Long-Time Partnership with Lincoln Electric Contributes to Company’s Success
Chances are if you work with wood on a large scale, Morbark is a name with which you are very familiar. Headquartered in Winn, Michigan (about 90 minutes north of Lansing), the company has a well-known presence in the recycling, forestry, biomass, tree care and sawmill industries.
Standing on the main production floor of the company’s 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing complex you can scarcely see the other side of the building through production lines for equipment nearly the size of a tractor-trailer.
There are employees everywhere welding on large flails, drum chippers, tub grinders and horizontal grinders.
Morbark's headquarters and 1.1 million-square-foot
manufacturing facility are located in Winn, Michigan
Other equipment being manufactured by the company includes whole tree chippers, brush chippers, stump grinders, and shredders.
Fabrications weighing in at up to 56 tons roll off Morbark’s numerous production lines. The company uses manual, semi-automatic and robotic welding processes in its operations. Here is a closer look at how welding has contributed to this 55-year-old company’s success.
From Its Roots
While Morbark equipment is used on trees of all sizes, its own roots go back to 1957 when Norval Morey, a sawmill owner, was approached by Robert M. Baker with an idea – to create a machine that easily removes bark from logs. This machine soon became the basis of a multi-million dollar a year company with an extensive portfolio of products being used around the globe.
To understand how critical Morbark's welding operations are, you just have to look at the capabilities of some of the manufacturer's equipment.
Welding plays a critical role in the manufacture
of Morbark wood reduction equipment
One horizontal grinder model is capable of producing 40 tons of product per hour with 95-percent of the output capable of passing through a wire mesh sieve with 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch square holes. Typical uses for the product include wood pellet production, mulch, direct co-fire input and animal bedding.
The Morbark Flail Chiparvestor™ is a complete pulpwood processing unit. It delimbs, debarks, and chips trees into two separate output streams – one for bark-free pulpwood chips and the other for debris that will eventually become fuel for a paper plant or biomass system.
The 2355, 2455, and 2755 model flails also feature an optional cab and loader, all of which are manufactured onsite at the Winn facility.
The Equipment and Technology
Morbark uses almost 20 different alloys in the manufacture of its full product line. The alloys encompass mild steel to 4340 high carbon steel, and material thickness ranges from 16-gauge to six inches.
As a result, Morbark has a full contingent of welding equipment on site, including a pair of welding robots responsible for handling thousands of wear parts per year, allowing productivity to double over manual processes.
Taking its robotic welding area annual stats into consideration, you quickly understand the amount of materials going through just one part of Morbark’s facility – 135,000 assemblies welded, 40,000 lbs. of welding wire consumed, 35,000 lbs. of carbide consumed, more than 3,000 hours of arc time and 220 individual assemblies programmed.
Alloys encompassing mild steel to 4340 high carbon steel,
and material thicknesses ranging from 16-gauge
to six inches are found in the Morbark facility
With two shifts and four team members, this welding area includes a six-axis, servo-controlled robot loaded with Touch Sensing and Through Arc Seam Tracking (TAST) application software and capable of 1/10 mm repeatability.
“We are a build-to-order shop, anticipating customer needs and building our equipment so that it's ready to go as soon as possible after an order is placed,” Barry Sellers, Morbark Production Supervisor, explains.
Since tack and weld time can range from two hours on a smaller machine up to four weeks on larger equipment, efficient planning and production methods are critical for Morbark.
An inverter-based power source like Lincoln Electric's
Power Wave® S350 allow Morbark to enjoy
considerable energy savings
Numerous installations of inverter-based Lincoln Electric Power Wave® advanced process welders are found throughout Morbark's manufacturing facility, which have allowed the company to enjoy considerable energy savings over older SCR (silicon-controlled rectifier) welding power sources.
For example, Power Wave® 355M welders provided a 78-percent energy savings in one year alone and a 20-percent increase in production.
Morbark is utilizing the newest Power Wave® model, the S350, in a structural steel station to weld mild steel rectangular tubing measuring two inches x six inches x 3/16 inches.
The company uses Lincoln Electric’s pulse welding process for many of its applications. This process reduces heat input enabling welding on thinner materials without burnthrough. Increased control over distortion is made possible because of the ability to more closely control the heat input.
Morbark has instituted Lincoln Electric Production Monitoring™ software on as many of its welding power sources as possible, which is an advanced web-based weld data collection and monitoring tool.
The company’s team can easily monitor wire feed speed, welding current and voltage and other parameters associated with each weld. They can store and share files, monitor production tasks, set weld limits and tolerances and track consumable use. Diagnostic troubleshooting can be performed from any remote location.
The welding engineer can set welding limits from his office, collect and store short- and long-term weld history, execute actions or develop communication alerts when out of limit. It also allows him to monitor productivity by machine and by shift, evaluating production cycles and individual welder arc-on time.
“We use more than 75 different welding procedure settings and the monitoring allows us to uniformly control the machines across the board and create consistency between welders,” Sellers states.
The manufacturer has also transitioned to Lincoln Electric’s Magnum® PRO Copper Plus® contact tips for their welding guns and torches wherever possible.
“The Magnum® PRO tips last three to four weeks versus one week on what we were previously using,” Sellers says.
For Morbark, the Copper Plus® tips, which have a larger diameter and more mass, dissipate heat much faster, allowing them to run cooler. The tips also have a flattened thread profile which reduces melting, fusion and seizing. This provides for extended service life and fewer tip changes.
“This has significantly reduced our expendable part and labor costs while increasing arc time, which equates to more arc-on time and higher productivity for our team members,” Sellers says.
On the welding consumables side, Morbark is using solid, metal-cored, flux-cored, low alloy and hardfacing wires ranging in diameter from .030 inches to 1/16 inches.
Morbark works with Lincoln Electric Technical Sales Representative Scott Strawn, who is often on site multiple times during the week. Team members from Lincoln Electric's Cleveland headquarters, including Engineering Services Manager Duane Miller also visit from time to time to offer consulting and advice to the manufacturer’s welding team.
Morbark uses several different types of welding consumables including solid, flux-cored, metal-cored, low alloy and hardfacing
Morbark's in-house welding school quickly and efficiently trains welders on new welds and procedures
Programmed for Success
At Morbark, it’s not just the technology, equipment and welding consumables that contribute to the company’s high productivity numbers. It’s driven by its people.
“Welding is core to every product that rolls off a Morbark assembly line,” says Phillip Fockler, welding engineer specialist and director of the company’s in-house Welding Training Center.
“While having the best technology is important, having a highly trained workforce to operate that equipment is our differentiating factor. Bottom line: We set up our employees for success.”
With the company handling its own research and development, new weldment designs are often created which may necessitate a different welding position, process or procedure. The in-house welding school allows Morbark to quickly and conveniently train and qualify its welders on the new welding requirements.
As there are higher demands for particular products, welding operators can be easily cross-trained for working on a different production line.
“We don’t have to send our welders off site for days or even weeks to learn new processes, technology, equipment,” Fockler explains. “We bring them into the training center, get them qualified and they’re back out working on the line in no time.”
Morbark understands that a consistently trained workforce, coupled with the best technology, equipment, welding consumables and quality control, allow it to produce the industry’s leading wood management products. Welding plays a critical role in this success and partnering with Lincoln Electric has allowed the company to ensure the focus is on the performance of its equipment.
A highly trained workforce is one contributing
factor to Morbark's ongoing success