DIS-TRAN Steel Blog

Brooke Barone

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How to Avoid Weld Symbol Miscommunication with AWS A2.4

Posted by Brooke Barone on Apr 7, 2015 3:06:00 PM

Being a fabricator, we see a variety of fabrication drawings. Not only do we fabricate from drawings generated by our own engineering and detailing groups, but we also fabricate from drawings generated by others. These customer supplied drawings can vary greatly from 20 year-old hand drawn steel drawings to highly detailed drawings with 3D images of the connections. Ultimately, the fabrication drawings are the link between the engineer who is designing the structures and the fabricator fabricating the structures.

Having clear fabrication drawings and state of th art manufacturing equipment increases the likelihood that the steel being fabricated turns out exactly how the engineer intended. The drawings do not have to be fancy or highly sophisticated in order the get the message across to the fabricator; however, they should contain the needed information and make sure it’s shown correctly. 

Examples of this include:

  • Fabrication Notes
  • Clear Section Views
  • Proper Weld Symbols, etc.


The use of proper weld symbols is a critical component to the fabrication drawings.  If the weld is shown incorrectly or left up to the interpretation of the welder, then it can make the difference of whether the connection will hold up to the loadings.  One main problem is incomplete or vague weld symbols that could be interpreted different ways.

Some of the different welds include:

  • Fillet Weld
  • Single Bevel Weld
  • Single V-GROOVE Weld
  • J-Groove Weld
  • U-Groove Weld
  • Square Groove Weld

Welding symbols provide a system for placing welding information on drawings and work sites for the purpose of relaying information to fitters, welders, fabricators, inspectors, etc. These symbols quickly indicate the type of weld joint needed to satisfy the requirements for the intended service. AWS A2.4 Standard Symbols for Welding, Brazing, and Nondestructive Examination is the correct standard. It's a great method for communication between the design engineer and the fabricator, but if the fabricator fails to gain a thorough understanding of what the engineer is requiring, then that could result in welds being placed in the wrong location, sized incorrectly, wrong welding processes, etc. 

The engineer on record who designed the structures, also signs-off on the fabrication drawings, and is ultimately responsible for correct weld symbols.  As a fabricator, it’s a good practice to glance over the drawings before they hit the shop floor in order to be proactive and head off any issues.  They should also have trained welders that flag any weld symbols that are unclear so that they can ask for clarification.  However, if it gets to this point it can start affecting the shop production because the welder could be on standby waiting on a response.  For a fabricator, a welder standing around waiting is not a good thing. 

Referencing AWS A2.4 will help guide and protect all parties so that their projects are a success, as well as allow everyone to be on the same page talking the same “language”.


Follow-Up: 10 Quick Tips to Help Save Money on Structural Steel

Posted by Brooke Barone on Feb 4, 2015 9:39:00 AM

Last week we pointed out how to reduce lead times and save money from the customer’s perspective by properly submitting RFQs that were neat, included technical specifications, loads, site address, delivery date and more.  

This week we are focusing more on how to save money from a design standpoint, which ultimately can reduce lead times. From the customer to sales, purchasing, estimating, engineering, detailing, fabrication, galvanizing  and down to shipping, knowing how projects are priced and what factors affect lead time and cost, helps to avoid any hidden surprises or confusion.


So, we’ve listed out 10 tips to help save money on structural steel, however, they’re not meant to be taken as the rule in every situation when dealing with different fabricators or design specifications.

1. Weathering steel generally costs less because unlike galvanized steel, it doesn’t get the galvanized coating. (Typically see weathering steel more with transmission structures.)

2. Usually, the more steel ordered at one time could help give you a better price. In this instance, if you had different structures for one substation, instead of ordering separately, try to coordinate to order all the structures together, which could save money on freight and other expenses.

3. Loads with over-length and over-width sections could get costly because you have to get freight permitting depending on the states along the delivery route. Typically, the price for wider structures is greater than longer structures.

4. Expedited lead times can increase price. Since a production backlog is already in place, fabricators would need to expedite engineering, detailing, rearrange product schedule or may have to include some overtime.

5. Special weld inspection requirements and tests that are beyond typical industry standards could raise the price. If the fabricator needs to pull in a third party to inspect, send material off for testing or bring in an expert, it could increase the price.

6. Direct Embedded structures typically cost less than base plate structures because they require less material and labor. (Depending on certain requirements such as environment, design or structure type)

7. For transmission structures, utilizing the same design for multiple arms can reduce design and fabrication.

8. Generally, by having the least amount of detail on the pole like vangs, equipment or brackets can reduce detailing and fabrication times, as well as weighs less, which helps cost.

9. For substation, using standard structures can save time and money because over time, engineers and detailers can pull these designs, offering better lead times.

10. Having correct drawings and proper weld symbols is critical to fabrication drawings because these symbols quickly indicate the type of weld joint needed to satisfy the requirements for the intended service. Incomplete or vague weld symbols can be interpreted different ways, questioning if the connection will hold up to loadings, which requires backtracking and adds more time and cost.

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Tips from Steel Fabricator: How To Reduce Lead Times and Save Money

Posted by Brooke Barone on Jan 28, 2015 11:58:37 AM

A few years ago, TLC came out with a show called Extreme Couponing where everyday people mastered the skill on saving hundreds of dollars at the grocery store by providing coupons. It sounds simple, but it requires much effort and attention to detail, that honestly, many of us opt out of doing.

Unfortunately, substation and transmission steel structures don’t have a “buy one, get one free” coupon, but there are ways to reduce lead times as well as save money in the process.

*The more information a customer provides on the request for quote (RFQ) the more accurate the estimator can be on manufacturing costs, omitting room for contingencies. 

There are simple ways to cut lead times and costs that are sometimes overlooked. It really helps the estimator when the bid is neat, plans are in place, an expeditor on staff or even negotiate in the bid stage. Also, something as simple as specifying the required delivery date in the RFQ, or suggest that bidders supply two bids: one meeting their schedule and one with their standard schedule (this will help during negotiations.) Customers can even look into becoming an Alliance Partner  in order to get every detail of their project from start to finish, communicated directly to them, with tailored service and a personal “go-to” coordinator. 


Lead times are also typically reduced when the steel fabricator receives shop ready drawings because this helps eliminate the engineering process. Another way is to negotiate with the fabricator- it might be difficult at times, but it could help reduce lead times. Many of these bids are based on the fabricator’s backlog at the time the project is quoted, so if a customer needs a better lead time than what is shown in the quote, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask.  Not only does this allow the customer to get the best date possible, but the fabricator can pin-point a production slot for the work in advance, which makes production planning easier on the supplier.

Here are a few things to provide when submitting a bid to help save money and get the best lead times:

  • Shop-ready drawings
  • Technical specifications
  • General arrangement drawings or engineering drawings
  • Plan and profiles
  • Loads (tensions, equipment cut sheets, environmental loads, etc.)
  • Site address and contacts
  • Delivery date

What effects delivery from a customer’s side?

When changes are made far into the process, it can cause a snowball effect on the fabricator’s other projects.  If a customer misses their production slot due to changes, the next available slot may be weeks or months out.

From the fabricator’s side?

Shop capacity is the main factor.  Fabricators book work with the intensions of filling their available shop capacity while maintaining sales goals.  Secondary to shop capacity is engineering capacity, which may affect lead times on design jobs that are engineering intense. So, as a customer, you want to be sure to obtain information regarding the fabricator’s shop and engineering capacity.

How a bid comes together from a fabricator's point of view:

1. Submit to proposal administrator, such as a specific person or email address

2. Quote is logged and filed electronically/hardcopy

3. Quote is reviewed for scope and schedule by estimating manager

4. Next…

    a. If engineering required: goes to engineer for preliminary design and weight takeoff

    b. If no engineering: goes to estimator for weight takeoff

5. Materials and direct costs are estimated by estimator

6. Terms and specifications are reviewed by estimator

7. Schedule and margins discussed with estimating manager

8. Proposal submitted by proposal administrator to customer

Since fabricators are doing several bids per day, and if the requested time to put together a proposal is two weeks, then having all of the information neat, organized and complete will help ensure the best price and lead time.

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How to Avoid Excessive Galvanizing Buildup on Steel Structures

Posted by Brooke Barone on Nov 13, 2014 2:43:08 PM

Something that might be viewed as a small, insignificant venting hole on a 10,000 pound steel structure, if not well thought out, could really have an adverse effect on production.

When creating fabrication drawings for galvanized structures, it’s important, as well as valuable, to know proper draining and venting provisions. If adequate venting and draining holes are not provided, it can really have an intangible effect.

5 Problems to Watch Out For:

1. Air pockets can form, causing structures to rust out from the inside

2. Excess galvanizing buildup

3. Lead to longer fabrication times

4. Welded plate can blow out, causing safety concerns

5. Poor coating

It’s hard to put a dollar amount on what happens when a structure either doesn’t have proper venting, or one of the five stated above occurs. It’s usually not too hard to correct if it’s caught up front, but the further it gets in the process and closer to delivery dates, it can really put a stop to production, causing low production numbers and possibly delayed shipping. But working with a trusted steel fabricator, can help avoid these issues.

Some standard shape structures, such as square and rectangular tube columns and beams, are hollow, so provisions need to be made in order to allow galvanizing to easily flow and coat the inside portion of the structure. Tapered tubular structures are also hollow so the same principles can apply with provisions.

Other standard shape structures, like channels, wide flanges and angles are solid, so just the outside receives coating, but keep in mind that air pockets can form without proper drainage, causing excessive galvanizing buildup. For these shapes, you need to watch where stiffeners, connection plates and brackets are welded that could form large pockets of air as the section is dipped into the kettle.

For standard shape and tapered tubular structures, using removable cover plates on the ends of beams is a good option instead of welding solid plates or expanded metal to the ends. This allows for faster flow through the member and more adequate galvanizing, also helping to eliminate buildup.


But ensuring proper venting doesn’t mean place a bunch of holes all over the structure, but rather strategically supply the venting and drainage provisions. For example, if dealing with corners in a square and rectangular tube, slots or holes can be provided near these corners to prevent air pockets from forming, which can decrease the amount of galvanizing coating in the area.

It’s key that along the process, there are people in place who know what to look for or have an eye for knowing what will work when it goes to the galvanizer. If it passes through the line of engineering, detailing, quality control and then is delivered to the galvanizer, modifications can be more costly and difficult.

The more you understand how the member is lifted and dipped in and out of the galvanizing kettle, the better you can locate the venting and draining provisions. As a designer, you are always trying to find the balance of putting enough holes for galvanizing, while not putting too many to impact the structural integrity of the steel member.

Galvanizing eBook

DIS-TRAN Take2: How to Design Anchor Bolts

Posted by Brooke Barone on Nov 3, 2014 11:46:21 AM

In this edition of DIS-TRAN Take2, led by Senior Civil Engineer, Bill Elliott, PE, he will explain and demonstrate how to design anchor bolts after calculating the axial loads. To learn more about developing loads in anchor bolts, click here to watch his previous video. 

In this short, six minute video, Bill walks through four steps for designing anchor bolts:

1. Calculate the shear bolt load. 

2. Calculate the max shear stress per bolt. 

3. Calculate the max permitted tensile stress per bolt. 

4. Take max bolt load and calculate actual tensile stress. 

 (You can also click here to view the video on YouTube.) 


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