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The true cost considerations of parts cleaning machines

20 March 2018

As any savvy shopper will tell you, the cost of a product is rarely as important as its quality. Buying a cheap lightbulb might save money in the short term but will be more expensive than energy-saving alternatives in the long term. The same is true for industrial equipment. Here, Richard Bastable, Global Parts Cleaning Platform Leader at global water, energy and maintenance solutions provider NCH Europe, outlines the hidden costs of parts cleaning.

As Victorian art critic John Ruskin astutely observed, “it’s unwise to pay too much but it’s worse to pay too little”. Most of us unconsciously follow this philosophy in our personal lives, either due to scepticism or bad experiences, refusing to be swayed solely by the price tag of household appliances. Yet, interestingly, this approach is less common in professional environments.

This is particularly true in the industrial parts cleaning sector. Because many maintenance engineers and plant managers have fixed budgets, they usually only consider the upfront cost of renting or purchasing parts cleaning machines. However, there are several hidden costs that can quickly mount up to make a cost-effective machine a costly error in judgement.

Waste disposal charges

Traditionally, many parts cleaning machines have made use of hydrocarbon chemical solutions to remove dirt and deposits from industrial components. This has been due to a belief that water-based chemistries are less effective or efficient. Unfortunately, this results in elevated waste disposal costs.

For example, if a maintenance engineer is renting a solvent-based sink-on-drum parts cleaner, this might not initially seem like a costly problem as many suppliers will include a regular waste disposal service. However, as solvents are classified as hazardous waste, plant managers will be required to comply with environmental standards – which may involve a lot of costly paperwork.

As an example, hazardous waste disposal in the UK involves the completion of waste consignment notes. These forms, which are normally provided by the waste carrier, must be held by all those involved in the waste disposal chain.

This creates costs not only in paying for the waste services, including the waste notes, but also in the person-hours spent completing and recording the paperwork, as well as the charges of disposing the hazardous waste itself. Similar programmes exist in other European countries.

As such, maintenance engineers should invest in environmentally-friendly parts cleaning machines, such as those using water-based solutions, to reduce the costs of hazardous waste disposal.

Water-based parts cleaning technology has developed significantly in recent decades and now delivers an effective clean with less harmful waste per use. For example, NCH Europe’s Torrent parts cleaners combine an environmentally-friendly water solution with a high-pressure jet. This keeps waste disposal fees low without sacrificing effectiveness.

Operation and labour costs

The most overlooked factor when selecting a parts cleaning machine is its operational and usage costs. Maintenance engineers must consider the energy usage of the machine and the amount of manual cleaning needed to effectively clean components.

While solvent-based cleaners have long been considered the standard for industrial environments, it does not mean the clean is always effective. Many solvent cleaners require engineers to manually scrub the components, which adds a lot of non-value added time (NVAT) to the cleaning process.

Fortunately, this can be avoided with automatic or high pressure parts cleaning machines that combine effective chemistry with high pressure jets to remove build-ups without manual scrubbing.

This is particularly important when cleaning large parts, such as aircraft wheels in the aviation sector. Manually cleaning these components would be very difficult, particularly as many aircraft manufacturers understandably operate on strict deadlines and standards for cleaning.

As such, maintenance staff benefit most from an automatic parts cleaner for these applications, ensuring the effective removal of difficult waste, such as wheel residue, in a timely fashion.

Similarly, the energy costs of a machine aren’t as straightforward as the amount it uses during operation. For example, NCH Europe’s Torrent series of water-based parts cleaners have a slightly higher base energy usage than many sink-on-drum alternatives due to the process of heating the cleaning solution.

However, the Torrent cleans most components in under one minute compared to the time taken to manually scrub parts using a sink-on-drum system. Comparatively, this results in lower energy usage costs in the long term.

It also removes the necessity for operators to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) during use. The Torrent has designated spaces for maintenance engineers to place their hands in, which are pre-fitted with protective gloves to reduce the NVAT spent putting on PPE.

Just like when determining which lightbulb to choose for your living room, parts cleaning machines cannot be judged on face value alone. By considering all aspects of operation, maintenance engineers can steer clear of the hidden costs of parts cleaning in both the short and long-term.

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