If a metal fabricator has been around long enough, he probably has come across more than a couple of welding situations that have him lifting off his helmet and scratching his noggin. He likely has done everything correct according to the textbook, but the joint just does not come together like it should. Such is life with new alloys and old steel. Check out Mike Barrett's story "Beyond low-carbon steel: A basic, nontechnical discussion of welding metallurgy" to read about some of the challenges related to this type of welding.
When people talk about institutional knowledge in manufacturing, they are talking about the stuff locked up in the brains of old dudes who have all the right answers for all sorts of production puzzles, many of which are not found in books. These guys aren't about to sit down and write a "how-to" book, much less read one, so it's imperative that someone jot down this type of information for up-and-coming fabricators.
This type of information can become part of a formal work procedure that an inexperienced welder can reference if he can't figure out how to right a welding wrong. Many old-school fabricators laugh at the thought of formal quality systems and sitting in training sessions for such things, but this formal approach to sharing knowledge with all members of a shop team, not just the most experienced, keeps a company flexible enough to meet any production challenge. (more...)