Considerations and Investments for Modern Welding Equipment
When Tom Day is about to invest in welding equipment, he invests a great deal of time on research. After all, the longtime body shop manager knows he can’t afford to be wrong about such an expenditure.
“You have to, just because of the price of the products right now,” explains Day, who has worked for Ken Vance Motors in Eau Claire, Wis., for more than 40 years. “You don’t want to spend $20,000, or $25,000, on a welder and find out you can’t get certified because you didn’t buy the right welder.”
Yes, with welders costing as much as $40,000 these days, the leaders of collision repair centers don’t want to spend unwisely. That’s why, when considering an investment in welding equipment, Day weighs several factors, such as ongoing changes in vehicle materials, along with what amperage and voltage his facility can accommodate.
“Usually, [modern welders] are very good products,” Day explains, in reference to the MIG welders, squeeze-type resistance welders, aluminum welders, and plastic welders that a modern shop requires, and “it’s just what kind of deal can you make with the manufacturer, or is there some feature that your technicians are going to like that’ll make them use that product all the time?”
In his four decades in the industry, Day has learned to minimize risk when making sizeable investments on equipment. Here are the steps he takes in an effort to choose welding equipment wisely.
Get Employees’ Input.
As Day has learned, it doesn’t do a shop any good to invest in equipment that technicians don’t approve of. Imagine how irritated you would be if you invested $30,000 in a welder that simply collected dust?
That’s why Day consults with his employees, and asks them to consider, “What kind of problems are we trying to cure by purchasing that, that’ll make their lives easier and make the repair a quality repair?”
Consider Group Purchasing.
Day often seeks strength in numbers when investing in welding equipment. For example, he and fellow body shop leaders from his 20 Group often travel to annual trade shows like SEMA in Las Vegas and see if they can negotiate a group discount.
“We research the welders, and then we go to that company and say, ‘What kind of deal can you give us if we buy 10 of these welders?” he says. “... You get their attention right away.”
Seek Experts’ Feedback.
When he’s considering a purchase like a new MIG welder, Day often taps into resources such as those at equipment companies, or at educational organizations like I-CAR. Such research ultimately leaves him confident in his decision-making.
It’s also always helpful to have your technicians demo a new unit prior to purchasing; often, this can be accomplished by having a knowledgeable employee lead a demonstration.
Consult with Peers.
Often, Ken Vance Motors’ body shop manager relies on the expertise of colleagues. Day has found that such crowdsourcing can leave him with a wealth of information about modern equipment.
“Talk to people that have had the equipment for a while, and see how it’s working for them,” Day suggests. “They might tell you, ‘Stay away from this one; we didn’t have a good experience.’”
Exhaust all Options.
Before investing thousands of dollars from your facility’s budget, it sometimes makes sense to simply do an electronic update on equipment, if possible. Day’s facility was once able to upgrade a squeeze-type resistance welder that way, for example.
“You might have to have the manufacturer come in and download a new program into the computer,” Day says, “and it’ll give you some new features.”
Ultimately, as long as you have done exhaustive research, you can typically purchase welding equipment confidently, Day says.
“Sometimes it just comes down to the fact that, if you want to stay in the game, you need to have a piece of equipment, so you need to make the investment,” he says.