20 year old Arati Prakash Patole, created history by winning the prestigious ARC Cup held at China last year. Her eyes focused and wrist moving with casual precision even as she was surrounded by her competitors at Best Welder Competition for Women. Her big win inspired Mr. Rashmi Ranjan Mohapatra, Managing Director, Kemppi India to initiate the first ever National Level Welding Championship for Women in India, which was accomplished this year.
The Indian Institute of Welding (IIW)) a professional body devoted to the cause of promotion and advancement of welding science and technology in India has been organizing the Best Welder competitions since 2007 and till last year both the men and women participants showed their skills. In 2017, two women welders participated in the competition and one of them, Arati Patole won the 1st prize in India and went on to represent India in the ARC Cup held in China.
Rashmi Ranjan Mohapatra, Managing Director of Kemppi India said “When a girl welder won the competition in 2017; I knew the time has come to hold a separate competition for women. I had carried this dream quite long. The participants are the role models in their circle. They are the ambassadors of welding. When they get recognition and fame, which almost every human being aspire for, it will create interest in their surrounding and make an impact in the society. Imagine, if each of these participants can inspire only 3 more girls from their areas to become a welder and so on. The number can be mind boggling and we will see a stronger society in the process. My vision has been to bring dignity to this job and the girl welders. So, they can proudly proclaim themselves as a welder and the society should acknowledge it.
We approached IIW to suggest the competition and the committee was kind enough to give us a go ahead. Our premium partner, Nextgen Plasma also believed in the cause and they immediately came as co-sponsor. The idea of girl welder was brewing in my mind for quite long. From a societal point: we need more and more women to come to the main frame of society. This will make our society stronger, give “dignity” to the women workforce and make them self-reliant. Just imagine, how it will impact the GDP of the country. We are talking about 50% of the population and the sheer energy getting transformed from latent to active mode”.
The very nature of welding has been a tough job. The job is challenging and involves physical strength in most of the cases. Undoubtedly it turned out to be a man’s job! But over the years there has been a paradigm shift now for welding which has made itself as a women welder’s passion. To this Mr. Mohapatra opines, “Most of us in India will immediately relate welding to a roadside grill manufacturer. But that is not the case. There are very specialized welding and demanding jobs like underwater welding, pipeline welding, onshore and offshore welding etc. Welding is extremely critical. Think of our missiles, satellites, bridges or ships: Welding is almost everywhere and is as critical as a job that we can’t expect a failure.”
“During the years, the technology has made paradigm shifts and along with it the nature of the job. The welding machines which were 120 kgs have been reduced to only 4.5kgs. That’s a sea change in the whole manner in which the welding was carried out. Today 80% of the welding equipment is electronics. The machines are digital and are also IoT. They are very much in line for Industry 4.0” he added. All these have created a new paradigm. Instead of the 3D (Dull, Dungeon, Dirty ) it has brought in 3C (Cool, Clean and Clever ). By making it easier to operate and making it accessible to the welding fraternity, the demand for the welding skill has grown tremendously.
Welding an art?
From a macro-economic point of view, we as a country aspire to increase the contribution of manufacturing to our GDP by 25% from the existing 14%. To get in to that level we need at least 5 million welders in India by 2022. That is a gigantic number. It clearly shows that we have a huge demand supply gap in the case of skilled welders.
Good results in welding depends a lot on the flexibility of the wrists and that is where the Indians have an advantage! The health risks which were a great concern among the women employees earlier has also overcome now due to standard safety gears. Hence that makes them confident today and they take pride in doing the same
“Interestingly, the science of welding ends when the welder starts wielding the welding torch. It changes in to art. With the movement of the wrist (like an artist) the welder weaves the dreams of the nation. The concentration and wrist movement is exceptionally well for ladies. Imagine the Rangoli done by the ladies. The wrist movement is critical in this case and the same can be transferred to welding. The accessibility and easiness of acquiring the skill has brought in girls as welders. Undoubtedly, it has been good for the welding industry and all the stake holders associated with it” adds Mr. Mohaptra.
Health and Safety issues with Welding
Mr. Mohaptra says, “Due to the old technology, the machines were bulky and the movement of these machines and jobs were challenging. With the advent of new technology, new fixtures, automation, robotics etc. the jobs are easier to manage. This has brought down the concerns from the girl welders’ side. Also organizations are taking care of the health and safety issues of the welders irrespective of the gender.
The personal protective equipment used during welding has also undergone sea change. The fume extraction system or the auto darkening helmets provide a much better zone for the welders. The health risks and hazards have been minimized dramatically over the years. This has paved the path for more girls opting for the trade.”
Rubbing shoulders with International women welders
On being asked if these women welders are getting Internationally placed and rubbing shoulders with welders in Japan, China, Korea, USA ETC. Mr. Mohapatra adds, “The percentage of female welder in USA has been around 5%. We don’t have exact data about the female welders in Asian countries. However, the number in India is too small to compare. Our girl welders are numbered and can be counted. But, there are positives. The opportunity is huge. There is a big demand from the industry. We need skilled welders and girls can comfortably get skilled and get employed. By 2022, we may have 1% of the welders as girls. A long way to go. But, we have taken a first step towards that direction.”
Upcoming trends in Welding
With the manufacturing industry growing with technology in years, there are curiosities if the women welders are going to excel over men and has a considerate role to paly in the upcoming trends in Welding. To which Mr. Mohaptra adds, “I wont compare women vs men. There are multiple options in the future. Welding has become an interdisciplinary subject. We have Metallurgy, Mechanical, Electronics, Electrical, Robotics, Automation etc. involved in welding. This opens the trends for the future. The future is not far away when we see a girl manoeuvring the robotic welding or diving in to the deep ocean for an under- water welding!”.
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