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Cutting costs with a fluid solution

By Rhys Williams

Founded back in 2011, Cwm Engineering is a subcontract manufacturing business that has grown at an exponential rate since its inception. The relentless growth trajectory for this West Wales manufacturer is a credit to its approach to continuous improvement and delivering impeccable quality for customers. So, when the Crosshands company was having challenges with its cutting fluid, it turned to Oemeta for a solution.

Like any subcontractor that has a diverse range of manual and CNC machine tools employed to process a wide variety of materials from plastics and aluminium to steel and heat-resistant alloys, the challenge is finding the optimal ‘factory-wide’ cutting fluid solution. As the company has expanded and acquired more advanced machine tools, machine uptime and productivity is critical – as are health and safety and the well-being of staff. Unfortunately, previous cutting fluids and the respective suppliers have been detrimental to the ISO: 9001 certified company and its goals.

Discussing past challenges, Company Founder and Managing Director Malcolm Walters says: “We were using fluid from a world-leading brand and we found the performance was diminishing with our acquisition of higher-end machine tools. The cutting fluid was delivering poor sump life, bad odours and it was creating skin irritations for staff. We then moved to another high-end brand that had no nasty chemicals. This eradicated workshop odours and skin irritation for our staff. Whilst the new fluid initially had a better sump life than its predecessor, performance was inconsistent from one machine to the next. Furthermore, customer support was poor and we were undertaking all of the fluid testing and topping up internally. Ultimately the fluid cost was also increasing drastically – we needed to find another solution.”

A Timely Knock on The Door

Serendipity played its role when Ryan Aviles, the regional sales engineer for Oemeta made a chance call upon the West Wales business. Inviting the Oemeta representative for a conversation has paid dividends for Cwm Engineering. Initial consultation regarding the machine tools, type of machining, material types and the issues with existing products provided Oemeta with a scenario of what was required. The cutting fluid company narrowed the solution down to two products and it was the Oemeta NOVAMET 760 water-miscible metalworking fluid that was identified as the optimal choice for Cwm Engineering.

With more than 12 machine tools on the shop floor, Cwm Engineering and Oemeta initially agreed to trial the fluid in one machine, a Mazak VTC-530C vertical machining centre. The results were immediate. The first two fluid brands offered a sump life of 2 to 4 months, a huge variation in sump life that Cwm Engineering or the fluid suppliers couldn’t diagnose. The Oemeta NOVAMET 760 has now been in the Mazak VTC-530C for over 12 months with no issues, increasing the fluid life by more than 70%.

With the results of the first machine being so evident, Cwm Engineering agreed on a staggered approach to incrementally phase out the previous fluid and install Oemeta’s NOVAMET 760 in all its machine tools.

Service With a Smile

Commenting upon the implementation process, Cwm Engineering’s Systems and Operations Manager Andrew Ritchie says: “We have a company to conduct annual health and safety audits and we pay due diligence to all H&S aspects. With our previous fluid, the well-known supplier provided a poor level of service. I would spend up to 3 hours each week conducting pH and calibration tests on all machine sumps. We had to buy calibration kits, incubation tubes and an incubator and during testing, we would have to leave the fluid in incubation tubes for 48 hours before testing the bacteria levels. We had to buy a £350 bacteria kit and pay a £30 fortnightly subscription for test tubes and dip slides. The cost and effort expended was excessive and added to this, there would be another couple of hours spent topping up the machines.”

“Despite dedicating significant time and resources to our coolant management, the previous fluid performance would incrementally deteriorate and then ‘fall off a cliff’ overnight. We even tried ozone generators to oxidise the coolant and kill bacteria. Unfortunately, there was no explanation for the fluid behaviour and the support was very poor. In contrast, Ryan and the Oemeta team have been fantastic.”

Whilst Oemeta emptied and cleaned the sump on the first Mazak machine, rather than empty the sump of each subsequent machine, the technical experts at Oemeta identified if NOVAMET 760 would be compatible with the existing fluid. Once this was clarified, NOVAMET 760 was then used to top-up existing fluid levels in the rest of the machine shop to minimise disposal costs for Cwm Engineering. Oemeta also implemented its fluid management protocols at Cwm Engineering. This has included fluid management instructions on each machine tool along with a service record card. Most importantly, the Oemeta engineers visit the Carmarthenshire company every fortnight to undertake fluid management activities that include testing the pH level, bacteria, fungus and sump levels and concentration.

The Savings

Introducing Oemeta’s NOVAMET 760 has been an incremental process over the last 12 months – and it is only now the true level of savings can be fully quantified. From a cost perspective, the previous cutting fluid was costing upwards of £2600 a barrel and the 12-employee business was buying up to 6 barrels a year with a cost of more than £15,000 per annum. The Oemeta fluid costs almost 50% less than its predecessor, making an immediate saving in the region of £7000. At least that would be the case if they were used in equal measure. With the remarkable fluid life improvement, Cwm Engineering is only purchasing 2 to 3 barrels a year – a fluid life that will inevitably improve further when the remainder of fluid from the previous vendor evaporates from the machines. There is potential for the subcontract manufacturer to reduce fluid purchasing costs by more than 80%.

What goes in must come out

Not only are Cwm Engineering making huge savings on coolant costs and the associated cost of weekly testing and the labour hours involved, but they are also making savings on fluid disposal. Cwm Engineering has two 1000-litre IBCs that are filled with waste coolant and disposed of two to three times a year at a cost of up to £2400. Not only is there a significant financial cost, but also an environmental impact. With fluid life increasing by more than 70%, inevitably, disposal costs will also fall by 70% – this is estimated to save an additional £1600 in disposal costs for the company. Furthermore, with the previous fluid almost turning rancid overnight, machines would have to be emptied and cleaned for £600 – a frequent cost that has also been eliminated.

Benefits beyond the wallet

The cost reduction of implementing Oemeta’s NOVAMET 760 has been staggering for the family business, but the benefits are far further reaching. As Andrew Ritchie adds: “We have taps near each machine and we have a barrel of NOVAMET 760 with a mixer on a trolley that can be wheeled to each machine. Once the barrel and mixer are connected to the tap, we can easily top up the fluid in any of our machines. Simply doing this has saved us hours every week and with Oemeta managing the condition of our fluid every fortnight, we are saving significant man hours on fluid testing too. There is also no need to have machines down for sump cleaning any longer, which can be a huge inconvenience to our business.”

The performance of the fluid is also improving quality and productivity at Cwm Engineering, as Malcolm Walters concludes: “Oemeta provides a long and predictable sump life which is critical to our machine shop and keeping our spindles turning. The soluble Oemeta cutting fluid has significantly reduced fluid consumption, extended tool life, reduced machine downtime and massively reduced waste disposal costs. Moreover, our surface finishes have improved and staining on particular types of aluminium is now a thing of the past. We have witnessed situations where parts that need to be aesthetically pleasing have been stained by coolant and this has resulted in scrap – this is now a thing of the past. We are delighted we made the change to Oemeta, we cannot speak highly enough of their products and service.”

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