Welding abilities and progressive considering earn John Kelchner AEMP Technician of the 12 months award

I at all times had lots of curiosity in mechanical issues, even at an early age. I used to be inquisitive about how issues labored. If it had transferring components, I needed to repair it,” says John Kelchner, superior stage upkeep welder at Schlouch Included, a diversified earthmoving, utility and website improvement firm in Blandon, Pennsylvania.

“It’s definitely not a straightforward occupation, however again within the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was a reasonably engaging profession, and it was a man factor,” he says.

This inherent curiosity in all issues mechanical helped earn Kelchner the Affiliation of Tools Administration Professionals’ Technician of the 12 months award on the group’s Tools Shift convention in October.


Heavy welding

Kelchner’s background is heavy on welding. He has labored in bridge building as a foreman, completed structural welding, licensed welding, shear connectors, X-ray high quality welding, and all-position welding. He additionally labored in a quarry, welding and repairing heavy gear and fabricating components.

At Schlouch, Kelchner continues to weld, however he’s additionally concerned in undercarriage rebuilds, cylinder work and different routine repairs. After 21 years on the firm, Kelchner says its security tradition is one motive he’s stayed. “There are not any repercussions right here should you cease and say, ‘I don’t suppose that is protected.’ For those who do, we cease, and we’ll check out it.”

“I’ve two sons who work right here,” he provides. “My oldest son is a website foreman, and my youngest works within the store with me. In order a father, I do know the risks of this trade, and it’s comforting to me understanding Schlouch’s dedication to security. I take security an entire lot extra critically now than I did after I was youthful.”

The corporate’s security protocols lengthen to welding and fabrication as a lot as something. “I take advantage of a positive-pressure air flow system that’s above and past compliance when welding or grinding soiled supplies,” Kelchner says. “To guard my coworkers from welding fumes, I take advantage of an air scrubber, which pulls out heavy metals, mud and dangerous fumes.”

Kelchner took two years of Vo-Ag coaching at Kutztown Excessive Faculty adopted by three years of welding know-how at Berks Vo-Tech. He has a Maryland state welding certification and quite a few Caterpillar coaching and certification lessons beneath his belt. Together with his OSHA 30-hour certification, he can stand in because the competent individual within the store or on the jobsite when supervisors will not be current.

The welding doesn’t cease when the day is finished at Schlouch. “I create sculptures with discarded scrap, gear components and building supplies,” says Kelchner. Previously two years, he has donated a number of items of artwork that raised over $2,500 at charity auctions.


Subject and store

Whereas some corporations battle to handle variations between the sphere and the store, Kelchner says, Schlouch is manner forward. “We’ve received a fantastic bunch of individuals to work for right here,” he says. “Everybody has a standard purpose, and we’ve received lots of help and cooperation from the sphere.”

The number of work additionally attracts him. “You don’t really feel like a robotic right here, and that’s a giant factor for me. In the future I’ll be within the store, the subsequent day I’ll be within the area, in order that helps break issues up and makes the day go quick.”

Schlouch, due to the varied nature of its work, has quite a lot of gear from most OEM manufacturers, which Kelchner finds difficult and fascinating. “I’ve mounted the whole lot from a chainsaw to a twin-engine scraper.”


Freedom to innovate

It additionally helps that the corporate offers this veteran technician loads of latitude. “Administration right here has allowed me to strive new issues if I feel it’s for the larger good. And you realize, it doesn’t at all times work. A number of the finest classes you possibly can study are from failure, and right here, they provide you that freedom.”

What few failures Kelchner might have skilled are vastly outnumbered by his successes. The corporate’s confidence in its high welder has resulted in issues like:

• Changing foot pedals in a machine handy controls to accommodate an worker with an amputation.

• Creating specialty tooling for eradicating and putting in off-road truck transmissions, resulting in safer, quicker and lower-cost repairs.

• Implementing a leaf-spring bushing alternative process on giant highway vehicles to eradicate the necessity for spring removing, outsourcing and specialty tooling.

• Fabricating a software for excavators to carry and place giant concrete buildings, saving a whole bunch of 1000’s of dollars in crane time and leases.

• Engineering and constructing dump physique helps to eradicate the usage of wood helps throughout service and restore operations.

• Extending the service lifetime of loader couplers from 1,500 to 2,500 hours by machining exact tolerances and mating surfaces.

• Working with OEM sellers and engineers to enhance designs and scale back failure charges on issues like undercarriage clearance, bore failures and dozer blade skins.

Utilizing nondestructive, ultrasonic gear to find out put on percentages and remaining service life on dozer blades, buckets, undercarriages, dump our bodies and scraper bowls to higher forecast restore occasions on these high-dollar objects.

• Growing a security inspection program for fast couplers.

One mission Kelchner is especially pleased with is creating line-boring capabilities on the store. “Not lots of corporations our dimension do line boring in-house,” he says. With this functionality, he can take out misalignments, enhance precision, and true and restore worn bearing surfaces on pins and bushings and different transferring components. Doing this in-house saves substantial cash, accelerates restore occasions and makes a lot of Kelchner’s restore and fabrication initiatives attainable.


GPS security

One innovation Kelchner took the lead on at Schlouch was making a safer manner for the operations individuals to mount and dismount GPS receiver heads on their dozer blades. “We had guys who needed to take a step ladder out to the dozers each morning,” Kelchner says. “I assumed the protection facet of it was ignored, so we determined to be proactive.”

The modifications included seize rails, steps and platforms with anti-skid tape that had been welded to the blade to create three factors of contact. He additionally put protecting sleeves over the mast arms to guard them from injury. “All of it occurred as a result of we’ve received good communication with the sphere,” Kelchner says.



The largest challenges he faces are moist climate and placement adjustments, says Kelchner. “We’ve got jobs unfold out over a big space, and the store is in a single central location. So relying on the job, you possibly can burn a number of hours a day attending to it and again.”

“You get strain from the sphere, however that’s OK,” he provides. “I’m conscious of the price of downtime and mobilization. So if I can do a restore within the area versus bringing it again to the store, I’ll do it within the area, particularly if it includes a allow transfer and all the associated fee and time that takes.”



Though Kelchner possesses an array of abilities, he’s not a one-man surprise. He believes in being a crew participant.

“Efficient, open and sincere communication is definitely listed in my job standards,” he says. “To do my job, I’ve to speak day by day with the service planner, store foreman, website foreman and operations. I additionally talk with the fleet coordinator on restore price estimates and to make restore choices. I perceive lack of communication can have a damaging affect on the repairs and prices.”

Kelchner additionally leads a number of the firm’s coaching periods in winter after the work has slowed. That features equipment-related security coaching, in addition to coaching area personnel on coupler security, floor participating instruments and preventive upkeep. He’s additionally led coaching for the upkeep crew on oxy-acetylene welding and grinding security.


Subsequent gen

On the subject of the subsequent technology considering a technician profession or developing the ranks, Kelchner’s recommendation is easy: “Present up on time. Work arduous. Take it critically, particularly the protection.”

However his most emphatic recommendation is to do what he has completed his complete life – by no means cease studying.

“Study as a lot as you possibly can about as a lot as you possibly can,” he says. “Most of what I realized was from hands-on and trial-and-error. However at all times make the most of additional coaching. Even when it’s after hours, even should you suppose you realize the topic already, even should you suppose the coaching is repetitive, you possibly can at all times take one thing away from it. I’m at all times fascinated by new little bits of knowledge that I can decide up.”