9/19/2013 | 4 MINUTE READ

Portable Sump Cleaner Brings Savings

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A shop’s cleaning operations should not apply only to parts. For efficient operations and a positive, healthy work environment, companies need to keep in mind the overall cleanliness of the facility as well as important details such as the machine tools themselves and the cutting fluids being used.

U.S. Tsubaki is known for producing precision power transmission parts for some of the best-known OEMs in the automotive industry worldwide. The quest for quality craftsmanship and operating efficiency is standard procedure in Chicopee, Mass., where the company’s Automotive LLC division operates a manufacturing facility.

The facility manufactures tensioners, which play an important role in the automotive chain-drive system. The tensioner takes up slack in the chain circuit and extends
to make up for wear and thermal expansion, according to the company.

A Dirty Job

Inside the facility are nine production lines, each with three machining stations to make the tensioners. The 27 machines need continual cutting oil recycling to keep out contaminants and fine particulates to satisfy the automakers’ demands for higher surface finish and closer parts tolerances.

Even though this modernized facility relies chiefly on automation, the job of cleaning out the machines’ sumps fell strictly to manual labor up until 2 years ago, according to Jeff Gifford, tool control supervisor at the plant.

“Each machine has three separate tanks, and it used to take 8 to 11 hours to clean them all out. We would use an air pump for the liquid, then shovel and scoop out the chips and fines by hand, and finally wipe out the tanks with rags. It was a nasty, time-consuming job,” Mr. Gifford recalls.

Then, Mr. Gifford made the decision to purchase an Eriez Hydroflow push sump cleaner with a 275-gallon capacity. This versatile, portable cleaner now handles the gritty work of removing chips and fines from cutting oil, saving the company money by re-using the purified cutting oil that keeps the precision machines humming.

Simple Solution

The Automotive LLC Division supplies timing-drive systems to the major automotive OEMS in North America, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and Chrysler. That division is part of a larger corporate entity that posts global sales exceeding $700 million. The Tsubakimoto Chain Company was founded in 1917 in Japan, while U.S. Tsubaki was started in 1971.

With all its manufacturing technology, trying to solve the problem of sump cleaning was a challenge, Mr. Gifford admits. “We investigated how to recycle the cutting oil. We knew that an in-line system would be expensive because we would need to reconfigure the tanks in the machines. After we assessed our needs, we decided that a portable cleaning unit was the best option.”

Each of the nine production lines at the Chicopee facility house three precision machines—the first for turning and milling, the second for drilling and boring, and the third for final machining, according to Mr. Gifford. All tensioner parts are made from cast steel that turns into fine particulates and settles into the machine sumps throughout each stage.

The tanks on each machine vary in capacity, ranging from 30 to 80 gallons. With 27 machines and three tanks per machine, Mr. Gifford’s crews were disposing almost 4,500 gallons of cutting oil by hand per change-out.

“We would schedule the clean-up at night when the machines were down. We had to tie up a group leader, machine specialist and operator to perform the work, and they had to wear protective suits,” Mr. Gifford says. “It would take as long as 11 hours to clean all the machines out, plus we were hauling away all the spent cutting oil. We were buying cutting oil in 220-gallon quantities to replace what we were throwing away.”

Needing a “continuous improvement idea,” the company decided on the Eriez portable sump cleaner. The sump cleaner features a single compartment with 275-gallon (1,000-liter) capacity and has center-mounted, high impact, ball bearing wheels for maneuverability and low rolling resistance.

During the process of cleaning, the sump cleaner removes the cutting oil, sludge and chips from the sumps, filters the sludge and chips from the oil, and returns the filtered oil to the sumps, or transports the oil to waste treatment for disposal. Eriez offers sump cleaners ranging from 65 gallons (246 liters) to 1,000 gallons (3,780 liters) of capacity.


“With the Eriez Sump Cleaner, it now takes 2 hours to do the complete job, where it used to take 8 to 11 hours per machine,” Mr. Gifford says. “We re-use the filtered oil at least one time over, which saves us 50 percent on oil consumption. The change-outs are done three to four times per year on seven lines with three machines each. We save almost $70,000 per year in cutting oil alone. Add in labor savings and reduction in downtime and the total payback is more than $150,000 per year. The Eriez Hydroflow sump cleaner literally paid for itself in the first use.”