Industrial Pipe Fitting
Pipefitters install, maintain and repair various piping systems using advanced technical expertise and highly specialised skills.
They create safe and stable systems to ensure leak-free transportation of liquids/gases from the source to the point of use.
These substances range from essential utilities to high-pressure steam, hydraulic fluid, and highly volatile chemicals.
Pipefitters work in industrial environments like refineries, factories, and energy plants. They also provide valuable support to critical settings such as hospitals.
A lot of skills are needed in pipefitting, including:
- Critical Thinking
- Planning & Logistics
- Heavy Lifting
- Safety Protocol Adherence
- Cutting, Threading And Bending Pipe
What Does a Pipe Fitter Do?
Primarily working in commercial, industrial and manufacturing settings, Pipefitters are responsible for installing, assembling, maintaining, and repairing piping systems.
They often plan systems and use various methods to install the pipe according to required specifications, typically in carbon steel, stainless steel, and metal alloys.
The engineers will also perform troubleshooting and repairs to ensure the system is fit for use.
Pipefitters use many skills to assemble and repair pipes, such as:
The pipe fit process is often in live buildings, meaning they work closely with the site management to coordinate logistics and accommodate others.
Pipe Fitter Duties
A pipefitters daily workload can differ depending on their speciality and where they work.
A typical day could look like this:
- Read And Plan Based On Engineering Drawings
- Fabricate Pipe Spools In A Workshop
- Install Pipework
- Planned Maintenance Checks
- Find And Fix Faults
- Emergency Call-outs
Pipefitters work with cooling, fuel transport, heating, scorching water, hydraulics, steam, and ventilation.
When the project involves pipe installation and assembly, they may be expected to shape the correct metals to fit that specific industrial use.
The engineers typically create a sketch of the pipe installation. The plan usually consists of pipe sizing and type.
Once completed, a pipefitter will do the initial work to organise the pipes for welding.
This may include cutting, spacing, or grinding to provide smooth and even edges.
Then, a pipefitter skilled in pipe welding will join the pipes together.
Typically, pipe welders have some essential welding skills that help them install and repair pipes. However, highly specialised welders will perform more complicated welds.
Pipefitting and pipe welding are distinct career paths, but both need to understand how metals fit together.
A pipe welder specialising in welding might put down the welds after a pipefitter has cut and prepared the joints. It all depends on the specific job.
Types of Welds Used in Pipe Fitting
There are many different welding types used in pipe fitting today, such as:
- Arc Welding: Arc is the most fundamental type of welding used for heavy metals, including cast iron. Arc is also known as Stick Welding.
- MIG Welding: MIG uses metal inert gas and is the most common and quickest form of welding. Pipe Welders can use MIG on mild steel, stainless steel and aluminium.
- TIG Welding: TIG uses tungsten inert gas and is a more expert form of welding. Welders can use this welding type for metals such as alloys.
Pipe welders need to observe the proper welding procedure for each job. For example, preparing a joint for arc welding is not the same as preparing a joint for TIG welding.
For more information on Welding, please visit our Welding Services page.
Pipe Fitters Tools
Pipefitters use a variety of tools to shape, cut and connect pipes.
Here are some of the more common tools used:
- Blow Torch – A blowtorch is a fuel-burning tool used for applying heat to various applications.
- Pipe Wrench/Stilson – Pipe wrenches are usually used in pairs to assemble or disassemble threaded pipe joints.
- Threading Machine – A threading machine cuts a standardised thread onto a pipe mechanically. Usually BSPT or NPT.
- Grinder – A power tool with a fast spinning abrasive disc. It is used for grinding, smoothing, and shaping metal.
- Pipefitters Square – This tool helps align pipes and is essential to fit pipes at uncommon angles.
- Measuring Tape – A tape measure is a flexible ruler used to measure size or distance.
- Pipe Bender – A pipe bender bends piping to form varied angles and curves.
- Pipe Wraps – Pipe wraps ensure that all the edges are aligned to help a pipefitter make a straight cut on a pipe.
- Flange Aligners – Flange aligners align joints before welding. Engineers also use them to check for joint misalignment.
- Welders Gauge – A welder’s gauge checks the preparation angle, alignment, fillet weld throat and fillet weld length.
- Welders (MIG, TIG, Stick) – Welding is a process where two or more parts are fused using heat or pressure (or both) to form a joint.
Important Skills For Pipe Fitting
These are some fundamental skills for pipefitters to have:
- Mathematics: Math plays an essential role to help calculate the proper placement of pipes and welds in piping systems.
- Strength & Stamina: A pipe fitters day is usually spent on their feet, engaging in the heavy lifting of tools and pipework.
- Attention to detail: Pipefitters must have exceptional awareness to spot flaws in a system and fix them before they cause vast complications.
- Customer Service: When an issue arises in a project, the pipefitter needs to assure the client while helping them understand the situation.
- Work Under Pressure: Working with high-pressure systems demands you to be organised, relaxed and concentrated while adhering to safety protocols.
Pipe Fitting Work Environment
Pipefitters can work on various projects, meaning their work environment continually changes. Some projects may also mean travelling to different work sites throughout the day.
They might work at the location where a piping system is being installed. Or they might be the team planning and fabricating the pipe needed for the site in the workshop.
Typically, pipefitters work in the industrial and manufacturing industries. They visit sites like:
- Chemical Treatment Plans
- Construction Firms
- Gas Processing Plants
- Heating And Ventilation Companies
- Hospitals And Clinics
- Oil Refineries
- Utility Companies
Pipefitters work with various specialised power tools, heavy equipment, and welding equipment, each with risk factors.
Pipefitters are liable for providing the highest safety standards in the workplace according.
Some of the gases and fluids they might encounter may be toxic. Therefore, wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is equipment designed to protect engineers against health and safety risks in the workplace.
Safety is essential in any operation but is crucial in an industry such as fabrication. Welding alone presents a constant risk from heat, radiation, and ricochet.
There are many types of PPE that Pipefitters can use to provide safe working, such as:
- Hi-Vis Jackets
- Face shields
- Protective eyewear
- Steel-toed boots
Qualifications Required For Pipefitting
You can get into this job through:
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
You can do a college course, which may help you get a trainee pipefitters job. Courses include:
- Diploma in Engineering
- Certificate in Welding
- Diploma in Plumbing and Heating
- Diploma in Building Services Engineering
- T Level in Building Services Engineering for Construction
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equal, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equal, for a level 3 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equal, including English and maths for a T level
City And Guilds offer courses for Pipefitters.
For more information, please visit the National Careers website.
Varlowe’s Pipe Fitters
Varlowe Industrial Services has a talented team of on-site pipefitters. We cover everything from minor pipe changes to complete pipework restructures nationwide.
We are able to pre-fabricate most pipework at our workshop. As a result, it can keep site disruption low.
Please call us on 01902 861042 or visit our Pipefitter page for more information.