- Small Businesses at BOC
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But while you might let your heart rule your head over a Ferrari, would you do the same for a cylinder full of welding gas, however prettily it’s packaged?
A small to medium-sized business that only uses a cylinder once or twice a year is like someone who drives a car a few times. It’s less hassle to lease it – especially as you can hand it back for maintenance or disposal.
Renting can be cost-effective
Paying annual rent on BOC cylinders means cylinder maintenance is taken care of, you can trust the quality of the gas inside the container, and you have no worries over how safely it’s been filled, stored and maintained. If you return it within 12 months, BOC refunds the remaining months, making it a cost-effective option too.
“People think deciding whether to rent or buy depends on how much gas you use, and it’s true there’s a benefit to renting if you’re regularly turning over cylinders,” says Chris Birch, Senior Technical Specialist – Manufacturing Sector. “But it can also be cheaper for small users to rent. If your BOC cylinder sits in a corner and you’re incurring rental costs, just return your cylinder to us and rent another when you need it – your account is credited for the months it’s unused.”
Make the most of your assets
Meanwhile, you get the use of an expensive asset for just the period you need it instead of paying £150 or so upfront for a rent-free cylinder. This frees you to invest your capital elsewhere. This could be a distinct business advantage, especially to a start-up or any company operating in today’s challenging commercial environment.
You might also find that volume makes it cheaper to rent. A 10 litre BOC cylinder at 230bar dispenses more gas than a 10 litre cylinder you can buy at 200bar pressure.
BOC has rented millions of cylinders over its 125-year history. Rental fees generate a return on its investment and enable the company to invest and develop new products, which benefit customers long-term. But its main reason for renting is customers’ safety.
Safety is paramount
“Our concerns with ‘rent free’ cylinders are safety related and safety is paramount when you’re using high-pressure cylinders,” adds Chris. “All our cylinders are owned by us and not the customer. We manage our cylinders to strict regulations and ensure they meet high standards, but if you buy a cylinder, and therefore become ‘owner’ of it the onus is on you to make it safe and comply with regulations.”
High-pressure containers can contain a pressure of up to 300bar – or 300 times more gas than it would have at atmospheric pressure. If a valve is damaged it can be lethal, as gas rushes out at great speed and attempts to reach equilibrium with the surrounding atmosphere. So regulations demand that every item under pressure is regularly tested and checked every time it is filled. The valves require checking every three years.
“People also don’t know the dangers of potential cross-contamination of contents,” says Chris. “Our cylinders go through rigorous cleaning but decanting from a used cylinder, such as acetylene, that hasn’t been scrubbed, to another like a pub gas cylinder can cause an explosion.”
Maintenance reduces risk
If the cylinder is BOC-owned a lot less can go wrong. BOC maintains its cylinders and bears the cost. BOC also keeps track of them so it knows the location of every one and the state of its maintenance.
The company also puts them through a lifetime of robust procedures:
- Cylinder is manufactured and tested to prove integrity
- BOC takes delivery
- Valve and fittings are put on
- Cylinder tested to a certain pressure to ensure no leaks
- Cylinder is vacuum-cleaned to remove gases
- External cleaning or painting as appropriate
- Cylinder filled up and enters supply chain
- Returned from customer
- Visual inspection and filling then returns to supply chain
- When test-life expires, it’s withdrawn from service, devalved and retested
- If satisfactory, the cylinder will re-enter service for another period of test-life.
A potential maintenance-related problem with rent-free cylinders is that you may receive back a cylinder that’s not as well maintained as the one you had.
“In theory you own the cylinder but when you take it back for refill you don’t get the same one back,” says Matthew Onions, Product Manager, Industrial Gases. “You don’t really own it.”
You also won’t know where it is in the maintenance cycle, so when you think you have three years left before it needs checking you may only have two.
‘Green’ benefits of stock control
“We also have a system of stock control that’s the envy of the industry – one that’s designed to protect the environment as well,” adds Matthew. “Where you see LPG and propane cylinders dumped, it’s because someone paid a deposit that’s lost in time, then passed on the cylinder until finally it’s become a piece of steel they just want to get rid of.”
It’s advantageous to customers for BOC to control the type of cylinder in use and that it has a standardised range. If everyone had their own cylinders, there would be no standard size, shape or pressure and finding a company to fill all the different ranges would be an issue.
But a standardised range doesn’t mean one that’s standing still. BOC is always innovating. That’s why it’s introducing a new 2 litre 230bar cylinder that’s perfect for customers who don’t need as much gas as a 10 litre cylinder, with no collection or environmental charges – just a low annual rent and the gas to pay for.
It means you can start work for less than £50. Compared to £150 rent-free and the gases on top, well, you do the maths!