Tube & Pipe
Checks & balances
Fabricator learns to adapt fast to changing market conditions and simplify processes

f one step in a process falls out of line with the rest, bottlenecks can build at any point. Top Coat Fabrication’s Jason Hayes likens the production floor to a performance.

“The bottleneck is always moving and, as a result, we have to dance around while maneuvering and changing up processes depending on the job order, so we can be more efficient today than we were yesterday,” he says. “We needed a machine that would free up workers to cut or perform other processes when not cutting.”

As the Jones Creek, Texas-based fabricator saw an increase in work from oil and gas/petrochemical customers, the need to fabricate pipe also increased. Faster turnaround required an investment in new equipment.

As a first step, says Hayes, “We leased a machine that could cut and bevel up to 24-in.-diameter pipe. We immediately saw the value because of what this machine could simplify.”

The W-364 cuts a range of outer diameters from 1.9 in. to 36 in.
Top Coat Fabrication then purchased a 45-ft.-long, W-364 6-axis machine from Watts Mueller. A 36-in.-diameter machine was chosen “because their business was focused on process-oriented pipe and smaller pressure vessels,” says David Carr, sales and marketing director at Puyallup, Washington-based Watts Mueller.

Projects vary, with some lasting three hours and others spanning a period of six months. “The W-364 cuts extremely fast. It can cut pipe in hours that would otherwise take one of our guys over two to three days to complete,” Hayes says.

Once the pipe is cut, it moves on to the next step, welding, which can take five to seven days. “We can cut it a lot faster than we can weld it,” he says. “So depending on the job, we account for the time it takes to cut as well [the time required to]finish the rest of the fabricating.”
Software integration
Watts Mueller machines are manufactured in the U.S. with service shops throughout the country. Parts are easy to replace because customers can buy replacements off the shelf. “Open supply houses allow customers to purchase parts as needed without an up charge,” Carr says. “We can get tech support to customers within 24 hours.
The W-364 can cut pipe in hours that would otherwise take one of our guys over two to three days to complete.
Jason Hayes,
Top Coat Fabrication
Watts Mueller models are designed for smaller footprints. Users can replace parts from open supply houses.
An example of Watts Mueller’s 45-ft. cutting bed similar to what Top Coat Fabrication uses at its Jones Creek, Texas, facility.
process-oriented type
An increase in process-oriented pipe and smaller pressure vessels prompted Top Coat Fabrication to invest in new cutting equipment.
“When designing our machinery, we felt it was important for manufacturers and construction people to be able to get bearings, sprockets, chains and other wear parts from local supply houses,” he continues. “The W-364 and other Watts Mueller machines are designed to fit within a smaller footprint. All Watts Mueller machines can be outfitted with logistics. This makes loading and unloading much more efficient and safer,” Carr says.

The W-364 computer-controlled pipe-cutting machine conveys and rotates pipe from 1.9 in. to 36 in. OD with 20- to 50-ft. machine beds capable of supporting 500 lbs. per ft. to a maximum of 20,000 lbs.

The machine is outfitted with 3D-Profile Plus software. 3DPP users can set up jobs using modeling cutting geometries and nest a variety of parts to be cut from a single pipe as well as assign cutting functions to one or more machines. 3DPP can be integrated into existing ERP systems to generate custom reports for job costing, scheduling and tracking, inventory control, and post-job analyses, including the ability to prepare workstation setups quickly.
Socially distant
Communication methods have changed due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. Top Coat Fabrication employs 55 people and safety concerns extend to air quality, including use of its fume extractors that can achieve 95 percent fume capture, and intuitive software that keeps users up-to-date in real time on job status.
operator welding
Operators use 3DPP software to nest multiple parts cut from a single pipe.
A lot of consideration has gone into how to ensure employees feel safe on the job. “We need to rely on our workers to be honest and stay home if they feel they have been exposed to COVID-19 or whether it’s something like a cold,” Hayes says. “We are struggling to adapt, just like everyone else. We want to do right by our people while also considering the long-term future of the business.

“Our projects right now will carry us over the next two to three months. After that, I don’t know what’s to come,” Hayes continues. “Some customers are stopping or postponing projects as our clients find their workers working from home or not able to be out in the field working. We’re not sure what the future holds exactly but we have faith and know we’re going to survive.”

Top Coat Fabricators Inc.,
Jones Creek, Texas, 979/233-9558,
Watts Mueller,
Puyallup, Washington, 253/848-9288,