National Welding Corporation
Business View Magazine interviews Nash Williams, President of National Welding Corporation, for our series on Strength and Growth of Domestic Manufacturing.
National Welding Corporation (NWC) is an innovative solutions contract welding company with “mega-sized experience.” Addressing customers’ complex welding management challenges with dependable, cost-effective performance is an NWC specialty. The company has performed production welding services from Boston, Massachusetts to Anchorage, Alaska; from tunnel work, 450 feet underground to bridge work 120 feet above ground. Most projects performed by NWC remove welding from the contractor’s critical path; taking production welding practices to the field, using custom-designed welding trucks, trailers, and rigging equipment, so the contractor can focus on more lucrative portions of the work.
That being said, the true measure of the company’s success comes from its inspiring team culture, where management, workers, customers, and suppliers are all treated as family. Business View Magazine recently asked National Welding Corporation President, Nash Williams, about the history, current operations, and future goals of this ambitious company he formed two decades ago. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation, along with stories of some amazing projects they’ve accomplished.
BVM: How did National Welding Corporation come into being?
Williams: “I founded National Welding Corporation just over 20 years ago (1997). I had previously been involved in the utility construction business since the late ‘70s and started National Welding Corporation after recognizing the nationwide need for high-production, field-welding services. While manual/stick welding is readily available throughout the country, the use of field-automated systems is not prevalent. While pursuing the welding business, I was solicited to join the AWWA (American Water Works Association) and ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) committees that write the standards. Over time, I became the Chairman over a couple standards involving large diameter water pipe and hydroelectric penstocks. Bryan Hansen, our Vice President, and Gedas Grazulis, our Operations Engineer, are key to our operations and also involved with these standards. The Associations have been instrumental to our evolution.
“As the company grew, concurrently, the U.S. infrastructure was in search of methods to rehabilitate large steel pipelines. So, we coupled our welding and developed innovative methods to install steel liners within tunnels and pipelines. The difficult-to-perform projects seem to be the best and most fitting opportunities for our company.”
BVM: What do the firm’s operations and capabilities encompass?
Williams: “At National Welding Corporation, we consider ourselves a specialty subcontractor for the heavy civil construction industry and target unique work scopes that match our abilities. A strong market for us is to provide innovative solutions for tunnel/pipeline rehabilitation and solve constructability problems by designing one-off equipment. The best way to describe this capability is by telling you about a few projects.
“We were awarded a hydroelectric project in rural Georgia that required us to install a 12’ diameter pipe made from 1” thick steel plate to reline an existing 1,000’ penstock through the middle of a dam. The challenge was that each pipe section weighed 50,000 pounds and the existing tunnel only allowed 8” of annular clearance. While traveling through the tunnel, our system also had to manipulate the pipe in every axis, due to irregularities within the existing tunnel which was built in the early 1900s. It was a good challenge.
“Another interesting project was the installation of a 72” steel pipe through a two-mile-long tunnel located beneath New York harbor crossing between Staten Island and Brooklyn. From the tunnel portal on Staten Island, the first piece of pipe had to be hauled by locomotive to Brooklyn. Along the way, the tunnel had vertical misalignment which required the pipe to be installed with some sections 4’ above the tunnel floor, yet other sections had only inches of floor clearance. Again, we had to create a system to handle the variables.
“In addition to our specialty tunnel work, we provide and manage skilled, high-production welders for heavy wall steel construction projects. We have worked on more than 250 projects in over 40 States, including some of the more difficult areas such as Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Our projects have included bridge seismic upgrades, welding structural supports for subway stations in NY, assembly and welding of a large cooling pipe, the nation’s largest rocket test stands, and pipelines up to 33’ in diameter.
“National Welding Corporation has several recognizable achievements, including welding the main piping for the country’s largest water treatment plant, located in NY. We provided the welding services to assemble the world’s largest tunnel boring machine in Seattle (Big Bertha). We also assembled and welded the recirculating cool pipe for the nation’s largest nuclear power plant. Although we have experienced many novel projects, it’s our strength to adapt to a variety of projects that has treated us well.”
BVM: How does enhanced technology and equipment come into play for creating custom solutions?
Williams: “Using computer design we build custom pipe/material transportation handling equipment in-house which allows us direct control over our projects. Our ability to create and design specialty equipment specific to a project creates a nice package for our clients and lends itself to expedited performance. It’s still amazing to me that we can create a 3D model for a unique piece of equipment, operate the equipment within a computer-generated work space, and verify it will work. We then convert the model to piece drawings and send them to our fabricator, electronically, who enters the part into their cutting machines. We receive those parts for assembly, usually, within a week.
“Our unique pipe carriers have allowed the rehabilitation of tunnels and pipelines previously thought to be obsolete and in need of replacement. Over the years, we have developed an arsenal of custom equipment packages which are intended to improve efficiency of our work force. Production welding skids and trailers combine welding machine, gas bottles, and tools all in a single package that can be handled by crane or a track hoe to the work area. Our tunnel packages are designed to be low profile and can be steered from both directions. Additional equipment includes a diesel-powered workman cart which can carry a worker with equipment through pipeline down to 48” in diameter and miles in length. These carts are designed with fume scrubbers to allow for underground operation.
“As far as capital investments, we are focused on infrastructure expansion, upgrades, and rehabilitation. We have developed patented systems to fortify the structural integrity of pipelines that can also be used for bridge columns upgrades. When we see the need for unique equipment, or a novel approach to improve the progress rate for a project, we don’t hesitate to develop what is needed for optimal performance. From an environmental standpoint, our developed tunnel equipment includes treatment of exhaust fume to acceptable levels for confined spaces. We also utilize multi-unit electric power welding machines, which avoids the need for numerous engine-driven welders.”
BVM: What is the significance of relationships to the growth of your business?
Williams: “We work with some of the largest heavy civil contractors in the world and we’re often a small, but critical, component on multi-billion-dollar projects. Despite their size, the hierarchy of these companies all seem to know each other. Performance is critical, as the memory of one bad job lingers long after that of a hundred good projects. National Welding Corporation frequently uses large national supply houses to provide consistent/familiar equipment and materials to our work force, although local suppliers are sometimes a better option when our work schedule runs around the clock or the project is in a remote location. We pay our suppliers early and strive to take good care of them, as keeping them happy facilitates great support when we need their help.”
BVM: Speaking to company culture, why would someone want to work for National Welding Corporation?
Williams: “To begin with, our motto is ‘When it’s got to be done now and it’s got to be done right.’ The company, by design, feels like an extension of family and this pertains to all levels. Workers are trained to treat management as a team player that can facilitate a good work environment. And management is trained to treat all workers with respect, as they are able to perform tasks you are either unwilling or unable to perform. Without this mutual support, a project can go tragically bad. Our open forum culture welcomes new ideas and concepts. We have found that encouraging others to share concepts for an application can be the catalyst needed for the best solutions.”
BVM: How do you market the company?
Williams: “Past performance of difficult projects over 20 years tends to get noticed by our peers and publications, which support strong word-of-mouth exposure. Our website has been devised to be a resource for the welding industry and provide tools for the pipe welding industry. Current plans include a weld cost estimator with general weld production rate guidance for field-welding applications. We also mail out a photographic calendar which showcases a dozen or so projects we worked on through the previous year. Initially, our website was not expected to generate business, but instead was intended to demonstrate our ability and presence to our current/future clients. We are now intending to generate business using the website by becoming a major resource to our industry and developing new markets utilizing that knowledge.
“Looking to the next five years, we intend to gain market share via our unique ability to adapt material handling methods, which are often combined with welding, and to follow the growth expected in the infrastructure market. There is a lot of creativity involved in our specialty. Our focus on novel approaches for rehabilitation of pipelines provides a good market opportunity for us.”
AT A GLANCE
Who: National Welding Corporation
What: Innovative solutions contract welding company
Where: Midvale, Utah
Montana Fabrication Works LLC – 406-777-5471
We are a Montana based company with a core focus on penstock, hydroelectric, conveyors, construction, and mining. Our capabilities in steel fabrication are also enhanced by our in-house detailing and quality control departments. We strive to deliver quality and reliable fabrication services for our customers, while focusing on safe operations for our employees.
We look forward to building new relationships while meeting the challenges and schedules of your projects!