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Increased competition from the global marketplace continues to challenge operations and maintenance departments to find a better way. Supervisors, Managers, and Executives all have an ear to the ground and are looking for ways to reduce the bottom line. Due to this involvement of upper management, total cost of ownership (TCO) metrics are applied to maximize value, provide checks and balances, and ensure the immediate benefits are aligned with long term gains. As maintenance programs examine TCO projects, a decision for a maintenance program will begin to develop. Whether it be predictive, preventative, or run-to-failure, it is imperative to make decisions based on a collective dataset, which includes all pertinent information. As it pertains to industrial fluids, one factor that heavily effects TCO of a lubricant or metalworking fluid is filtration.
When developing a filtration program, it is necessary to understand contaminants, filtrate, equipment tolerances, and operational conditions. The contaminant can take the form of fluid, miscible or immiscible, or as a solid particle, macro or micro. Identifying proper filtration would be a trial and error process and could end catastrophically without first gaining an understanding on the contaminant. Once in place, a filtration program can focus on TCO metrics which include scrap rate, tooling consumption, and fluid life. Other potential metrics may include increased operator acceptance and a decrease in unplanned downtime.
Considering the above metrics, U.S. Lubricants has extensive experience in guiding customers on proper fluid and filtration recommendations. From helping customers achieve equipment savings relating to hydraulic systems to optimizing productivity in metal forming and metal cutting operations.
"When developing a filtration program, it is necessary to understand contaminants, filtrate, equipment tolerances, and operational conditions. The contaminant can take the form of fluid, miscible or immiscible, or as a solid particle, macro or micro"
An excellent example of TCO optimization would be increasing the cleanliness and life span of hydraulic oils in a saw mill operation. Along with the saw mill maintenance staff, U.S. Lubricants was able to identify the cause of servo control valve failures that were costing the mill approximately $15,000 to rebuild at a repair rate of more than 1 valve per month. To gather a baseline, the investigation examined the quality of the fluid, mainly focusing on particle size distribution of foreign solid contaminant and how this piece of data correlated to the valve’s fluid cleanliness requirements. It was determined that that the majority of the debris was in the 6-10 micron particle size range. With this key piece of information, U.S. Lubricants engineers worked with the mill’s maintenance team to implement a thorough filtration program. This program included fluid filtration from storage to process as well as in-process filtration. Upon implementation, the realization of savings just on reduced repair cost totaled over $150,000 annually. When combined with the value of reduction in downtime, improving fluid life, and reducing usage the total savings was pushed well above $200,000. Comparing a $200,000/year annual cost savings to a <$20,000 dollar initial investment, it is evident that a filtration program can greatly improve TCO of fluid and related parts.
As TCO pertains to process fluids, examining filtration will change some of the criteria, but the basic principles remain. Recall, identifying the contaminants and selecting the best method/system to remove them will result in the optimal outcome. For process fluids, a real world example would be when U.S. Lubricants engineers helped a business partner improve their part finish and sump life by analyzing their straight oil utilized in a grinding process. Upon initial review, the filter system in place had two stages, a dirty side and a clean side. When analyzed it was determined that the clean side had significant iron content level and heavy solid loading, for a filtered fluid, this was not expected. The filter paper was evaluated and it was determined that the filter size was 35 micron. At this point, U.S. Lubricants engineers knew that the media currently being used was not adequate to create a proper filtration matrix. Working with a filter paper provider, a 15 micron paper was put in place, which reduced the iron content and solid loading. This small switch of particle size improved part finish and machine health allowing for an estimated yearly reduction in cost of $50,000.
In the current business climate, many companies look for a quick change to reduce costs. The examples outlined above show that it is not always the quick change that results in long term benefits, but instead a thorough approach that results in lasting change. These practices can be used facility wide in different applications to reduce TCO and enable enhanced maintenance practice to drive down costs in operation.