By David Snyder, Regional Sales Manager | ITU AbsorbTech, Detroit, MI
How Can Oil Leaking Machines Lead to Improved Operational Efficiency?
When your two choices—fixing the machine or managing the leak with disposable absorbents—aren’t working, try this winning strategy.
A similar scene plays out on your plant floor.
A leaky machine is left operable.
By-process oils and coolant drip onto the floor or onto an oversaturated pile of disposable absorbents.
You know the leaks need to be fixed, but a repair would take the machine out of service for an extended time. To make it worse, according to your head maintenance guy, it may not even be possible. Shutting down operations is not an option.
Most days, it’s business as usual, but on this inauspicious day, a worker slips and falls from the pooling oil. The Environmental Health & Safety Manager (EHS) is alerted by a production worker in the facility.
And so, the Job Safety Analysis begins…
Manage the Machine or Manage the Leak?
It’s important to have a spill prevention and containment plan for the workplace avoid spills to workplace slip hazards.
Excess fluids dripping, over spraying, leaking, or seeping from machines create the potential for dangerous, painful, and expensive slips and falls.
Moreover, when production workers spend excessive time away from their duties to clean up those fluids, productivity is reduced.
EHS managers and maintenance personnel typically discuss the problem of leaking machines and are tasked with fixing them at the source or finding a solution to capture or mitigate fluid loss.
Let’s explore the two containment strategies – and why the typical solutions fall short from the standpoint of operational efficiency, sustainability, and cost.
Fix the Oil Leaking Machine – ideal, but not always ideal!
Fixing a leaky machine is ideal for operational efficiency, particularly when it’s a simple fix. This might be something like a seal or fitting that can be quickly replaced without shutting down the machine.
It’s also the best option for environmental sustainability because it minimizes the amount of process fluids going to landfill.
This ideal fix, however, is not always so ideal! Oftentimes the fix can be expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes impossible because the repair would require a machine shutdown that would halt production.
When production halts, profitability follows.
Moreover, prolonged challenges within the supply chain, reliance on outdated machinery, and a shortage of skilled employees proficient in machine maintenance all make the simple-sounding task of fixing machines far more difficult.
When preventing leaks isn’t possible and fixing the machine is not a viable option for workflow, it’s time to look at managing the leak.
Manage the Oil Leak – the drudgery of product change-out and waste liability.
A plethora of disposable absorbents – oil dry, old rags, t-shirts, and disposable pig mats – are at your disposal to manage the pooling and leaking oil at the base of your machine.
So how do you choose the best oil absorbent? Go with the cheapest? Not necessarily!
A top consideration should be how much time your production workers will spend on the replacement and disposal of oil-soaked absorbents.
For example, kitty litter or oil-dry products can divert significant labor hours toward the daily drudgery of sweeping up granules that have scattered around the plant floor. In addition, a cheaper, less absorbent oil mat can increase the change-out frequency and risk of oversaturation and increase slip hazards.
And here’s another consideration:
For facilities with environmental sustainability goals such as Zero-Waste-to-Landfill, Waste Reduction, ISO 14001, and Corporate Social Responsibility, single-use absorbents pose a significant problem; they add to your landfill waste liability. With that comes the costly task of sourcing waste disposal companies for incineration or special waste hauling.
Uncertainty can also come from not knowing whether oil-soaked absorbents are being placed in dumpsters or trash receptacles that could leak into sewers, parking lots, and outside waterways with the risk of expensive fines, court costs, and even shutdown threats.
In summary, bringing single-use absorbents to your operations will ultimately add to your waste stream and overall operating costs, no matter how long you think you’ll need them.
An Operational Efficiency Win: Sustainable Absorbent Strategies
When fixing a leaky machine isn’t viable and disposable oil absorbents threaten your lean operation practices, environmental initiatives, and bottom line, what’s the alternative?
More and more manufacturing facilities are switching to reusable oil absorbents to solve the problem. The benefits are three-fold:
- You don’t have to shut down operations.
- You don’t have to add to your landfill liability.
- You don’t have to shift significant manpower over to absorbent change-outs.
How do reusable oil absorbents work exactly? If you’re familiar with Shop Towel Service, a reusable oil absorbent program works in a similar way:
- Your service provider drops off freshly laundered absorbents at point-of-use stations for use in your facility.
- Your service provider picks up drums of soiled products for laundering.
- You enjoy a steady supply of absorbents to use as needed without the liability of a waste stream.
There are only a handful of companies in the US that offer reusable oil absorbent programs. One of the leading brands is SorbIts® serviced by ITU AbsorbTech.
While the programs have some similarities, there are also quite a few differentiators. Check out this guide to see how similar programs compare.
Who benefits? Just about everyone!
A dedicated team services your SorbIts® program by strategically positioning stations of fresh absorbents throughout your facility. This way, your workforce can access clean materials without any downtime. This results in an uninterrupted workflow since employees are not constantly switching out materials.
With absorbency rates three times greater than disposables, a reusable oil absorbent solution eliminates the need for frequent replacements. This frees up your manpower without requiring additional investments in labor.
Speaking of labor, the program also includes employee training and insights into effective placement techniques and recommended best practices to reduce slips, trips, and falls.
Plant operations will experience a transformative shift towards enhanced safety, cleanliness, and productivity.
Purchasing agents don’t need to spend as much time ordering new stock because it’s on a regular delivery schedule that works for your team.
EHS and Safety Managers
In alignment with Zero-Waste-to-Landfill initiatives, a reuse program can propel your EHS initiatives forward. The product is laundered for reuse and the recovered oils are recycled for beneficial use.
Your facility will be cleaner, safer and more sustainable.
A Win-Win for EHS and Plant Managers
While fixing a leaky machine is ideal for improving operational efficiency and decreasing downtime, it can often be expensive and challenging due to the nature of manufacturing operations. Disposable absorbents, though convenient, can impact operational efficiency, requiring constant replacement and disposal.
Offering a sustainable alternative can eliminate landfill liabilities, reduce fines, and eliminate waste manifests.
Our advice – choose a strategic partner that will work with you to achieve a successful program!
Find a partner who will make recommendations on strategic placement, service your facility on a regular schedule, train your operations crew on a regular basis, offer ongoing support, and visit you regularly to see how the program is working.
Want to learn more about how top manufacturing companies like Rexnord are utilizing SorbIts®? Check out this case study.