For many high precision industries such as aerospace, medical, automotive and defense, industrial parts cleaning plays a crucial role in quality assurance during the production process. Inadequate degreasing can have a disruptive effect on many subsequent processes. Nevertheless, we see far too many
companies using a suboptimal cleaning solution in their operations.
There are various reasons behind this. Some businesses simply lack the knowledge and expertise to competently evaluate potential options. Others have been relying on one particular method for so long that they are not aware of alternative solutions. And in many cases, plant operation managers have such deep-seated misconceptions about certain cleaning technology that they categorically rule out their use despite their proven cleaning quality. A case in point is solvent cleaning.
Although solvents have long been recognised to be one of the most effective cleaning agents, especially for highly specialised sectors, there is no shortage of myths surrounding their use. Common misunderstandings conclude that solvent degreasing is a dirty job; that it is bad for the environment or it is dangerous for workers. These beliefs are in fact nothing more than misconceived ideas.
In particular, the unfounded fear about managing solvent risk and concerns about meeting Health, Safety and Environmental requirements has deterred companies from the use of solvents, and therefore robbed them of the opportunity to reap the many tangible benefits solvent cleaning delivers.
Nowadays, solvent degreasing is well established in fully closed cleaning systems. Perhaps surprising to most, its efficiency is often superior to alternatives promoted as “more sustainable“, since it does not require significant energy for drying and no water is needed in the process. Closed cleaning technology with internal solvent recovery further reduces the amount of waste to be recycled, thereby lowering overall cleaning costs.
In addition, the supply, transport and storage of solvent in safety systems enables safe and responsible handling towards people, air, and soil as well as legal compliance. With sufficient worker training and risk management measures, handling solvent does not represent a risk factor any different than other potential hazard in the workplace.
When it comes to industrial parts cleaning, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. No one cleaning method would work universally. It takes a comprehensive evaluation to identify the most suitable cleaning method where numerous factors must be carefully considered, such as the types of metals and contamination, degree of complexity of components to be cleaned, volume of parts, production oil used, regulations compliance and approved substances, to name just a few.
Companies would be doing themselves a huge disfavour if they immediately rule out established cleaning methods like solvent cleaning without even taking an objective evaluation of its advantages and risks, and the best approach to keep the balance.
Optimal parts cleaning process goes far beyond than just trying to achieve cleaning excellence. With the right combination of machine technology, cleaning agent and application technology, the critical cleaning process can be transformed into a value adding step that drive operational and resource efficiency as well as significant time and cost savings – in short, competitive edge that can directly impact the bottom line.
The most important question remains: Is your metal cleaning process a bottleneck in your manufacturing or is it creating value for your entire operation? And are you exploiting the full potential of your parts cleaning process to propel your business forward – or are you just settling for the second-best option? It might be time for a proper rethink.
Author: Richard Starkey, Industry Manager,
Aviation from SAFECHEM
SAFECHEM Europe GmbH
Mobile: +44 7976 531695