Employee-Developed Welding Jig Helps Apprentices Soar in their Weld Tests
By Kristi Britt
| April 2, 2019
Norfolk Naval Shipyard's Subject Matter Expert Welding Instructor Lamont Smith clamps down the flat bar onto two test plates. (Photo by Shayne Hensley)
Subject Matter Expert Welding Instructor
Lamont Smith and his apprentices show off how the
welding jig he developed works. (Photo by Shayne Hensley)
Close up of the welding jig Smith developed. (Photo by Shayne Hensley)
NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
Subject Matter Expert Welding Instructor Lamont
Smith saw firsthand the struggles his apprentices went
through in their weld tests. The jig originally used for their
test plates was showing its age and not providing the tight
and accurate holds needed to perform quality welds.
“I saw the need and I thought how could I help my
people get the job done safely and accurately. They put in a
lot of hard work and they need the equipment that supports
them, not hinders them,” said Smith. Welders have to perform
certain tasks to meet their qualifications in the testing area.
With the original jig, the user would clamp the jig to a work
bench and try to tighten the device and do accurate welds.
It was in rough shape and it took a lot of work to get it set
up for work. What’s more, it was not providing the accurate
spacing needed for the welds, which required more adjusting
on the apprentice’s part. “It was a lot of work and it wasn’t
getting the job done for my people. My team was struggling
in their tests and I knew I had to make a change for them.
There had to be a better way," added Smith.
An idea sparked one day when Smith was in the hull
cut section and saw a table fitted with clamps to provide the
workers with the tools they needed to properly secure what
they were working on. With that table as inspiration, he
developed a smaller version to fit the need of his apprentices,
a mobile cart that is fitted with clamps and settings to
perform the tests with flat bar and weld plates.
“I ran with the idea for this mobile cart and developed
it with plates, clamps, and setting it specifically to fit the need
of my people who would be doing the tests,” said Smith. “As
soon as I brought it in, my apprentices loved it and it’s been
used every single day. It’s easy to use, mobile so we remove any unnecessarily lifting, and what’s more is that now my
apprentices have the tools they need to pass their tests with
flying colors. We’ve already seen a huge improvement and
I’m looking to making more carts for our team.”
For Smith, innovating at the shipyard is all about filling
the need. “When we take the time to listen to the needs of
our people and address them to the best of our ability, we
are helping them be more efficient and showing them they
matter. If anyone at the shipyard sees something around
the work area that needs to be improved and they have a
good idea of how to fix it, they should go for it. Talk to your
leaders, go to the Innovation Lab or the Prototype Center.
Your good idea could make big changes for the future. In
order to make a difference, you’ve got to take that first step.”