Emergency Vehicle Service Provider Gains Versatility, Comfort and More from New Welding MIG Guns

Image of a person welding in a welding shop
Welding operators at True North Emergency Equipment weld on a variety of materials and at a variety of angles. The Bernard Q-Gun Series MIG guns have helped them achieve quality welds despite those challenges.

When your company is responsible for rebuilding, repairing and up-fitting vehicles that deploy to firefighting and rescue situations day in and day out, quality is non-negotiable. Every component must be precisely tooled, every weld precisely placed. The employees at True North Emergency Equipment can certainly attest to that fact. They are a premier service provider for custom fire engines, water tenders, and rescue and emergency vehicles used across the United States, and especially in the Northwest.  “Our people understand and believe that our vehicles need to be serviced to complete their mission. They are lifesaving vehicles,” explains Russ Sheldon, operations manager at True North Emergency Equipment. “We don’t just inspect quality into our products. It has to be built in there.”

That philosophy spans every aspect of the Hillsboro, Ore.-based company. According to Sheldon, almost every vehicle the company works on is unique, which means it requires the right equipment to work on it – regardless if the job is rebuilt, repaired or upfitted.

Recently, True North Emergency Equipment added new MIG welding guns and consumables from Bernard to their welding operation. They found that the products didn’t just stand up to the tough demands of their applications, but that the MIG guns also proved more versatile and comfortable for the welding operators. Plus, the consumables helped reduce their inventory and costs. Not surprisingly, these are benefits that the fabricators and management alike welcomed.

New guns offer greater versatility and comfort

In a typical day at True North Emergency Equipment, there are no typical applications. The company could be welding 1/8-inch-thick sheet metal compartments or working on 1/2-inch steel mounting brackets. Most days, fabricators also tackle the nuances of aluminum welding for good measure. Adding to the challenge of welding multiple materials, these same fabricators also find themselves working at awkward angles on a regular basis.

According to Sheldon, “Fabricators here weld overhead, vertical and horizontal, and a lot of the components we fixture. So to say we have a standard welding position or a set position … no, that would not be the norm here.”       

Despite those challenges, the welds have to look, in Sheldon’s words, “sharp.”

“Anything exposed has to look top notch. The care in the detail basically has our fabricators’ artistic signature on it,” he adds.

Kyle Plock, a True North Emergency Equipment fabricator, has noticed that the company’s new Bernard Q-Gun™ (400 amp) series MIG guns help make that quality easier to achieve — even on out-of-position welds.

The gun features a rotatable neck that users can change the position of without any tools. They simply unscrew the durable plastic ring at the base of the neck, rotate the neck to the desired angle and tighten the ring.

“With the Q-Gun MIG gun, all you have to do is loosen the neck, turn it and tighten it back up where you want it,” says Plock. “With the old guns, we had to get an Allen wrench, loosen the socket head cap screws, then turn the neck and tighten it back up. So this [gun] is a lot quicker and easier.”

Plock adds that this feature comes in handy especially when he’s working on an application that doesn’t allow him a lot of room to maneuver or reach for tools (as would be needed to change neck angles on the older style guns True North Emergency Equipment used).

Image of Bernard BTB Q Gun
The Bernard Q-Gun Series MIG guns feature a curved handle and a rotatable neck that welding operators can quickly and easily adjust to fit any angle.

“If we’re inside of a truck in the pump house welding a structure, I often have to turn from one direction to another,” he explains. “If I want this neck to go a different way to fit in a tighter spot, I can turn it without having to twist my hands around.” 

The addition of a dual schedule switch on the Bernard Q-Gun series MIG guns that the company uses adds to its versatility for fabricators like Plock and the other fabricators.

The dual schedule switch allows them to change wire feed settings (without having to go back to the power source) when they alternate between welding thinner and thicker materials.

“Personally, I like that if I’m at the top of a truck and need to make an adjustment [to the wire feed speed], I don’t have to climb all the way down to the machine, make the adjustment and then climb all the way back to where we were working,” says Plock. “With this setup here, we don’t have to do that. I just make my adjustment and keep on going. It’s a lot more efficient.”

Mitch James, plant manager and field trainer for True North Emergency Equipment agrees that these features and the versatility that his team gets from the new MIG guns is an asset.

“The features have made a big difference in comfort and in improving throughput time. There’s just no messing around and adjustment with them,” James explains.

The added benefits of new consumables

True North Emergency Equipment paired its new Bernard Q-Gun series MIG guns with the Centerfire™ consumables system, also from Bernard. These consumables feature a “drop-in,” threadless contact tip that fabricators can change back quickly after a burnback to help reduce downtime and get them back to work faster. The contact tips also have a large diameter tip base and tapered seat that, combined with the gas diffuser, provides better electrical conductivity and heat transfer. For True North Emergency Equipment, those features translate to one single benefit: The consumables last longer than their previous brand.

“There was a time when we would have to buy our welding tips 25 or 50 in a bag,” says James. “I actually had team members come to me [before Centerfire] and say they were running through three, four, five, six, eight tips in a matter of just a few hours from burnbacks and such things.”

Image of welder with Bernard MIG gun
On out-of-position welds, the Bernard Q-Gun Series MIG Guns help improve comfort and control.

Since the conversion to the Centerfire consumables system, James says that their consumable usage has dropped tremendously.

“We don’t have to stock nearly as much anymore. We’re stocking about 75 percent less or about 25 percent of what we used to stock in consumables,” he explains. “That’s saving us quite a bit of money.”

Mitch James, plant manager and field trainer for True North Emergency Equipment

 It’s all about quality at True North Emergency Equipment — and quality is what keeps the company’s customers and employees happy. The fabricators and management all take pride in knowing that they are helping rebuild, repair and refurbish the best, safest and most durable fire and rescue vehicles for their customers.

Keeping the customer happy is priority No. 1

“Every customer has exacting spec and we suit that need. That’s our niche. That’s who we are,” says Sheldon. “And cater to the high end of the market — always.”

That the company has found the right tools to help its employees reach that goal isn’t lost on them, says James.

“In the end, it’s all about attitude; emotions; how people feel about what they’re doing. If you feel good, you’re going to do good. So that’s the whole ball of wax right there.”