I was visiting a plant last week and heard a familiar tale. We had just completed a Process Variability Audit, (PVA, where we measure the Key Fluid Performance Indicators that drive fluid cost and performance), and we were reporting our findings. Across the board their coolant concentrations were significantly higher than their posted targets.
Excessive concentration is a very significant cost driver and while in the middle of pointing out the dollar impact this excess consumption was costing the facility, the surprised look in the maintenance managers face stopped me in my tracks.
“Too high? I just came out of a meeting with our coolant supplier because we are having all sorts of rust issues, they told me my concentrations were too low and that I needed raise them to get me through rust season.”
Fortunately for my credibility, the very next slide in our report showed a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that is a significant contributor to rust. Our analysis showed that the condition of the coolant that was being distributed to the floor through their drop lines had a very low pH, low enough that the risk of rust was significant. They were distributing low pH coolant to all their 100 plus stand alone machining centers. Digging a little deeper, our Process Variability Audit identified elevated Bacteria levels in their recycling process which was driving pH down across the board.
“Just raise the Concentration” is the standard reply by many well-meaning and not so well-meaning coolant suppliers because it does mask a lot of the root causes to rust and poor coolant performance. It increases the alkalinity of the system, pushes pH up, increases the amount of rust inhibitor, improves the emulsion stability, fights more of the bacteria and fungus that might be building in the system, etc.
The concern is that it only contains the problem, it doesn’t address it. Its why we see concentrations over time continue to creep up year after year resulting in more and more product usage as the plant tries to contain more and more fluid related performance problems. In fact, most PM programs are simply containment actions plants have employed to try and prevent a problem because the real root cause was never understood and managed directly.
Until the true root cause is understood, companies continue to overspend while still leaving their process and people vulnerable.
Process Optimization is about managing all the KPI’s. When it comes to industrial fluids, most companies manage 1 or 2 and as a result they don’t have the complete picture and therefore continue to contain their problems with higher concentrations and aggressive clean-out schedules.
Let us audit your process today, so that the next time you are given that wonderful advice “just raise your concentration” you can quietly end the meeting and then check your KPI’s to see what’s really going on.
A great free resource we can offer is our Rust Guide For Parts Manufacturers. A step by step process we use to identify true root cause and then the implementation of sustainable corrective action. Click Here to get access to your free rust guide.