Good afternoon! Airgas was founded in the 1980’s in the US with the purchase of a small distributor. Over the following 30 years, Airgas continued to grow organically and acquired over 500 independent distributors and businesses. Today, Airgas is one of the largest gases, welding and safety products suppliers in the US with a turnover of over 6 billion $.
Do you have branch offices in other countries?
Airgas offices are located in USA, Mexico, Canada and Russia. We have more than 1,000 offices in North America. Our company is a key distributor of such key manufacturers as: Lincoln Electric, Miller, 3M, Honeywell and other large vendors. In addition, Airgas produces industrial and spec gases at several facilities across North America. In May 2016, Air Liquide acquired Airgas and soon after begun integration efforts. The core business of Air Liquide is the production of industrial gases, as well as the development of related technologies. The activities of Airgas involve not only the production of gases, but also the sale of safety products, personal protective equipment (PPE), welding and cutting equipment and consumables and tools. This enables Airgas to provide a One-Stop-Shop offering to our existing and potential customers in every market segment. Air Liquide has decided to work together with Airgas in connection with the opportunity to build the same business model not only in North America, but in other geographies around the world, including Russia where they see tremendous opportunities for this approach. At the moment, we can see that this type of business model is not realized in the Russian market. In looking through the different exhibitions at Weldex there were no companies that offer this full range of products and services. We could see companies specializing only in separate components: i.e. flux, welding machines, welding & cutting automation systems, regulators, oxyfuel cutting apparatus, various contact tips, nozzles, and materials for welding.
Have you participated in this exhibition earlier?
We are participating for the first time at the Moscow Weldex exhibition with a combined product service offering with Air Liquide. It is worth noting that already for over 15 years, Airgas has had an office in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk with a One-Stop-Shop offering to the Oil and Gas segment.
In addition to welding equipment and safety and PPE supplies, we offer value added services that improve production efficiency. As an example, we have the capability to analyze the efficiency of welding processes. Our solutions allows us to optimize the fabrication process by increasing throughput while at the same time reducing labor costs and overall financial costs. We have more than one hundred welding engineers in North America who offer our customers optimal solutions for increasing production efficiency.
Are you talking about some kind of training system?
Not certainly in that way. An Airgas Process Survey helps business owners and management personnel check certain aspects of the welding and cutting operations to make sure it is as efficient as possible. This in turn will make them more competitive and profitable. We evaluate customers welding and cutting processes to see if it is costing them more than it should, we diagnose common areas where improvements can be achieved i.e. reduce weld volume, reduce gas consumption, improve productivity, improve quality or improve operator efficiency. We find out how our customers business performs on a national level and check whether processes are performing to their expectations and lastly assess how well their processes are contributing to the company’s overall health. The process survey starts with welding/cutting process evaluation. This consists of a walkthrough of the customer’s plants by one of our Weld Process Specialists, and a simple form will be filled out capturing current welding processes parameters as well as basic volumetric data i.e. annual consumption of gas, wire, electrode, liners, etc. The efficiency analysis form doesn’t ask for any pricing but instead current usages needed to get a snapshot of the health of the organization. The procedure usually is quick and easy, although it may cause some short term discomfort. Most companies don’t have any serious reactions to having the analysis performed. Airgas Weld Process Specialists will then take the information and prepare a quantitative and qualitative review of their operations. The process includes a detailed analysis, reporting and recommendations for process improvements. Data collection measures and quantifies detailed data on current process and lists areas for possible process improvements. Upon agreement with the customer improvement goals and objectives are set and action plans are planned and prioritized. Changes are made based on achieving the desired results and training for those results are implemented. Over the years, Airgas has collected a large amount of statistical data relating to the parameters of production of various companies and thus, optimal indicators were determined. When customer’s indicators do not correspond with the optimal values, Airgas will suggest possible options for improving the level of production efficiency. After implementation of improvement recommendations, ongoing analysis and training processes are tracked and compared to the desired results and changes are made as required to align to overall desired results. We finally train internal champions of change so these process improvement recommendations are owned and continue to be implemented after Airgas specialists finish their job.
Based on information from our welding fabrication customers, we know that only 15% of the costs for production of finished product correspond to gases and welding consumables, and the main costs associated with plant labour and overhead. We help by providing the most optimal welding and cutting processes and offering technical consulting services paired with high quality welding and safety products. Based on experience, we can say that it is possible to reduce overall operating costs by 20-40%. For example, we find on average our metal fabrication customers consume 2 to 3 times more gas than required. We offer solutions that help reduce the consumption of gas and wire, increasing throughput of plant, while at the same time improving the overall quality of finished products.
40% – is it the maximum?
Yes, 40% is an excellent result and typically at the top end of potential expected savings. There are times when we work with customers who use straight CO2 in applications where they should be using instead Ar-CO2 mixes. In such cases, we conduct educational seminars, where we invite main decision makers. At these seminars we talk about the economics of welding and its connection with welding processes. For example, the use of a wire with diameters larger than what is required for the optimal welding process can lead to significant costs. Owners of companies in many cases are not sufficiently aware of the nuances of welding processes. After three days of seminars, our customers obtain additional technical and economic knowledge that allow them to reach a new level of understanding enabling them to make smarter decisions in their plant. In combination with the ability to purchase all necessary consumables, components and industrial gases in one place, partnership with Airgas becomes the most convenient for the customer.
With what companies do you cooperate in Russia outside Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk?
At the moment, Airgas only operates in Sakhalin servicing the oil and gas main operators and contractors. Over the last two years, upon our customer’s request, Airgas has started supplying some of the same contractors who have operations in other areas of oil and gas activity in West Siberia.
We offer solutions that help reduce the consumption of gas and wire, increasing throughput of plant, while at the same time improving the overall quality of finished products.
The interaction of customers with our company can be carried out using four different channels:
Through our more than 1,000 retail stores in North America
Through our telesales specialists over phone
Through face to face customer visits by our account executives and specialists.
Through our Airgas.com website.
Our customers choose how they want to interact with Airgas and this allows us to strengthen our partnership by making it simple, affordable and convenient for our customers to do business with Airgas.
We will be happy to come to your office and possibly take additional photos.
Thank you but I would like to mention that currently, Airgas does not have a branch in Moscow. Participation in this Weldex exhibition is the first step in introducing our Air Liquide/Airgas joint welding offering in Western Russia market place. As we continue to work together with Air Liquide, we expect to roll out a One-Stop-Shop product and service offering to the different market segments in the near future.