“Welding is an ever-growing discipline which presents challenges and work opportunities for new generations of engineers.”

Interviews post authorEliza Bhalerao 09 March 2020

“Welding is an ever-growing discipline which presents challenges and work opportunities for new generations of engineers.”

Dr. Krishnan Sivaraman, Senior DGM – MRU-QC &Welding,
Larsen & Toubro Limited, Heavy Engineering IC

What made you choose welding as a career?

My interest in Engineering blossomed during my high school years. It was the time when technology had begun to make impact on the lives of people in India. Hence engineering with mechanical as my major was the first choice for my undergraduate studies. During under graduation studies, I developed special interest in subjects related to materials and metallurgy. Having graduated from University of Calicut with a first-class bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, I furthered my academic interests by doing a master’s in industrial metallurgy at P.S.G college of technology, Coimbatore. Industrial metallurgy is a unique application-oriented course designed for mechanical engineers to sharpen their skill in materials, metallurgy, joining, NDE etc. My unique combination of mechanical engineering and metallurgy with know-how in metal joining helped me get placed in Larsen & Toubro through campus placement. Accordingly, I started my career with L&T’s Heavy Engineering as a Post Graduate Engineer Trainee (PGET) in welding engineering department in the year 2001.

How much of total experience do you have?

Having spent more than 18 years of my career at L&T in the field of Welding and Metallurgy, I have gained extensive knowledge & expertise in all types of welding processes, materials, thermal processes (like cutting and heat-treating), welding metallurgy and various other materials joining techniques. For a significant period of my career, I was in-charge of all welding activities for business unit dealing with pressure vessels and heat exchangers for fertilizer, refinery and petrochemical sectors at the Powai campus.

Since you hold a vast experience in the welding segment, what is your say on the current welding market scenario? Is it on par with the international markets?

Welding is the core of modern technology and it has gone through a complete evolution today, following the utmost precedence that machines have garnered in our lives. There is a rapid development in this industry and new methods are being discovered and added day by day. Welding is an ever-growing discipline which presents challenges and work opportunities for new generations of engineers.

There is a great potential for Indian welding segment to grow in coming years. India has a unique advantage of being one of the biggest markets for Commercial Aviation as Major OEMs are now actively looking to develop supply chain in India and source Engineering services as well as components & assemblies. Driven by the ‘Make in India’ initiative and powered by State Government support, potential for growth is foreseen for Nuclear, Naval as well as Defence sector. Advanced materials continue to play an important role in the breakthrough of technologies for critical applications in these sectors. As the involved materials are developed with increased strength, corrosion resistance, and other performance factors, welding theN can become more and more difficult. Special filler metals, pre- and post-weld heat treatment, and other techniques make welding feasible in many cases, but at substantially increased cost. The real challenge is to make these materials as easy to join as simple carbon steels. Welding engineers associated with these sectors must play a major role to mitigate these challenges. Even though the current welding market in India is sluggish to certain extent in view of the global economy fluctuations, one can hope the situation to reverse soon.

What according to you is required to boost the welding industry in India?

The world is changing fast. It is predicted that in the next five to ten years, we will be seeing more changes in technology than we’ve seen over the few decades. As a fundamental process in the manufacturing industry, welding is also steadily evolving. Predominant themes such as the Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) have been joined by robotic welding, virtual reality, and machine intelligence, all being welding trends that are expected to prevail in near future. At the same time, topics related to welding education and welder’s health and safety are gaining more attention.

If there is any one thing to bank on for the future, it is the increased use of automation in welding operations. The use of robots in the industrial world is growing rapidly. According to the International Federation of Robotics, there were over 2 million operational industrial robots at the end of 2017. The number is estimated grow globally by over 80% in the coming years, approaching 3.8 million robots in 2021.Asia Pacific is anticipated to be the largest global robotic welding market in the coming years, with China leading the growth in focusing on adopting welding robots in all possible industries. India, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand are growing markets on the region as well.

More and more indigenization of welding consumables and welding power sources in the coming days can give a big boost to the welding Industry in India as it would give competitive advantage. Indian welding consumables and equipment manufacturers need to produce high quality and unique goods in order to stay competitive in Indian and international markets. With increasing competition and lower profit margins, manufacturers need to improve their service, performance and delivery for sustenance.

In the welding Industry, there exists a huge demand for high skilled work force be it welder or welding supervisor. Modern training requires active cooperation between the welding industry, equipment manufacturers and educational institutes to enable welding education with modern equipment and sharing of best practices. With the introduction of IoT, welding as a process is at a turning point. Digital solutions, connectivity, and automation are shaping the future of the industry and begin to attract young people to train to become the new generation of welders and welding operators.

 What are your expectations from the government for the upliftment of the welding segment?

The present government has introduced schemes to boost the industry, the major contributor being ‘The Make in India’ campaign. Indian government has given a major impetus to skilling over the last few years. However, as reported by CII, by 2022, it is estimated that unless action is taken, there will be a gap of 10.3 crore skilled labourers in the infrastructure sector, 3.5 crore in auto and 1.3 crore in healthcare, to name a few. Government has a huge role in bridging this gap by adapting relevant policies and ensuring availability of necessary funding to boost this very vital initiative.

R & D effort in India for welding segment is fragmented among few research institutes. Very frequently, research effort is being spent on already developed products and arc welding processes and majority of the manufacturers and institutes cannot offer to carry out research on their own. Whereas, developments in the science and technology of welding, across the globe, have reached a stage where welding processes based on scientific principles are being designed to tailor the composition, microstructure and properties for the requisite performance of the weld, India is still researching much on conventional welding processes. Government must pump in lot of fund and resource to address this disproportion. Also, a highly focused time bound approach should be exercised for all R&D projects running across various research institutes and academic institutions.

What type of projects have you worked upon?

I have handled welding related activities (development, planning and execution) for fabrication of large number of equipment associated with a vast variety of projects pertaining to fertilizer and petrochemical and power industry to both domestic and International clients. Some of the equipment handled for these projects include reactors, waste heat recovery boilers, ammonia converters, columns, interconnecting piping, secondary reformers, steam drum, urea reactors, urea strippers, urea condensers, high pressure heat exchangers, separators etc. This equipment involves welding of variety of materials such as carbon steels, low alloy steel (1.25Cr-0.5Mo, 2.25Cr-1Mo, 5Cr-0.5Mo, 9Cr-1Mo, P91, Cr-Mo-V, Mn-Mo, Q&T steels), stainless steel, urea grade SS, duplex SS, super duplex SS, Titanium, Zirconium, Monel, Cupro Nickel, 3.5% Ni steel, 9% Ni steel, Inconel, Incoloy etc. I was also involved in provided welding and quality support to many domestic and International projects during emergency/planned shutdowns at site.

Tell me about the most challenging engineering project that you have been involved with during the past year.

Over the past one year, I have been working on many application-oriented developmental projects in the refinery and petrochemical domain. As an example, for one of the refinery equipment at DTA coker revamp project, there was a requirement of stellite hard facing on the inside diameter of 90° bent Incoloy grade elbow to minimize erosion due to process fluid. The elbow along with flanges welded on both the ends had to be overlaid with 2-layer satellite

(stellite-6 followed by Stellie-1) on ID with many stringent quality requirements from the customer specification. Even though substantial amount of hard facing is done by many vendors using satellite, there was no track record of stellite-1 over stellite-6 that too with Incoloy as the base substrate. The key achievements were

  • Development of welding procedure to perform weld overlay using Plasma Arc Welding (PAW) Technique
  • Welding technique to deposit Stellite-1 over Stellite-6 using fully automatic hard facing technique by a 6 axis Robot
  • Developing a suitable vendor to perform this critical operation
  • Successful implementation meeting all the stringent requirements

Talk about your field responsibilities in your current organization?

Currently I am responsible for the Quality and Welding function at various customer sites managed by L&T Heavy Engineering’s Modification Revamp and Upgradation (MRU) unit. The scope involves following

  • Technical guidance/ consultancy to various customer issues related to material, metallurgy, welding and quality at customer site
  • Establish welding procedures and techniques to guide execution and welding personnel relating to specification restrictions, material processes, pre- and post-heating requirements which involve use of complex alloys, unusual fabrication methods, welding of critical joints, and complex PWHT requirements
  • Conduct investigations and prepare technical reports as result of research and development, failure analysis and preventive maintenance investigations
  • Evaluate new developments in welding and NDE field for possible application to current welding problems or production processes
  • Direct and coordinate technical personnel in performing inspection to ensure compliance with established welding procedures, restrictions, and standards; in testing welds for conformance with National and International code requirements; or testing welding personnel for certification, vendor audits etc.
  • Guide a team of young Welding & QC Engineers for various site activities

 What checks and balances do you use to make sure that you don’t make mistakes?

First and foremost, I reframe my mistake as an opportunity to learn and develop. In case of any new process or technique developed under lab condition, it is always vetted and verified on full scale mock-up in the shop floor environment before they are taken up for implementation. Detailed planning followed by a meticulous checklist follows for all the critical operations of a project which helps in minimising the errors to a great extent.

What is your say on safety at work?

Health and safety are the key factors for any industry in order to promote the wellness of both employee and employer. I believe that workplace safety cannot exist on best practice guidelines and policies alone. A safe working environment is based on how well the people, in both management and on the floor, adhere to and communicate about safety standards. It is essential that we keep updating the supervisor about the hazards or risks occur at work place and the work force wear the right protection equipment tools during the assigned work at shop or at field.

What new engineering specialty skills have you developed during the past year?

Having spent most of my career in welding, there was a good focus on my side towards quality control and NDE function in the past one year. Since my current role demands handling the QC and NDE portfolio for the MRU sites, my trouble shooting skills and detail-oriented approach towards any problem have improved substantially. In order to enhance my knowledge base in NDE, I have undergone hands on training in RT, PT and MT techniques. Currently I am in the process of getting myself certified to ASNT Level-II for these NDE techniques.

Have you contributed to any cost savings for your company? Elaborate if any.

I have been part of many cost reduction initiatives in the company by improving the operation efficiency through productivity enhancement, cycle time reduction, welding automation, ensuring first time right culture, design optimization, NVA reduction etc. To improve the cost competitiveness of certain core product, customized tube to tube sheet welding system was developed inhouse which resulted in a cost saving of ~ 200% compared to imported system available in market. Development of alternate indigenous source was worked out for critical welding consumables like LAS electrodes and welding strips primarily to counter high lead-time and continuous increase in price quoted by the suppliers.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Whether it is my focus, my drive, or my personality, I clearly see myself in a leadership position, overseeing the operation of large systems. With the knowledge and experience I continue gaining over the next 10 years, I would strive towards developing and establishing myself as one of the key welding professionals in the country.

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