How Changing Coolant Changed the Company, For Good
As a tooling and manufacturing company, Rathburn has had a critical need for coolant since our beginning. Coolants help regulate the operating temperature of our tooling and enable our machines to turn out the precision parts we are known for. In our case, the coolant was purchased from a local supplier that had a good reputation and was a solid part of the community.
While the machines operated fine, we discovered major problems in a very unlikely place: our people. Occasionally, our employees would break out in a rash, and the particular coolant we used would smell so bad it could be somewhat overwhelming. We knew we had to do something different.
After learning more about researching coolant formulas and practices, and understanding how coolants react to the oils and heat created by the machining process, it was time to rethink our coolant strategy. It was important to address both the human factors of employees suffering adverse effects, and the odors from the chemicals; while still maintaining a good viscosity level so that our parts wouldn’t rust. Yes, it was quite a task, but if it was easy, everyone would do it.
We learned how to combine different chemicals to the coolant to correct the viscosity levels and boost or lower the acidity levels within the existing coolant so that we would have better quality with less waste. But everything comes at a price. Not only are the chemicals costly, but one of those chemicals is a biocide which is heavily regulated. You need to be trained in that field in order to purchase it. We pride ourselves on doing the right thing. And sometimes doing the right thing means paying a little more for the right products and handling and disposing of them properly, but in the end, we feel better about ourselves because of what we do, and the way we do it.
As we moved forward in our search to better serve the environment and our employees, we came to find Fusion Chemical. They promised to do all we needed at a significant drop in cost while eliminating the need to add harmful chemicals. From my experience, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. However Fusion Chemical offered to give us some of their product as a trial run to see if it wasn’t indeed what they claimed. We had two machines that ran the same part, so we left one with the old coolant in it and tried the new coolant in the second one. Three weeks later we had no rust on the parts we ran, no odors, and no noticeable change in tool wear. A longer test would be needed in order to be sure of the longevity of the product, but the initial test coupled with the fact that the new coolant cost less was enough for us to commit to a longer engagement.
New day, new coolant
After the initial two-year run, we are very happy with the change. We have seen improvements in several areas:
- No more skin issues. To date, we have had no further complaints about skin irritation.
- No more odors. As long as we circulate the coolant inside the machine on a weekly basis (along with maintaining the viscosity levels), we can ward off any rancid smelling coolant. This also keeps us from discarding usable coolant and therefore saving more money.
- Improved performance. When you consider efficiently running equipment and less downtime due to equipment or employee issues, our new coolant has helped improve performance across the board.
If we hadn’t tried to educate ourselves in the beginning, if we hadn’t tried to help our employees, if we had just kept going by accepting, “That’s the way we’ve always done it!”, we would have been stuck in a problem of our own making. Instead, we have a product that is better for our employees, better for the environment, and is paying us back in savings for the effort. Win-win? I would have to say, yes.