Facility of the Future:
Well Equipped to Grow with Their Current Customers
and Open Doors to New Ones.
Project: A-OX Welding Supply
Since 2004, when Tom Elliott took the reins of the family business, A-OX Welding Supply Co., in Sioux Falls, SD, he’s made countless moves to ensure its success for years, and perhaps generations, to come.
With the help of his son Trent (IT and logistics coordinator) and daughters Terran (specialty-gas facilities director) and Tiffany (administration), Tom set out to rebuild the independent distributorship.
In 2013, working alongside Weldcoa, Tom acquired a new property with a 46,000-sq.-ft. building to accommodate his vision of the future—store, warehouse, automated fill facilities, and more.
The property now serves as A-OX’s showcase facility.
New Facility - Vision Realized
"Let’s talk productivity," began Terran, describing the impact the automated island already has made. "We recently pumped 180 cylinders with one operator in just 2 hours. Before, that may have been an entire day’s production."
The new facility was designed and built with state-of-theart Weldcoa equipment. Included in the plant are an automated pallet-filling island, liquid fill island with auto shutoff, analytical lab and sampling system, cascading helium system and booster pump, and more.
The cylinder-filling centerpiece at A-OX is a Weldcoa fourhead (20 cylinders per head) automated pallet-filling island, with five stations on each side.
Automation Rich with Benefits
High on the wish list, when working with Weldcoa to spec the island, was fill automation. One reason, in addition to the inherent productivity gain, was the recipe-based setup.
"Our plant manager at the time was scheduled to retire," Tom said, "and we were very concerned with that knowledge base disappearing. With the gas-mix recipes programmed into the Weldcoa system, that took a lot of pressure off Mike Schwarz, our new plant manager."
"The system also provides verbal prompts throughout the fill process," said Schwarz. "This allows the operators to leave the filling stations and perform other tasks, awaiting prompts from the fill system. That ability to multi task just speeds the payback for the investment in the automation."
Now Arriving: New Business
The ability to make laser, calibration and ultra-high-purity gases has transformed the company. "We’re saving an enormous amount of money and time compared to outsourcing," Terran said. "We’re better-able to service our current customers, and we’re picking up new business."
"I anticipate that by the end of the year we’ll see a 20 percent increase in packaged-gas sales," Tom added. Among those knocking on A-OX’s doors are several major hospitals and healthcare companies, which continue to seek companies like A-OX, that are investing in the infrastructure needed to meet their expanding needs.
Similarly, the analytical lab and sampling system has been met with welcome arms by many segments of nearby businesses. "We’ve found a tremendous amount of business for lab work," Tom noted. "In addition to laser gases and hospital mixes, calibration gases definitely are an up-and-coming market in this area." Among customers for its new lab are a cement plant in Rapid City, several universities in the area, and local manufacturing companies. "We’re finding opportunities we didn’t even know existed."