Why Fabricators Continue to Choose Automated Arc Welding

February 2024

A good part of my job is spent traveling to fabrication and manufacturing companies throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Over the last three years, I’ve visited more than 40 different facilities, and one common denominator I’ve noticed is companies are moving toward welding automation or, at the very least, are considering investing in automated welding. Companies of all sizes, from small job shops with 30 employees to big name OEMs, are hopping on the automated arc welding bandwagon. But why are so many North American fabricators automating their arc welding? There are benefits to an automated welding process: consistent weld quality, better efficiency, less scrap, and a lower cost per part. However, the biggest reason fabricators are automating their welding is labor.

Demand for Welding Professionals

According to AWS, the demand for welding professionals in the upcoming years is as follows: 360,000 new welding professionals are projected to be needed by 2027; 90,000 is the average number of welding jobs that need to be filled annually between 2023–2027; and more than 155,000 welders are approaching retirement (Ref. 1).

So, how do we solve the demand for welding professionals? This is where automating the arc welding process comes at an advantage. Sometimes this solution meets the following objections: “You can’t put robots on a pipeline. My parts are too complex for a robot. I can’t afford robotic welding equipment. Where am I going to find someone to run these robots?” I understand the roots of these concerns. There will always be a need for humans in the welding industry. Not all parts are feasible for robotic welding. A main advantage of performing manual welding is humans are flexible, and they can use their ingenuity and expertise to weld very complex weldments.

Manual welding also gives the advantage of being able to weld almost anything that comes into your shop, so why would you switch to an automated welding process? Aside from labor shortage concerns, automated welding pays off. Yes, the initial investment is high, but you make up for that cost in the speed, efficiency, and consistent quality that an automated system brings.

Consider the average salary of a welder in Illinois, where I am based. According to the Economic Research Institute, welders here earn about $60,000 per year (Ref. 2). Manufacturers pay medical, dental, vision, and various other benefits as well, all of which can cost a company, on average, an extra $13/hour per worker, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic (Ref. 3). I am not saying this is a negative; the value of the work welders provide their companies is worth the cost. My argument is an automated system, despite being expensive up front, makes for a better investment.

Consider Cobots

Unlike a traditional industrial robot, which, as I write this article, can cost just under $100,000, the next generation of robotic welding equipment utilizing collaborative robots (cobots) is more reasonably priced. These cobot systems investment is worth it.

WD Feb 24 - Four New Cobots Is Showcasing a New Era of Automation
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WD Feb 24 - Four New Cobots Is Showcasing a New Era of Automation
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Pictured are automated arc welding and a finished part.


In addition, there are many choices of cobot welding systems available on the market. Lots of machine tool companies have started making their own versions of a cobot welding unit, and even traditional welding companies have started making cobot welding systems.

WD Feb 24 - Four New Cobots Is Showcasing a New Era of Automation
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The benefits of automated welding are depicted in this image.


Parting Thoughts

The late industrialist Henry Ford once said, “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.” There will always be a need for some welding processes to be done manually, and with all the available work, now is a great time to be a welder; however, automating your welding process is the right move if the technology fits your needs. The benefits far outweigh the initial cost of an automated welding system thanks to the proven performance of these systems.


1. AWS, Electronic References. Retrieved December 18, 2023, from (weldingworkforcedata.com).

2. Economic Research Institute, Welder Salary in Illinois, United States. Retrieved December 18, 2023, from (erieri.com/salary/job/welder/united-states/Illinois).

3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employer Costs for Employee Compensation – September 2023. (bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecec.pdf).


This article was written by Pax Alvarez (applications engineer at the TRUMPF Inc. Smart Factory, Hoffman Estates, Ill.) for the American Welding Society.