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VOL. 128 | NO. 202 | Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Flagship Facility

NexAir unveils new welding lab, renovated Downtown space

By Michael Waddell

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NexAir, one of the largest distributors of atmospheric gases and welding supplies in the country, recently debuted a new advanced welding and cutting demonstration lab at its renovated Downtown headquarters on Walnut Street.

Sam Noland demonstrates the Fronius Cold Metal Transfer Welder in the nexAir demo lab. The Memphis company recently debuted the lab at its renovated Downtown headquarters.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The 4,000-square-foot lab, which will be used to train employees and customers on the latest technologies and equipment, is part of a major renovation of nexAir’s Downtown facility that includes a renovated showroom, additional office space and two classrooms/presentation areas.

“This is a first for us as far as demonstration ability,” said nexAir president Bill Proctor. “Strategically we want our customers to view us as experts in all forms of industrial and medical gases and any processes related to welding and cutting, the technologies and the related equipment.”

Proctor hopes to use the lab to lead Memphis’ manufacturing industry into the future with its innovation and technological advances.

“With the move towards automation and the re-shoring of some manufacturing in the last several years, we felt we needed to be able to have those processes and equipment available to our customers as well as to employees,” Proctor said.

NexAir’s Downtown location was built in the mid-1950s and has had several facelifts over the years. The cost of the renovations and equipment totaled more than $250,000.

Lagasse Construction Inc. was the general contractor, and industrial interior designer Ann Parker Design Studio configured the layout. Buildout took roughly 10 weeks to complete.

“We have an investment in Memphis and in Downtown, and we wanted to keep this facility in Memphis,” said Patrick Galphin, nexAir director of marketing and public relations. “We renovated the showroom in order to turn this site into a flagship location. This is where our customers will come to see the latest in technology as well as the latest in how we distribute our products.”

The company brought in state-of-the-art equipment, including a Miller/Panasonic PerformArc pre-engineered robotic work cell, a Retro Systems CNC plasma cutting table and a micro-bulk gas system. The demonstration lab also includes three welding stations featuring Fronius, Lincoln Electric, Miller and Hypertherm welding equipment and accessories.

The demonstration lab is led by nexAir sales and support engineer Samantha Noland, who trains in welding and robotics and conducts automation sales and support. Noland is among the 4.8 percent of the welding, soldering & brazing profession who are women, according to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“There have been several advances in plasma cutting technology that have allowed it to be extremely competitive against oxy fuel and laser cutting,” Noland said. “We’ve also included a new line of Fronius digital welding equipment that is especially useful for people running thin materials, from aluminum to galvanized steel.”

All equipment and accessories demonstrated in the facility are products sold, serviced and installed by nexAir.

“Next year a new battery powered rechargeable welder will be released, which will really help in repair shops and people who have to do repairs on the road,” Noland said.

Training in the demonstration lab can be accompanied by additional training in one of the two classroom areas, where sessions will include technology overviews and will demonstrate equipment value.

NexAir also plans to use the lab to teach students potentially interested in welding, and the company has already hosted a group from St. Mary’s Episcopal School.

Proctor expects to possibly put together another similar lab in the near future.

“I would say there’s a good chance we will do something in the eastern side of our geographic footprint sometime in the next year,” he said.

NexAir was founded in 1940 and is the product of two independent, family-owned companies based in Memphis – Mid-South Oxygen and Standard Welder’s Supply. The two companies merged in 1996, and nexAir now has 33 locations spanning seven states.

“Since 1996, we’ve nearly doubled our revenue,” Proctor said. “We do a good amount of business with institutional, medical and research facilities, as well as the automotive industry, steel mills, and tank and boiler manufacturers.”

The company sells, packages and distributes atmospheric medical, specialty and industrial gases (which make up approximately 60 percent of its overall business), along with related products including welding equipment, welding supplies, safety supplies and dry ice.

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