a 40-ft. conveyor set up outside the fabrication building.

Exact cuts

After installing the WM-60, the team at J.W. Williams now obtains “the same amount of pipe being cut, with perfect bevels, in six hours. There is no laying out the pipes, no chalk lines, no need for quality assurance to check everything prior to cutting,” says Watts. “The cuts are loaded into the pipe-cutting software and the machine does the job.

“Our initial cost study indicated that we would save enough in labor and materials to pay for the machine and the accessories in only two years,” he continues. “We are cutting 50 to 80 vessels per month with 150 to 200 pipe cuts per month. The majority of our work is on vessels with nested pipe cuts.”

That initial ROI assessment is proving to be accurate. “Now that we have been using the machine, we are seeing a 10:1 ratio; what normally would take 10 hours with the old system of cutting and grinding by hand can be done in one hour.” FFJ

Sources

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