Common vs Technical Language –

Common Vs. Technical Language and what this means for your bottom Line.

By Dan Shewfelt – Presented at CanWeld 2015


Before I start, I’d like to poll the audience – Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that the person who was talking to you was speaking a different language? You understood most of the individual words they were saying, but they just didn’t make any sense all together? So, raise your hand those of you who have experienced this…. And I don’t mean just with your significant other!

I have been in the industry for over 15 years and in my experience there have always been differences in how people think and communicate. The shop and field trades’ people have their language and the office professionals have their own. Neither one is more right than the other, they are just different.

In my experience, both groups are thinking the project through with the same quality objectives and goals in mind. But, the perception that each person has is that they are on the direct route to a Quality product, but they feel like the other person is just “doing their own thing”.

As those of you who raised your hands have experienced, the problem with poor technical communication, especially in the workplace, is you end up walking away from the conversation frustrated, feeling like the project is never going to succeed. You go back to the office and get ready for the Non-Conformance or rework order that is inevitably coming. You are frustrated and know the project is going to take longer to complete. This poor technical communication results in increased time on the project and loss of profitability.

I know firsthand the frustration many of you experience with poor technical communication, as everyday my team and I are faced with the challenge of poor technical communication.

I started welding as a teenager, and registered for the Red River College welding program in Winnipeg at 18. When I first started working as a welder, I experienced many situations of poor technical communication.

Now, as an inspection supervisor with my company, AXIS Inspection, I work directly with welders on the shop floor and on site. I then in turn work directly with the Engineers, Quality Managers and Owners to identify any deficiencies. I have watched first hand as welders and technical folks talk at each other, without really hearing each other. In my position I work as a communication pipeline between the trades people, the design team and the quality control team. So I need to know the welding language from all angles.


Working together on a Project

So, as I mentioned, in the remainder of my session I will introduce to you some of the most commonly misunderstood terms, and who uses which terms in what context. Now I have to warn you, we will just go through a few examples. If we went through them all we would be here all day! Granted, I’d be happy to speak more on this topic with any of you later on during the rest of the conference.

After going through some of the terms I will discuss training and where it belongs in the welding department. I will then close with our suggestion of how your team can be empowered to become more cost efficient and increase overall productivity in your shop and on your construction sites.


II.Commonly misunderstood terms


One of the lunch and learn seminars that we provide is on the “welding language.” In the world of trades it is commonly accepted that welding has the most slang terms of all trades? Regardless of your first spoken language, the welding language is one that needs to be understood by all of the participants in the industry.

Combining the welding terms and language with the several trades that welders work with, pipefitters have their welding terms and phrases, millwrights have theirs, ironworkers, boilermakers, steelworkers, manufacturing, and all of these specialized areas, have their own language for welding.

Confusion between the technical terms and the slang can cause significant frustrations, and deficiencies in a project.

Here are a few examples of how trade specific language can be confusing when you are coming from the professional side of the industry:

“Let’s go lay some beads!”

“Get the rodburners in to finish up these joints so we can move on to the next phase!”

“We need these pipes spooled out before the lunch break.”

I only need to finish the cover passes before my shift is over.”

“There are a couple of quick downhands that need to be completed at the shoe fly on mile 21”

These are all different “slang phrases” from different trades for virtually the same thing, welding needs to be completed!

Unless you come from a trades background, or have been around for a while, It is possible that from a technical or professional viewpoint, the above phrases would make no sense at all.

Now, let’s step away from slang for a minute.

There are more professional/technical terms and phrases that are just interpreted incorrectly which also creates confusion and difficulty in the shop or on the site.


For example:

In bridge fabrication (this is my background so there will be several examples from this area) there are two terms that cause significant confusion.

The first is “camber.” In the shop “camber” is a measurement taken of a girder in the relaxed state (on its side).


Bridge Girder

Deflection is the second. It is a measurement taken in the field when the girders are erected in their vertical position. Sounds simple enough? Here is where the fun starts!

Typically there will be a field crew working on the abutments and piers of the bridge, while at the same time the girders are being fabricated.

I have been involved with projects where the first couple of girders have gone to site and are erected. The report back from site is that the shop messed up the camber. Upon inspection, we discovered that the field crew was measuring for elevation across the top flange of the girder and did not account for the deflection of the girder under its own weight. The quality control personnel relayed the message that the camber was incorrect. So from this example we see how two “trades” both in bridge construction, can have a miscommunication by the wrong use of a word.


Another example:


Our inspection company inspects and certifies roughly 1000 mobile cranes in a year. These units sometimes are involved in incidents or become worn and requires an engineered welding repair. One common example of terminology confusion that comes up regularly is the term “outrigger”. Our inspectors will indicate that an “outrigger” of a crane is cracked; perhaps thinking this is a


Mobile Crane with Outriggers

logical term for this component, does not feel the need for a photo. The term is what all the crane operators, riggers and mechanics are using. The report goes to the engineer for a welding repair procedure. The engineer questions “What is an outrigger?” They understand this to be what he/she refers to as a stabilizer. The Engineered repair procedure is issued with this component now indicated as a stabilizer (this is the correct code term by the way) now the welder gets the repair procedure and asks. “What the heck is a stabilizer? stupid engineer, that’s an outrigger”.

Now a welding example. A commonly misunderstood welding process is the term submerged arc welding.

This process gets confused by people outside the welding industry as well as several in the industry.


Example of Slag forming after welding

What comes to mind when you hear the term Submerged Arc Welding? There are several people that believe that you are going to perform underwater welding. The shop term for this is SubArc welding. The welding arc is submerged under the flux.

This brings us to another commonly confused term flux and slag. Flux is the product prior to welding, slag is the product that is solidified after welding.

For our last example is that of a SPLICE JOINT. The welder reads the Engineer’s notes for “Full strength welds”, and think “The engineer doesn’t know what he is talking about, what is a full strength weld? all my welds are full strength.”

From the Engineer’s point of view he questions, “What does the welder mean he can’t understand the drawing and how the splice welds are detailed.”

The technical communication interpretation: the engineer would like all splice welds full penetration (full strength)

You may be sitting there wondering, what does that have to do with saving me money, increasing my profitability and reducing warranty returns?


III.Why understanding the welding language matters

Regardless of the size of your company, you will have sales people, owners, financial manager, welding supervisors, welders, design people, quality control inspectors and warranty managers. One person may fill more than one position, but it is safe to say that if you are in the welding business you have someone doing each of these tasks. If there is miscommunication and frustration between these departments, this will cause all kinds of production delays, possible re-work etc. Understanding each other throughout the welding industry assists everyone to work together to one common goal: Product Quality.


IV.This brings us to training.



Welder Training

Imagine this a board room, a designer, quality control inspectors & welding supervisors sitting with a facilitator. The facilitator is reviewing the design, using both the technical and slang language. Working together to define the quality requirements and how the product can be inspected, both in a practical and cost efficient way. Then, communicating using both technical and slang to develop the quality requirements and how to apply that into fabrication.


At the end of the day the designer, the quality control inspector and welding supervisors, each have an understanding of three things:

1.      Why the design has been made with the requirements listed.

2.      What the quality requirements are

3.      The challenges the welders face and how to overcome some of them while achieving the design and quality required.


Now, imagine the production floor, with a group of welders standing around a part with a facilitator. The facilitator reviews the quality requirements, and completes training on how to achieve these requirements. The facilitator can show the quality results that is required from the management and Quality team, using terms that make sense to those producing the parts or fabricating the components. Training on samples and giving direct feedback to the welders on the quality of workmanship.

Let’s take this to the next level!

Before a welder is hired their pre-employment interview includes the fitting and welding of a production joint, using the exact materials from the production line, or fabrication station. From this annual qualification review of production joints that the welders have been trained on, and are producing every day at their work station. This would be an additional testing to the CWB qualification in many cases. Coming from Manitoba where there are several large manufacturers, it is quite common that not everyone in the welding departments are welding heavy materials and the CWB welder qualification test is not a good indication of those welders’ abilities. This again leads to frustration from supervisors and quality staff, as the welders can weld great all day on the line, but fail their qualification renewal. By the two departments communicating to each other clearly, the welders can now be tested and expected to provide quality in accordance with real to shop fabrication tests. The Quality team can understand that the testing and training provided is directly related to the end products quality.

Now, let’s imagine that we do some training on Terms and Basic Quality equirements. Basic misunderstandings can be avoided, by clarifying language along with quality objectives as the last scenario of training and testing indicates.


Having an achievable quality program will reduce rework and warranty returns as there will be clear understanding at each level of the expectation and a commitment from the company to provide a clear objective to meet. This can all be obtained through effective communication. Understanding and respecting the shop language for fabrication and welding terms and vice versa for the

Cost Effeciency

Cost Efficiency

professional and technical terms. A clear communication between the quality control personnel and the fabricator can increase production.

As I have previously noted, the welding department, when properly trained can drive quality at their level in fabrication or production line. By educating each team in the others language and understanding that the technical terms can be put into common language for each member of the production team to work at their full capacity and not feel as though they are speaking a different language.


If you need some assistance with training in your welding department, please contact us.  We will put together a customized training program based on 20 years of experience in welding to help you increase your cost efficiency.

Until Next week,

Bonnie Pankratz