Communicating Expectations of Washer Quality, Production, and Cost

washer quality

As part of AEC Systems’ design process we discuss with each of our customers what their expectations are for the washer we will manufacture for them in terms of washer quality, production, and cost. This communication process typically requires several weeks to complete. We work with the manufacturer’s engineers regarding the selection and configuration of the components used in the parts washer and test the design of the washer, if necessary. 

Here are some questions we ask our customers: 

  • What are your cleaning requirements?
  • Do you need a batch washer or a continuous washer?
  • What time and temperature will be needed to fully clean your parts?
  • How many parts will need to be cleaned in what specific window of time?
  • What results do you need for parts testing?

We also will ask about the specifications for the equipment itself. For each washer we design we need to know what our customer’s needs are in terms of the equipment dimensions, the materials used, and the controls package. 

The customer’s own manufacturing environment also plays a part. How much experience does the manufacturer’s build team have designing equipment like this? What is the factory testing like? What is the checklist for quality control? Is there a sign-off procedure? 

Parts Washer Pricing

Pricing is an important element of this communication process as well, and we will discuss pricing of the base equipment and pricing for additional options. We will discuss the terms of the sale, our shipping and delivery schedule. If there are design changes that occur during or after the manufacturing of the parts washer is completed, this can affect pricing and delivery. We want to be clear about our pricing and make sure everyone’s expectations are the same so everyone is satisfied.

Customer Support 

AEC Systems works closely with our customers after the delivery and installation of their parts washers. We often will work with them again later down the line, making adjustments to the washer as their needs change. Customer support is important to us, so we discuss and determine what support we will provide as a part of this process. This can include:

  • Installation
  • On-site operator training
  • Documentation, including equipment manual and spare parts’ lists
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Spare parts kits 
  • Assistance with service part issues

All of the above are elements of our process. AEC Systems wants to ensure that every customer we have will receive a washer that fully meets their parts cleaning needs, so this communication period is vital to the manufacture of the washer itself. Washer quality doesn’t just happen. It’s a result of the collaborative process we create with our customers, and we take it seriously.

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What Are Your Parts Washer Requirements?

parts washer requirementsAny business in the market for a customized parts washer must consider what the parts washer requirements will be before the design process can begin. Specifically, the company’s management  needs to determine what and how the washer will need to clean and how they will integrate that washer into the workflow and floor space of the plant. Below are six areas of inquiry that must be asked and answered in order to fully optimize the design of the washer to meet parts washing specifications. 

What parts will the washer clean? Are the parts all of one size and shape or do they vary? Are the parts simple or are there complex geometries that will be more challenging to clean, rinse, and dry? Obviously a washer that has to clean batches of uniform parts with no nooks or crannies will be simpler to design and less expensive build than one that has more complex requirements. 

To what specifications do the parts need to be cleaned? Does any area of the part need more focus in terms of cleaning or drying? Are there legal or governmental compliance requirements to be met?  How will this compliance be measured? 

How fast do these parts need to be cleaned? How many parts does the washer need to clean per hour? Does the production rate of the machine need to be constant or variable? The facility’s production rate may vary considerably depending on how parts will be loaded and removed from the washer. 

How will the washer be loaded and unloaded? If the company ordering the washer wants to limit the necessity for worker involvement to ensure safety or save money on staffing that should be decided before the design process begins. We can design automated systems that require very little direct worker input, but this is, of course, more complex.

What contaminants will the parts washer remove? Are there any safety considerations with these contaminants? Do the parts need to be treated with additional chemistry after they are washed?

What budget does the business have for the parts washer? 

AEC Systems works with companies within a wide spectrum of industries. We have manufactured parts washers for many diverse needs. We do need input from our customers on the above questions, however, in order to determine how to design and build a parts washer that will best meet their needs based on the budgets they have to spend. We are open and transparent about what we can provide, how much it will cost, how long it will take to build, and how much maintenance the washer will need once it is in use. 

We recommend to the companies we work with that they should involve a plant manager, a purchasing agent, and company executive in this design and decision making process because each of these people will have a different perspective and valuable input into what the parts washer requirements are. We welcome our clients to visit our facilities, talk with our design staff, and learn more about our manufacturing process. 

If your company needs a custom parts washer, we would be glad to discuss your parts washer requirements with you. Contact us today to begin this process.

 

 

 

 

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What Does Immersion Do?

immersionThe vast majority of the parts washers that AEC Systems manufactures utilize more than one process in order to remove contaminants from industrial products. With the correct combination of certain physical processes (in addition to heat and the cleaning products utilized) working together, parts can be cleaned to a very particular specification. Let’s go through these processes in order to understand what kinds of parts and contaminants an immersion style washer cleans best.

What Does Immersion Do?

Most people are familiar with how soaking dishes makes them much easier to clean. Immersion utilizes the same concept, but in regards to parts washing. A part is submerged in a solution bath of water and a cleaning agent where it soaks for an adjustable time frame. Typically, immersion systems are used more for removing heavy soils that have been caked onto parts. These washers are also ideal for larger, heavier parts that do not require high volume of parts output per hour.

What Types of Processes Can Be Utilized in an Immersion Style Washer?

An immersion style or dip tank washer can utilize a number of processes: dip agitation, chemistry, heat, and water agitation, to name a few. Continuing with the same concept of cleaning your dishes, you always want  to start with hot water and dish soap. This is also the first process in your dip tank system, but instead of dish soap, we use customized cleaning chemistry. The heated solution will soften baked-on contaminants while chemistry begins to break up the soils.

Other processes that can be incorporated into your dip tank system are dip and/or water agitation. Water agitation is created by using eductor nozzles that create a jacuzzi effect inside the wash tank. Dip agitation is a mechanical process where a platform gently raises and lowers parts in the solution bath. The benefit to agitation is that it allows the solution to work its way into all areas of the part, including blind spots and channels. It also aids in knocking off the contaminants from the parts.

To recap, heat and chemistry are the first two and most important processes in regards to a dip tank system. However, without any form of agitation your washer may not be able to remove all of the grime that is stuck onto your parts. With the added process of agitation, your washer’s ability to clean parts more effectively will increase significantly. Keep in mind that this is a slower cleaning process that is best suited to remove contaminants that are baked on large, heavy parts or for parts that have channels and blind spots.

In terms of energy, immersion style washers require the least amount of any mechanical washing process. Therefore, an immersion parts washer will be one of the most affordable to buy and run.

If your business has a need for an energy efficient system like our dip tank washer, please call one of our AEC Systems representatives at 616-257-9502. We would be glad to discuss with you what kind of system would best clean your parts to specification.

 

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How Do You Manage Aqueous Cleaning Waste?

aqueous cleaning wasteAqueous cleaners offer an effective and safer clean than solvents by using heat, agitation, and detergent instead of harsh or toxic chemicals. Businesses that utilize aqueous cleaning methods realize cost savings in the long run and do not expose their workers to unsafe working conditions. Aqueous parts washers do use cleaning products, however, and those cleaning products must be changed out periodically. The aqueous cleaning waste byproducts must be disposed of safely as well. What must businesses consider when disposing of the wastewater from an aqueous parts washer?

Laws Regarding Aqueous Cleaning Waste

Every business will have to do some research about wastewater disposal because the local laws vary considerably. There are some things that every business should bear in mind, however. They are:  

  • The disposal of parts washer solutions into drywells, onsite septic systems, storm drains, or onto the ground is illegal. Never do this. In some areas, municipal sewer systems allow for disposal of aqueous solutions with permission from the sewer utility. Always contact your municipal wastewater utility before disposing of wastewater this way.
  • Do not dispose of industrial waste into onsite septic systems. Not only is this illegal, but it can contaminate your system or your drain field requiring costly maintenance of the system or its complete replacement.
  • Aqueous solutions may be evaporated since most of them do not contain VOCs. Evaporation leaves a much smaller amount of sludge to dispose of.
  • After evaporation, the remaining sludge, which often contains toxic heavy metals and solvents, is considered hazardous waste. Skimmed oil sludge and solution filters must also be considered hazardous waste depending on testing results.

Businesses should utilize a waste disposal vendor to dispose of either sludge or untreated wastewater. Licensed waste disposal vendors have the necessary experience, and using one limits liability for a business. Aqueous cleaners are less toxic than petroleum solvents, which makes their disposal less expensive. Waste disposal vendors will offer different disposal management options for different types of waste. Most will accept some solids in a waste solution. Testing by a waste disposal vendor will determine how the waste must be categorized and disposed of.

Aqueous cleaning is a safer, economical way of cleaning industrial parts. Contamination removed from those parts should not be considered safe to handle or simple to dispose of. Always err on the side of caution and consult your local waste utility and waste disposal vendor before you dispose of any byproducts of the cleaning process. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to either your employees’ safety or your business’s liability.

If you are looking for a parts cleaning system that minimizes waste byproducts, whether hazardous sludge, heat, or other wastes, contact us at AEC Systems, LLC. We would be happy to discuss your unique situation and design a system specific to your needs.

 

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Hard Water, The Parts Washer’s Nemesis

hard waterWater is the universal solvent in the sense that it is capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid. Not all water is the same, however, and the quality of your water may affect how well your parts washer will work and how clean it will get your parts. Hard water is a nemesis to any parts washer.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. Specifically, hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium carbonates in solution. The more calcium and magnesium carbonate the water contains, the harder it is. Hard water isn’t just well water. Water from treatment plants can also be hard. This water may be safe to drink, but it may leave behind residue when you clean with it.

In your home, you may notice the signs of hard water when it stains your porcelain sinks or bathtubs or leaves white, chalky residue or spots on the dishes and glasses in your dishwater. The heat from your dishwater will evaporate the water molecules and leave behind the dissolved minerals. Hard water also creates other problems. Because soap may not lather or rinse as easily with hard water, your hair may be limp and your skin dry. Your pipes slowly clog with scale buildup. You may notice poorer water pressure coming from your shower head and your water taps as a result.

Hard water causes the same problems for industrial parts washers. Eighty-five percent of the United States has hard water, and approximately 95% of the solution in your parts washer is water, not aqueous cleaning product. The harder the water in your water supply, the more problems you may notice. The parts you clean may have water spots on them, and you may have calcium build up in your pipes. In your parts washer calcium will deposit on the heating system components. This reduces the efficiency of the machine and will eventually cause these heating components to overheat and require repair or replacement.

When using hard water, parts washers have to work harder and use more energy to do the same work. They require more cleaning detergents too. This is because, instead of increasing alkalinity, the detergents form soap scum. This scum falls out of solution and creates increased maintenance costs.

As you can see, hard water causes a number of issues for parts washers. If you want to have better cleaning results from your parts washers, the water you use for washing and rinsing, as well as makeup water, should have less than 50 ppm hardness. We will discuss various options for treating your hard water to make it more suitable for parts washers in future blog pieces.

 

 

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The Zero-Waste Manufacturing Goal

zero-waste manufacturingThis April the U.S. celebrated the 48th annual Earth Day, and news outlets all over the world focused on the work people are doing to conserve and preserve the environment. In the manufacturing world, many companies are making strides towards becoming zero waste manufacturing facilities. Since minimizing waste is one of AEC Systems’ largest priorities in designing our parts washers, we wanted to examine this concept of zero-waste manufacturing further.

What Is Zero-Waste Manufacturing?

Zero waste manufacturing is an initiative that aims to completely eliminate waste by reducing or reusing all products and byproducts of the manufacturing process. While in practical terms it is impossible for a manufacturing facility (or any business) to produce zero waste, many companies have been able to achieve Zero Landfill status. To do this, companies:

General Motors currently has 142 zero waste facilities. Another company dedicated to zero waste is Volkswagen. Volkswagen donates all of their used pallets to local community projects which use the wood for recycled or upcycled projects. Redirecting pallet waste from landfills is a net good in terms of the environment. It saves money on disposal costs. The community also benefits, making this a win-win strategy for Volkswagen in terms of both costs and public relations.

How Does the Zero-Waste Philosophy Affect Parts Washers?

As we’ve noted before, parts washers make both the service and industrial sectors run. Parts washers are everywhere – in farming, fuel production, manufacturing, transportation, and construction. Parts washers are input/output machines, however. They require chemicals, water, and/or heat to operate, and they do produce wastes.

Parts washers that operate using solvents will have toxic chemicals that must be disposed of. Parts washers that use water, surfactants, and agitation to clean parts will also produce wastes in the form of heat, sludge, and water based cleaners. Fortunately, these wastes are not as expensive to dispose of or as damaging to the environment.

Using the criteria listed above, it’s obvious that it will be much easier for manufacturers wanting to become zero waste to use aqueous parts washers simply because it is easier to separate many of the metals and oils and recycle them, preventing them from entering the environment.

The less waste a business produces, the more efficiently it is operating. Highly efficient companies realize greater energy savings and increased profitability. This is a virtuous cycle, and it’s why so many large corporations are pursuing zero waste as a goal. Companies interested in transforming their process to zero-waste manufacturing should shift from using parts washers that require solvents to using aqueous parts washers as one more strategy toward achieving that goal.

 

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Michigan Expands Testing to Determine TCE Exposure

TCEState officials in Michigan have reported that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will test more than 100 homes in Brighton for trichloroethylene (TCE). This toxic chemical was found to be present in the air of five homes near Brighton High School. Additionally, the state has opened another investigation of toxic air in a second location near Whitmore Lake Road.

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a chemical that is commonly used as an industrial solvent to remove grease from metal parts and as an ingredient in paint removers, spot removers, and adhesives. The reason TCE is in Brighton’s homes and groundwater is that the manufacturer Detroit Gaskets utilized and disposed of it carelessly it for over 30 years, from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. Detroit Gaskets used TCE as a degreaser. Haigh Manufacturing, located in the second area of contamination, also dumped it in the 1960s and 1970s.

Dealing with TCE’s persistent toxicity has been an ongoing problem for residents in this area for decades since this chemical was discovered in the groundwater in 1990. The City of Brighton had to expand its water supply to some 89 houses because the well water was no longer drinkable. Since that time some clean up has occurred, and the footprint of the first groundwater plume is about half of its original size. Unfortunately, air quality in these homes is also affected. TCE can leach into residences on top of the contaminated areas through vapor intrusion. In cases where the air is found to be toxic, air purifying units must be installed in order to mitigate TCE vapors.

Previously we’ve discussed the consequences of solvent exposure. Because TCE was used in many settings for decades without precautions, there is significant evidence that long-term exposure to trichloroethylene can lead to kidney, liver, heart, and nerve damage, cognitive impairment, birth defects, and cancer. Like other solvents, it must be handled with care and disposed of correctly. People suffer when it is not.

As this story illustrates, the chemicals we use in our daily lives have an impact on us both in the present and in the future. This is why choosing green, environmentally safe options is so important for all of us in all aspects of our lives, including in our businesses. The choices Detroit Gaskets and Haigh Manufacturing made for decades have created a toxic environment that has made people sick and cost the City of Brighton and the state a great deal of time and money to mitigate.

AEC Systems, LLC is committed to designing and manufacturing parts washing equipment that does not rely on toxic solvents to clean industrial parts. We believe that it’s worth investing money to prevent damage to people’s health and to the environment. We are proud of the safe and effective products we design and of our commitment to safer chemistry in parts cleaning. If your company is exploring alternatives to parts cleaning with solvents, call us today. We would be happy to discuss with you how we can meet your needs.

 

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Water, the Universal Solvent

universal solventPreviously we’ve talked about solvents and how exposure to some solvents carries risks to health and well being. What is a solvent, though? In this blog we will answer that question and explain why water is the universal solvent.

What Is a Solvent?

A solvent is a liquid that dissolves a solute or a liquid into which other materials dissolve to form a solution. There are many types of solvents, including turpentine, benzene, trichloroethylene, ethanol, and – of course – water. A common rule of chemistry is “Like dissolves like.” There are polar and nonpolar substances and solvents. Water is the polar solvent we are all familiar with. Salt is also polar, and we know how salt dissolves into water. It dissolves so well that the majority of the earth’s mass is covered by salt water. Salt remains in solution in water indefinitely unless a process like desalinization is employed.

In contrast oil is non polar. It does not dissolve in water. When oil is added to water, it will float on top of the water. Any mixture of oil and water will quickly separate. To dissolve oil easily you must use a non polar solvent like benzene. Benzene has been in use since Michael Faraday isolated it in 1825. After it was discovered, people found a variety of interesting uses for it, including as an aftershave lotion, and over time they recognized as an effective solvent and degreaser. Benzene is very efficient at dissolving oils and pulling them off of the surfaces of industrial parts.

There’s only one problem: Benzene, like many other non polar solvents, is toxic to humans and the environment. The frequent use of benzene in industry resulted in many people becoming ill over time. The U.S. government banned the use of its pure form as a solvent decades ago.

In the mid-20th century when scientists and workers began noticing links between nonpolar solvent use and health problems like leukemia and brain impairment, they began searching for alternative ways to effectively remove grease and dirt from industrial parts and other items without the same risks and dangers.

Water, the Universal Solvent

Water is called the universal solvent because it is capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid. People have been cleaning with water for millennia. It’s such a common and useful solvent that we reach for it it as a go to “solution” whenever anything gets dirty. By itself, however, water can’t compete with benzene or trichloroethylene in removing grease or oil. That’s why aqueous parts washers are designed to use heat, pressure, agitation and surfactants along with water to get parts clean.

AEC Systems, LLC designs our parts cleaners around the parts they must clean. Once we know what cleanliness challenges the part has, we can create a washer that will utilize mechanical processes like scrubbing, spraying, or agitation that, in combination with water, heat, and cleaners will accomplish the same task as solvents but without the exposure to toxins. If you have a part that you need cleaned to specification, we can design a washer that will get the job done and done right. We can help with a recommendation for reliable chemistry providers to assist your cleaning needs. Call us today to discuss which solutions we can design to meet your parts washing needs.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Your Parts Washer Performance Should Be

parts washer performanceDoes your business need a new parts washer? Is your current parts washer performing efficiently and to specification? Does it need frequent repair? AEC Systems has been designing and manufacturing parts washers for decades, and we want our customers to know that a parts washer that is correctly designed and built will perform its job the right way the first time. There are five expectations you should have of parts washer performance. They should:

Remove contaminant from parts – Parts should no longer be coated with should after they have been washed. What’s more, a parts washer should be able to do this within one cycle. You should not have to run your machine repeatedly to ensure that all traces of common contaminants like dirt, grease, oil, cleaning fluids, water and swarf are removed. If you’ve been using an older machine or one that’s not suited to your application, you might think repeat cycles are necessary to get parts clean. This isn’t true.

Clean efficiently – Older or one-size-fits all parts cleaners often take longer to clean and use more energy to operate. Time and energy cost your business money every single time a parts washer is run. Efficient cleaning is possible with the right parts cleaner.

Dry to specification – Drying is usually the most complex part of cleaning a component, and it needs to be done exactly right and not expend any more energy than necessary.

Minimize costs – Time and energy are not the only costs associated with parts washers. Cleaners cost money,  and so does machine maintenance. There is also waste disposal to consider – waste heat, waste water, sludge. A correctly engineered machine will require less cleaner and produce less waste for a company to dispose of.

Operate safely – No parts washer should be a health threat to an operator. They should be designed to foil any anticipated operator error. Parts washers can be built to size in order to accommodate space requirements or constraints. They can also be designed to need less operator input in order to increase safety and lower operational costs.

There are so many parts washing options available that your parts washer should be able to accomplish all of the above. A new parts washer is an investment, but old parts washers are expensive to run. If you are interested in having a high performance parts washer built with the cleaning needs of your parts in mind, call us today at AEC Systems. We have over 30 years experience with these systems, and we can design one to clean any part efficiently and to specification.

 

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What Michigan is Doing to Help Manufacturing

MichiganPreviously we’ve talked about the lack of skilled workers in Michigan. This lack has impacted and continues to impact the manufacturing sector in negative ways. Since 2000 the state has lost 326,000 workers, and while unemployment is low, companies need skilled labor in order to grow and thrive. Currently in Michigan 100,000 unfilled jobs exist.

In July of 2016 there were 604,200 jobs in manufacturing in Michigan, and the state’s economy in general benefits greatly when it’s manufacturing sector succeeds. Unfortunately, the age of the average manufacturing worker skews older than in other sectors. Most workers are not young people, and unless that changes, as Baby Boomers retire and leave the workforce, the labor shortage will continue to increase.

A number of organizations have created initiatives to introduce young people to the kinds of trades and skills that manufacturing needs. Skilled professionals in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) fields in in great demand in the industry. Manufacturing also benefits from the work of those in education or research. New technology, including advances in robotics, directly influences what happens on the factory floor. Companies need computer programmers, production workers, and also technicians who are able to maintain the continually more complex equipment found in today’s factories.

The State of Michigan has gotten involved by creating the Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) which has been offering grants to companies who train their workers in additional skills. Right now the State is accepting applications through Michigan Works! for $27 million in grants that will be used to train either current workers or new hires. Companies have until October 6, Manufacturing Day, to fill out an application for these grants.

From 2014 until the present, the STTF granted 1,422 companies these awards. The average award amount was $33,938 and the average training cost per employee was $995.  The awards were split among companies of different sizes with companies of 500 employees or more receiving 173 awards, companies with 100 to 499 employees receiving 537 awards, and companies with fewer than 100 employees receiving 712 awards. Being a small or mid-sized company is not an impediment to applying for or receiving these grants, so companies of all sizes should consider whether offering further training to their employees would be of benefit.

The Michigan economy has emerged from the Great Recession and is doing better in the second decade of the 21st century, but companies need to think outside of the box to find and train the workers they will need in the future.  What is your company doing to ensure it will always have the workers it needs to grow and succeed?

 

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