‘There is always a scope for improvement and learning.’


Kalliappan S.,
Chief Welder, ESAB India Ltd
Tell us a little about yourself?
My early life was spent in Thiruverkadu, Chennai. A number of years of my early working life was spent in various places like Singapore, Malaysia, Nigeria, Brazil, Dubai, China & Netherlands. My desire to return home brought me to my current role at ESAB as Chief Welder at the Global R&D Centre for Consumables in Chennai. Over 30 years of experience in the field of welding in various parts of the world has helped me develop my capabilities in welding different materials by all arc welding processes.
What made you choose welding as a career?
The workshop next to my home aroused my curiosity in welding and motivated me to pursue a career in welding. The learning opportunities by working in different countries with different materials by different arc welding processes ensured that my passion for welding kept growing.
What type of projects you’re currently working upon?
Our projects are focused on improvements in productivity and quality. Our recent work has been in improving the welding speeds of submerged arc welding fluxes and usability, eliminating the need for re-drying.  We are also working on improving user appeal for welding electrodes by developing electrodes with very low levels of diffusible hydrogen with extremely low moisture re-absorption properties. We also continuously conduct benchmarking exercises to identify new features and opportunities for improvement in welding performance.
Can you describe on some of the mega projects you worked upon in the past?
I have had an exciting journey with various milestones. My early learning came from fabrication of 169 high pressure pipeline joints with zero defect in 1996. The next challenging project came my way in 2000 in the fabrication of special vessels for the Salem Steel Plant expansion program. My desire to share my knowledge and experience led me to leading a welding training program for 800 welders in Singapore from 2000 to 2004. My passion for travel took me to the shipbuilding industry working on projects at Singapore, Malaysia & Dubai from 2004 to 2006. Our current work allows me to contribute in development of productivity & quality improvement product and solutions that travel to a range of industries across different parts of the world.
What challenges did you come across when at work? How do you manage to cope up with the same?
Welding on Project sites pushes you through a range of challenges from difficult welding conditions, exposure to extreme weather, heat from welding, the pressure of timelines and limited awareness of Health & Safety. Experience with different people and cultures posed various challenges, but also helped my focus on the job on hand. Maintaining good rapport with them, listening and understanding their needs helped me gain their respect.
Can you tell us about a time when you disagreed with your senior’s decision made at work on Welding? Why? How did you manage to handle the same?
Sometimes conflicting priorities of weld appeal & aesthetics and properties required for service conditions cause disagreements. Increased awareness of the overall requirements from welding helped me communicate the importance of difficult to measure user friendliness and its impact on weld integrity while balancing it with an appreciation of the importance of weld properties. Willingness to appreciate others suggestions and views as well as the importance of the circumstance helped me manage those tough situations and supportedin maintaining good conduct.
Your say on ‘Safety at Work’. How do you consider the same when on site?
Reduce workplace stress, take regular breaks, use mechanical aids whenever possible, wear protective equipment to suit the task, and Stay Sober.
Any anecdotes you wish to share so support the importance of safety for welders?
During 1998 @ Bharuch- Gujarat, I witnessed a fatal accident of one of my co- welders, who was doing maintenance welding at a height of 126 meters without the use of any belt and rope. Since then, I always ensure safety precautions for myself and others at work by using appropriate protective equipment to suit the task.
What is your greatest strength, and how does it help you as a Welder?
Concentration & hand stability is my strength, which supports me to do lot of critical jobs in different positional welding.
Can you please share an incident of a toughest welding job you have come across?
During 2005, welding @ midnight around 1.00AM  on a container ship travelling from Singapore to Brazil, the sewage pipe line burst and we needed to arrest the leak as soon as possible to avoid sewage water entering engine room. We closed the gate valve and repaired the leak within 5hrs. It was really tough to weld when the ship is in motion and the sea is rough.
Right from the time you started your career till date, what has been your learning so far? Any new skills you have learned?
I believe ‘’there is always a scope for improvement and learning’’.After associating with ESAB, I have learnt how to characterize welding performance of consumables.The trust of my colleagues to evaluate the performance of welding consumables for global projects across different arc welding processes gives me confidence on my abilities. My experience with equipment R&D team has taught me that welding performance is a result of the right combination of welding consumables, equipment, technique and welder skill.
Availability of skilled welders is a major problem in India. All the skilled welders opt to work abroad. Your say. Any expectations from the government to push the skilled welders work for projects in India?
Skilled welders prefer to work abroad due to salary differences. Also older technology and poor awareness of health & safety have limited the choices for welders interested to return to their country. However, in recent years, the demand of automatic and semi-automatic welding production systems are rising. Government institutions are investing in skill development activities but the limited availability of work does not provide enough opportunity to showcase and improve their talents.
Closing message
Weld Quality is very important for the Safety of millions of people that use engineering structures in the course of their daily life. We need to ensure that the Health and Safety of Welders remain an equal priority.