Rust Season?  "Just Raise the Concentration"

the impact of higher concentration on coolant performance and cost

I was visiting a plant last week and heard a familiar tale.  We had just completed a Non-Core Process Audit, (where we measure the Key Performance Indicators that drive cost and impact process performance to identify wasteful activity and process risk), 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?: he said.   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 Non-core process audit identified elevated Bacteria levels in their recycling process which was driving pH down across the board, a significant KPI for rust.       


“Just raise the Concentration” can be 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.  


The Non-core Process Audit is designed to identify what’s driving your costs and what’s leaving your process vulnerable to quality spills, H&S risk and OEE erosion.  



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Comments: 1
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