So it’s important to remember when deciding on a specific approach
to cleaning to strive for cleaning effectiveness, while at the
same time, staying in compliance with Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration
In order for a machine shop to have a positive return
on investment, cleaning systems and procedures must be cost-efficient.
It’s been estimated by many in the industry that, depending on
the product line and the type of cleaning equipment and system
in use, cleaning accounts for 30 cents or more of each dollar
spent by the shop on overhead. But there are a number of ways
machine shops can reduce their cost of cleaning.
To begin with, there’s the initial cost of the equipment
itself. Depending on the equipment, machinery used for cleaning
can range anywhere between several hundred dollars for small parts
washers into the tens of thousand of dollars for industrial-sized
spraywashers and thermal ovens. Other costs rebuilders should
consider include options and accessories for the equipment, finance
charges and a maintenance contract, if available. If you consider
leasing equipment, determine the terms of the agreement, finance
charges and monthly payments and how these compare to buying outright.
Then there’s the issue of what type of equipment
would best suit your shop. Cleaning processes are divided into
three categories: thermal cleaning, which includes convection,
direct flame and rotisserie ovens; wet cleaning, which includes
hot tanks and other units designed to clean with hot water or
chemical solutions, jet spray washers, small parts cleaners and
ultrasonic cleaners; and abrasive cleaning, which includes shot
and bead blasting and shot removal equipment.
Due to the types of engine components cleaned, customer
demands and time restraints, many rebuilders choose to use a variety
of individual cleaning units or systems for their cleaning requirements.
Talking to others who use the same processes and equipment can
help you get a better handle on purchasing and operating costs.
For a list of manufacturers and suppliers of cleaning equipment,
see Automotive Rebuilder’s annual Automotive/Truck Purchasing
Directory contained in the January, 1997 issue.
There are other considerations rebuilders should
address to reduce cleaning costs. For example, when purchasing
equipment, research equipment capacity and determine how many
parts can be cleaned in a batch, or whether the equipment has
the flexibility to do only a few parts without being cost-prohibitive.
The amount of time it takes to clean a batch of parts
also is important. Find out if these times will fit into your
work flow schedule. Faster cleaning may not be necessary if production
and customer demand does not require it. On the other hand, increasing
the cleaning throughput may increase rebuilding productivity.
Another cost associated with cleaning is labor. According
to Automotive Rebuilder’s Machine Shop Market Profile (see June,
1997 issue), about 14.8% of engine machining and rebuilding production
work involves disassembly and cleaning. Although disassembly and
cleaning in past years has accounted for the highest percentage
of total machine production in the shop, the time spent on this
work dropped just behind valve guide and seat work at 15.6%, according
to results from our 1996 survey of engine rebuilders.
Bob Olson, founder of Enviro-Comp, a Laural, NY-based
consulting firm helping rebuilders comply with EPA and OSHA regulations,
said this reduction in the amount of production work may be the
result of improvements made to cleaning equipment from manufacturers,
as well as a better understanding of cleaning technology by rebuilders.
Olson said as a consultant, he travels to shops to study their
cleaning practices. Then he provides the shop a plan to improve
the current methods in hopes of reducing costs, time and generated
wastes. "No two rebuilders do the same cleaning work,"
said Olson. "But each shop can be shown how to save money."
Olson explained one engine rebuilder he worked with
used only wet cleaning processes in the shop. Through Olson’s
plans of utilizing other cleaning methods such as dry processes,
that rebuilder saw a reduction in cleaning and disposal costs
from about $60,000 a year to about $8,000. Olson suggested that
rebuilders should consider look at different cleaning processes,
adding they may find some cost savings.
Yet Olson said there are many rebuilders who feel
they do not need to change their cleaning methods. "These
rebuilder do not want to change because they feel they can still
clean the same way they’ve been doing it for the past 20 years,"
said Olson. "If they looked at other alternatives, they may
find they could be saving themselves a lot of money. But a lot
of rebuilders don’t have the willingness to change on their own."
Rick Gable, co-owner of Gable Auto Parts & Machine,
Inc., an 11-man machining shop in Akron, OH, said labor costs,
which include time spent loading and unloading parts, as well
as additional scrubbing, pre-cleaning and post-cleaning of components,
are effected by a number of factors. Gable, who has one full-time
employee to handle tear-down and cleaning work at the shop, said
it’s important to provide fair pay for this position. "Even
though cleaning is considered an entry-level job, some shops will
make the mistake of hiring just about anybody," Gable explained.
"This is really an important position. As an owner, you have
to really consider who you hire for that job. You don’t want someone
who will mix parts up or won’t clean the heads or block."
Gable said labor costs for cleaning don’t pertain
only to the cleaning of parts. "Even though we have good
equipment, there’s still some moderate upkeep of the machines
which you have to pay someone to do," Gable said. "You
have to lube the equipment and remove the sludge to improve cleaning
efficiency, which in turn help to lower cleaning time costs."
‘And then there’s the issue of consumables. Gable said costs to
operate wet systems vary depending on the chemical or detergent
used, the concentration required and the amounts used. Gable also
said regardless of the chemical cleaning method used, replacement
of the chemicals and solid material filters is necessary. "Your
cleaning times and costs will also depend on the strength of the
cleaning solution," Gable said. "Let’s say the average
time to clean using recycled solution is about an hour. When you
use cleaning chemicals that are fresh, parts come out in no time
"As the solution gets dirty, you have to keep
‘sweetening’ it up by adding more chemicals. Of course it’s not
going to clean like fresh solution, but it’s too expensive to
always use fresh solution. And failure to ‘sweeten’, the solution
is going to add to your cleaning time."
For abrasive cleaning, costs include the media, shot blast or
glass beads. When purchasing media or shot, consider, too, the
life span of the material. Although stainless steel shot costs
several times more than cast iron shot, it also lasts longer and
may be a consideration when looking to reduce expenses.
Leo Croisetiere of R & L Engines, Inc., Dover,
NH, said the amount of work a shop does will also dictate how
it addresses cleaning costs. "Whether you do $500,000 a year
or $5 million a year, there’s going to be a different approach
to cleaning, and this approach will affect your costs," Croisetiere
Croisetiere explained his eight-man shop is very
diversified, and that much of its rebuilding work is on passenger
cars for local dealerships. "Who your customers are will
affect how you clean," he said. "Because we have to
be able to deliver heads in a matter of hours, we started using
a fast-burn (oven) system (a direct flame process) on the cast
iron heads and blocks about five to six years ago."
But for the aluminum parts, Croisetiere said the
wet system of cleaning works best for him. "We found cleaning
aluminum with heat (dry cleaning) was not effective for us because
it took too much time. Using a wet pre-clean solution on parts,
followed by a jet washer and then a bead blaster, we can get machined
heads back to our customers quicker," he said.
Gable, who also uses both wet and thermal cleaning
methods in his shop, said he would like to just concentrate on
one method. "But for now, we’re limited to what we can afford,
so we have to use both ways," he said. "We’ll clean
a lot of crankshafts and connecting rods in the caustic tanks
because it’s available. But it’s also where we clean our diesel
blocks and heads because these are too large for our thermal equipment.
Our diesel stuff has to be put in the hot tank."
Olson said changing cleaning practices may also lead
to a better understanding of EPA regulations. Although some EPA
penalties handed down to shops can be anywhere from $100 for missing/unavailable
documentation on chemicals used in the shop, Olson said at times
fines issued to shops that are out of compliance can reach anywhere
from $50,000 to $100,000. "That’s a cost many shops would
best do without," he said.
Olson said when selecting cleaning processes, one
of the most important considerations is the issue of waste disposal,
adding there are some misconceptions regarding the disposal of
Steven Bolkan, senior manager of research and development
at Church & Dwight Co., makers of ARM & HAMMER® cleaning
products agrees. Bolkan has recently spoken out on the issue of
disposal of aqueous cleaning solutions and the regulations pertaining
to them, saying these issues are "misunderstood by the market
and misrepresented by some manufacturers of cleaning products."
Bolkan said the issue came to a head in September
of 1996, when California’s South Coast Air Quality Management
District passed Bill 1171, calling for a switch from solvent-based
cleaners to aqueous cleaners over the next 18 months. Bolkan said
the bill increased the intensity of competition among manufacturers
of aqueous cleaners, who sought to portray their products as so
"safe" that they can be disposed of directly down the
drain. "This is misleading and in practice dead wrong,"
Bolkan said, adding some aqueous cleaners can be disposed of directly
into the drain if they have not been used in any cleaning operation
and if they conform to local Privately Owned Treatment Waste (POTW)
Bolkan explained once the cleaning process begins,
the wash bath may be contaminated with heavy metals, oils, aerosol
sprays or even chlorinated solvents. These materials must be disposed
of in accordance with state and local regulations, and not directly
down the drain. "It is a violation of POTW requirements for
industrial aqueous waste to be disposed of without being properly
treated," Bolkan said. "Companies are liable if waste
they generate is disposed of improperly. They should be wary of
manufacturers who try to sell an aqueous cleaner with misleading
and potentially dangerous references to do-it-yourself disposal."
In order to comply with state and local regulations,
as well as EPA and OSHA requirements, many shops today are looking
toward contracting out their waste removal through companies like
Safety-Kleen of Elgin, Il, and Interchem of Memphis, TN.
Olson warns rebuilders who plan to contract out the removal of
their wastes should research these companies thoroughly. He said
machine shops and rebuilders must be aware of EPA guidelines on
wastes generated from their cleaning. "Many firms have relied
on scavenger or removal firms to determine what type of waste
they have and the final disposal method for each waste stream,"
Olson said. "However, not all removal firms are as honest
as people think, and the removal companies do have less risk than
the waste producer."
Gable said his shop uses the waste disposal services
of Interchem. "It’s been a big help for us," Gable explained.
"When we have a barrel of waste, we just call them and they
send someone to pick it up. They’ve taken a lot of the worry out
of the disposal process."
Interchem is a full-service hazardous waste transportation
and disposal division of the International Chemical Corp. Cost
to remove a 55-gallon, DOT-approved drum is about $395 for Interchem
customers, and about $495 for rebuilders who are interested in
the waste disposal program only.
"The great thing about these disposal companies
is you can put any cleaning waste in the container," Gable
said. "It can be sludge from a hot tank or ash from our thermal
cleaners. As long as you let them know what it is, it’s gone.
And they handle the forms and record-keeping, too, which for us
is a great relief."
Levita Couch, sales and marketing executive for Interchem,
said more and more rebuilders are taking advantage of waste disposal
companies each year. "Our waste disposal program is a great
service for rebuilding shops who want to stay in compliance and
up-to-date with today’s EPA laws and regulations without having
to do the work themselves," she said. "Rebuilders are
realizing the importance of ‘cradle-to-grave’ liabilities."
To handle the issues of removing used solution and
wastes, R & L has contracted with Safety-Kleen. "We just
pay them to take care of waste instead of dealing with it ourselves,"
Croisetiere said. "Not only is it cheaper for us to have
Safety-Kleen handle our disposal wastes, but I don’t have to worry
about manpower or finding a separate hauler. They come in on regular
intervals and service our waste. We found without a doubt that
this is the best method for a diversified shop like ours."
Scott Stolberg, president of A & A Midwest Distributing,
a Las Vegas, NV-based core supplier, has found another way of
treating water that flows from his facility’s disassembly/teardown
area ñ oil digesting microbes.
Stolberg said the microbes, used in the final stage
of a three-part wastewater management process, act as a waste
accelerator by digesting the oil and contaminants, reducing the
amount of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) released by his facility
to the state’s acceptable level of 10 parts per million.
Stolberg said when his core facility layout was designed
in 1991, many of the stormwater release regulations for Nevada,
as well as the U.S., were not yet complete. "Had I known
these regulations were going to be modified, I would have opted
to spend more money adding a pump station to the back of our facility
to pump our stormwater to the sanitary sewer which requires a
TPH of 100 parts per million or less," he explained. "Our
tests have shown we’re way under that amount now."
Stolberg said in order to get his facility in compliance
with storm sewer laws, he worked a lot with the state’s EPA to
develop a design that would be the most cost-efficient for his
business. He added having the water pumped out by a septic hauler
would be too expensive. "The EPA was very helpful and patient
with this water treatment design," Stolberg said. Stolberg
said A & A spent about a year-and-a-half on the water treatment
plan, adding the entire process, which includes aerating, feeding
and adding the microbes daily costs about $350 a month.
Stolberg believes the EPA and OSHA need not always
be looked upon as "the bad guys." "If you make
a good effort to try and come into compliance and not just ignore
the laws, these agencies will be realistic in their examinations,"
Stolberg said. "Of course, they will be back to check on
your business later, so you need to follow through on your plans
or risk being shut down."
OSHA offers free on-site safety checks for small
businesses concerned about hazardous materials released from their
facility. At the request of employers, OSHA advisors will conduct
a hazard survey and assessment of the workplace, and will provide
advice to employers on correcting hazards found.
The consultation is a confidential service that is
completely separate from enforcement operations. According to
the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), OSHA consultants
will not provide the owner’s name, the company’s name or any information
about the workplace to OSHA’s inspection staff, as long as the
employer agrees to correct, in a timely manner, any serious hazards
uncovered during the consultation visit. Shops interested in obtaining
OSHA’s document number 3047, "Consultation Services For the
Employer," should contact the U.S. Government Printing Office,
Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D.C. 20401, or call 202-512-1800.
There are a number of cleaning equipment options
available to reduce cleaning costs.
For thermal cleaning ovens, afterburners, which burn
away much of the contaminates released from this cleaning process,
help reduce the amount of dry wastes generated by a shop.
Filtration systems for wet cleaning processes is
a solution other rebuilders use to extend their shop cleaning
dollars. Often available as portable models, filtration systems
are ideal for rebuilders who use parts washers or hot tanks without
such a unit. According to filtration systems designers, these
units help extend the service life of parts washer solutions or
hot tank chemicals by effectively removing contaminates and hazardous
wastes suspended in the solution. The solution is pumped through
a filter which traps these contaminates. Because filtration reduces
waste disposal, rebuilders can take advantage of longer-lasting
cleaning solutions and reduced costs of EPA mandated disposal.
Interchem’s Couch said the amount of money to purchase
and operate a filtration unit will in turn save you money on cleaning
agents. "Filtration units save rebuilders money on caustic
and chemical solutions, which can cost up to $500 for a 55-gallon
drum," she said.
Oil skimmers, too, are another option to prolong
cleaning solution life and reduce disposal costs of contaminated
solutions. These units remove unwanted free-floating grease, oil
and scum from parts washers and wash tanks. Most units are designed
to mount to the tank and can remove up to a gallon or more of
oil per hour, depending on oil viscosity.
A technique to reduce waste waters emitted from a
shop may also include evaporators. Evaporators may be an alternative
for rebuilders who would rather "heat away" waste water
as opposed to having it hauled away at a cost of about 50 cents
or more a gallon. Improved design technology and high-density
refractory ceramic has allowed one cleaning equipment manufacturer
to offer a high efficiency waste water evaporator that only requires
180,000 British Thermal Unit Hours (BTUH) to evaporate up to 15
gallons an hour, compared to 225,000 – 250,000 BTUH in other traditional
systems. According to the manufacturer, the unique combustion
chamber provides as much as 25% in energy savings over conventional
designs. These savings in heating can reduce operating costs to
as low as five cents a gallon, depending on local fuel costs.
R & L’s Croisetiere said he reduces waste water
through equipment already in use ñ the jet washer. "First
of all, we try to keep our rinsewater accumulation down to a minimum,"
Croisetiere said. "We added a restrictor in the water line
to reduce the flow of water at the wash point. This not only saves
us in water usage costs, but it limits the amount of waste water.
This rinsewater is then pumped into our jet wash, where about
a gallon is burned away each hour and released as steam through
"We couldn’t justify spending the money for
an evaporator which is a machine that doesn’t ever earn you any
money," said Croisetiere. "With this process, we didn’t
As long as there is rebuilding work to be done, there
will be the need to clean. But how you address the cleaning process
is up to each individual shop. Still, Gable said at times he wishes
there was a way to have all of his cleaning work done by another.
"If I could contract all the cleaning work out, I would."
he said. "It would eliminate buying cleaning chemicals, maintenance
and the constant aggravation, it would save me a lot of headaches.
Of course, it’s not practical to do so. Cleaning comes with the
Stolberg added that although the costs to operate
the cleaning/disassembly area of his facility may cost him money
from his pocket now, it’s worth it in the long run. "Our
goal is to promote an environmental-friendly facility, it’s just
good business," Stolberg said. "If I end up selling
the business or passing it along to the kids, I don’t want to
be remembered for something wrong I did 20 years ago because it