Editor's note: This is the second installment in a series of articles addressing means manners, methods and tools that will increase employee speed and efficiency in the field. Read Part 1
Cutting pipe has always been a labor intensive task. Back during the days of exclusive steel pipe installations (late 1800s, early 1900s) there wasn’t electricity readily available, and most of the field cutting and threading was done via manual means. You could always pick plumbers and pipe fitters out of a crowd because they had forearms like Popeye. They also had brains the size of Gigantor. They would collaborate with the architect, and if you look closely at a certain kit home (Montgomery Wards) you would notice that there were bricks left out of the wall, right about basement ceiling height, that would accommodate the long lengths of large bore (up to 6-in.) steel pipes for the gravity hot water heating system they were installing. They would have the longest lengths precut and threaded at a shop, and then bring them out on a wagon, and use a tripod crane to guide the pipes into the hole and into place. The use of shop labor has long been known as a means of increasing field efficiency, but not all shops have that luxury. Many of the smaller shops are confined to having to perform these tasks in the field.
Back 10 years ago, while my company was charged with the task of installing the snowmelt system that was chronicled on these pages, I had a need to increase pipe cutting efficiency. We were dealing with copper and steel pipes, in sizes from ½-in. through 4-in., with most of the bigger bore pipe as schedule 40 steel pipe. We started out using the conventionally accepted method of using a rough abrasive carbide blade that puts on quite the spark show during use, and generates a significant amount of smoke and dust during its use. It was the standard at the time, and it seemed as though every trade on site had at least one saw per crew. I knew there had to be a more efficient way to complete this task.
Enter the Dewalt Multi-Cutter slow speed carbide tipped cut-off saw. At that time, there weren't a whole lot of manufacturers of these devices available, but fortunately, the first costs were being held low due to the manufacturer wanting to get exposure in the field. The blades cost over half the cost of the package as a whole. That whole scenario has changed. Now numerous manufacturers are offering a slow speed carbide tipped cut off system, and the cost of the blades has dropped significantly. I remember that when I first showed up on the jobsite with this tool that could cut wood, copper, steel pipe, and Unistrut without the use of water or a lubricant, all the other trades came by to look at this new tool and asked if they could try it to see how well it worked on their materials.
The following week, over half the trades on that site had one of these saws, and there was a significant increase of indoor air quality on the jobsite. The saw comes with a material chuck to hold the material being cut firmly to avoid jamming the slow turning blade, and it must be used on all materials being cut, regardless of density or hardness. One of the crews on site found out that violating this rule would destroy the saw and void any warranty. I saw the results of a misinformed employee who attempted to cut a bundle of ¾-in. steel concrete reinforcement rods without chucking the work tightly in the clamping jaws. The saw literally broke apart. The employee was accustomed to being able to perform this task on the old style abrasive chop saw and thought that he could do the same thing with the new saw. Not true.
As with any tool, make certain that all employees understand how to properly and safely use the tool to increase their production, all while working safely. A full face shield and eye goggles and hearing protection are a must with this tool. It has a tendency to spit a lot of small particles from the blade.
Tune in next month as we continue to look at some tools designed to increase employees' efficiency and production. Until then, Happy New Year Hydronicing!
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