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Simple Math Drives
Distributor’s Entry

into Gas Filling

Project: Koehler Welding

 
 
 

Look out southern Indiana, there’s a new gas filler in town. Koehler Welding and Supply, a leading supplier of welding, maintenance/repair and other industrial products since 1929, now has expanded their services to include high pressure- gas and liquid-cylinder filling.

With detailed planning and execution support from Weldcoa, Koehler launched its filling operations during the summer of 2014, and has seen significant growth in its gas business since—with existing customers and new. “It came down to simple math,” said Koehler president and owner Dave Ungru, explaining why the firm decided to move most of its filling operations away from long-time provider Indiana Oxygen, 100 miles away in Indianapolis. “What I was spending annually on new tanks and transportation I figured I could use to invest in our own fill plant.” Ungru points to a 50 to 60 percent boost in gas sales since 2010, primarily fueled by the industrial and construction markets, as another factor in his decision.

Outside Advice and Support

Ungru notes they had the full support of Indiana Oxygen for their new venture. The two companies remain business partners in some gas market segments, and, in fact, management at Indiana Oxygen recommended that Ungru call on the expertise of Weldcoa.

“Don Renner (Weldcoa Sales Engineering Manager) in particular worked with us from the beginning, late in 2013, to develop a layout for the fill systems and define the equipment we would need,” Ungru said. “We wanted to fill oxygen, nitrogen, argon, CO2, and argon mixes.”

Another key area Renner helped Ungru address was exactly where to locate the new fill systems. Avoiding any disruption to Koehler’s complex and very heavy flow of goods moving to and from its product warehouse was a priority.

“We are heavy in industrial supplies,” Ungru said. “There are 10 to 12 semi-trailers moving in and out of here daily; we average 600,000 items shipped per month. With the new fill systems, we had to ensure we steered clear of those shipping and receiving operations, and Don and his Weldcoa team helped us accomplish that goal.”

Also in on the planning and execution of the new fill systems were Koehler sales personnel Todd Ungru and Teresa Moore, who also oversees daily operations and helps move orders through the production and delivery process.

Echoing Dave Ungru’s beliefs, Moore said: “Weldcoa was very instrumental in the success of this project. Before we poured an ounce of concrete, Don helped us understand the options we had in terms of the equipment and layout. At Don’s suggestion, we even had the door to the warehouse offset to ease forklift traffic. This layout also helps with cylinder staging and minimizes cylinder handling, reducing manual-labor costs.”

In-House Filling Operation

Koehler’s new fill plant includes two traversing manifolds (one inert/mix and the other O2), as well as liquid-fill manifold stations for LO2, LN2, liquid argon and CO2 cylinders were installed in one corner of a new 12,000-sq.-ft. warehouse built on the Koehler site. The new warehouse nearly doubled Koehler’s storage capacity.

The fill island is designed to allow Koehler’s 3 trained employees to bring pallets up to the deck and roll the cylinders off onto the deck for filling. On opposite ends of the island are the operator control panels—the O2 control panel on one end and a four-gas mix control panel on the opposite end. Each control panel includes a vacuum pump assembly tucked underneath; the mix panel also includes a cabinet with scale and reference cylinder to fill mixtures by weight. And, along with liquid manifold stations and scales, Weldcoa provided pumps and vaporizers on the tank pad.

“The system will take up to 64 bottles at one time (four 18-bottle racks), and we can fill two gases simultaneously,” said Todd Ungru. “It’s a really nice, compact system that fulfills our needs now and also allows us to grow over the next several years. While we’re not really trying to compete with the big guys on every job, on certain jobs it puts us on a level playing field, and in many ways gives us an advantage in terms of flexibility and responsiveness to the immediate needs of customers.”