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ColonialWebb Contractors Inc., headquartered in Richmond, VA, is a leading contractor specializing in the design, service, and retrofitting of systems for a wide variety of buildings, including educational institutions, museums, office complexes, and hospitals. Their expertise also extends to industrial facilities, catering to manufacturers of diverse products from potato chips to computer chips. With strategic offices in Hampton Roads, DC, Charlottesville, and Maryland, ColonialWebb has established a strong presence in the region.

Navigating Operational Challenges

ColonialWebb’s main operational challenge was a pressing need for efficiency and scalability within a limited physical footprint. With only 20% of their 90,000 square feet dedicated to mechanical pipe welding, the company encountered a significant opportunity that required an exponential increase in their welding output.

The pivotal moment came with an opportunity to undertake an exceptionally large project requiring a welding output of 60,000 weld inches, in addition to the weld inches required for their other existing projects at the time. The prospect of adding a second shift and expanding the workforce was daunting and impractical due to space and financial constraints. This bottleneck prompted a strategic pivot towards seeking an innovative solution that could seamlessly integrate into their existing operations without the need for expanding their physical premises or workforce exponentially.

Investment in Novarc's Spool Welding Robot

After evaluating several options, ColonialWebb chose Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR) for its compact footprint, and ability to increase pipe welding productivity and efficiency without the need for a track system.

Novarc’s SWR is a cobot, designed specifically for pipes, small pressure vessels, and other types of roll welding and it significantly improves shop productivity and produce high-quality welds every single time.

This integration promised not just to enhance ColonialWebb’s operational capacity but to redefine it.

Quantifiable Outcomes

The implementation of Novarc’s SWR has led to remarkable efficiency improvements and cost savings for ColonialWebb. 

Increased Productivity

“Before implementing the Novarc machine, we would get anywhere between 80-120 weld inches per shift. Now that we have the SWR, we’re getting 250 weld inches per shift on smaller pipes, and 400 weld inches per shift on larger ones”, Says Dr. Christopher Traugh, General Manager at ColonialWebb.

The company experienced an increase in weld inches per hour from 2.5 to 4, effectively doubling their daily welding output. This enhancement allowed them to undertake and complete a massive project of 60,000 weld inches in a short period, a feat that would have been impossible without the SWR.

Financial Savings

The economic impact of the SWR was equally impressive, with efficiency gains translating into substantial cost savings. The enhanced productivity facilitated by the SWR equated to a two (2) year payback. This financial prudence, coupled with the SWR’s operational efficiency, underscores the transformative impact of Novarc’s technology on ColonialWebb’s bottom line.

High-Quality Welds

The SWR has enabled ColonialWebb to maintain their high-quality welding standards, maintaining a flawless record with zero failures in robotic welds.

Addressing Skilled Labor Shortages

Another noteworthy benefit of the SWR is its role in mitigating the shortage of skilled welders. ColonialWebb has harnessed the SWR’s user-friendly interface to empower younger workers, particularly those with a penchant for video games, to excel in welding tasks. The intuitive operation of the SWR, involving a pendant and a human-machine interface (HMI) that is similar to the interaction of video gaming, has enabled these individuals to contribute significantly to the welding process, improving shop productivity and maintaining high-quality weld standards.

World-Class Support

The SWR has been a massive success at ColonialWebb, much of this is due to the solid support from Novarc. Dr. Traugh shared his appreciation, mentioning, “The support from Novarc has been great. If we’ve had issues, they’ve been taken care of near immediately. We haven’t really had an issue where the Novarc team wasn’t on it to help. And if the team wasn’t able to help by phone, somebody would come down to our facility within a couple of days”, says Traugh.

ColonialWebb’s journey with Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot is more than a mere operational upgrade; it is a testament to the power of strategic technological adoption in overcoming industrial challenges. This case study exemplifies how targeted innovation can not only solve immediate operational dilemmas but also set new industry standards for productivity, efficiency, and quality.

About Novarc Technologies

Novarc Technologies is a Canadian-based robotics company specializing in the design and commercialization of collaborative robots for industrial applications. Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR) is the world’s first of its kind in pipe welding application. Novarc’s SWR has built a reputation for its unique form factor and advanced features for pipe welding not unlike a human’s precision and dexterity, with an operator-friendly user interface, adaptive control systems for accurate torch control, and machine learning algorithms to detect features.

As a proven pioneer in the field, Novarc has a dedicated team of engineers and scientists eager to solve challenging industrial automation problems that improve customers’ bottom line. The welding industry is looking to adopt these technologies in order to solve the shortage of qualified welders, accommodate the millennials workforce, and solve the cleantech challenges of this century.