McElroy DataLogger® 7 brings added value, efficiency to FTI fusion operation

When Les Klaudt started Fusion Technologies, Inc. (FTI) 20 years ago, he knew he would have to run his business efficiently to be successful in the HDPE pipe fusion industry.

“We wanted to use the most advanced technology because we felt it had the power to revolutionize our business and create a market advantage — and we looked to McElroy for that advantage,” Klaudt said.

Now with an extensive background in building HDPE pipelines for a host of industries from energy to municipal to mining, this family-owned, Billings, Mont., company continues to embrace technologies that bring additional value to their operation. 

Data logging with the DataLogger

One of the most transforming products has been the McElroy DataLogger, a device that records each step of the fusion process to validate that joints were fused to standard before pipelines are buried and put into service.

FTI data logs every joint on every job. They now have 84,000 joint reports uploaded to their online McElroy Vault™ account which is the equivalent of 800 miles of pipe!

If a fusion is ever in question, they can go to their Vault account and quickly pull up the report to see if the pipe was fused correctly. That documentation is priceless compared to the costs associated with a failed joint.

“It’s a huge risk management tool for us,” Klaudt said. “We have assurance those joints were done correctly and it’s documented.”

But Klaudt is not one to automatically go for upgrades; there has to be a return on investment. The DataLogger 6 tablet device became a must-have last year when they saw that it could operate so many different business applications. FTI Operations Manager Casey Britton said this is especially helpful because their fusion technicians work independently in remote locations, without direct supervision.

“Paperwork management and organization are essential due to the documentation requirements of not only the fusion process but also safety and health, equipment transportation, time keeping, equipment maintenance and repair, and reporting expenses such as parts, materials, fuel and lodging,” Britton said.

Now they can do this all in one place. The DataLogger is not just as a fusion validation tool, but has become a personal computer that has helped centralize their business.

“That was absolutely the ‘McElroy Advantage’ that began to shift our thinking with what a DataLogger could be,” Klaudt said. “I think people need to understand that McElroy is in the problem-solving business. They genuinely hear and listen to their customers and I appreciate that.”

Introducing the DataLogger 7

This year, FTI had the opportunity to test the new DataLogger 7 android tablet before its launch in the fall of 2020, and Klaudt said it has streamlined and enhanced their training program.

“The Enhanced Guided Workflow with the DataLogger 7 is impressive. If you have somebody go into the field on more of an occasional basis, that guided workflow is fantastic as a reminder of how the process needs to work and it has been a huge help for us in our training and for those of us who aren’t as frequent as we once were,” Klaudt said.

For a company that is data-driven, the DataLogger 7 is ideal. Klaudt said they track their productivity and have become even more productive because it’s so easy to use and has helped reduce errors. The real-time FusionGuide™ graph highlights crucial moments in the fusion process, empowering the technician to be able to catch errors and stop the fusion process before having to cut out a joint.

FTI also had the opportunity to implement the McElroy Optimized Cooling™ algorithm which calculates in real-time the best cool times based on material properties, environmental conditions and heat soak time.

“We use it immensely and that has been a massive shift for us and has been highly profitable,” Klaudt said. “It made our jobs much more efficient when we can reduce that cooling time per ASTM F2620. That’s been a game-changer.”

One of the most appreciated features on the new DataLogger 7 is the 14+ hour battery life. For FTI, this is huge. Klaudt said he would get calls from fusion techs who realized they had forgotten their charger when they got to their machine on a jobsite. They would drive 45-minutes back to the man camp, tell their boss, grab the charger and drive another 45 minutes back to the jobsite. That was a lot of time wasted that they won’t have to worry about now.

The ability to communicate via the DataLogger 7 SIM card is another key piece for troubleshooting. Klaudt said it has been a confidence booster for technicians when they’re out in the field by themselves.

“When you can tap the screen a few times and see the friendly face of our operations manager, there’s a sense of relief when that happens,” he said. “Having been a technician for a couple decades in my lifetime, it is great to know you have backup.”

With an SD card built into the device, their fusion records are automatically backed up as well. And as for durability on the job, Klaudt said the DataLogger 7 stood up to the scorching heat and dust of west Texas and the snow and rain in Montana and Wyoming.

For FTI, the future looks bright since integrating the tools that help them work more efficiently than ever before and they are enjoying the benefits.

“It’s created a tangible, measurable value for FTI,” he said.

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