Coolant Management Solutions 

By  Barrie Taylor

It's a fact that even after years of development water mix coolants still have a knack of causing issues on the shop floor despite the best efforts of the supplier.


If you know anything about the metalworking industry then its a fair bet that you will have come into contact with metal cutting fluids & coolants. Now if your experience extends to working with or maintaining machine shop coolants you may have a love hate relationship with these products.

These days its fair to say that there are probably few poorly formulated cutting fluids. Where it all goes wrong is in the use & management of the mixed fluids in the often high pressure environment of a production machine shop. Sadly even now cutting and grinding coolants are too often way down the list when it comes to caring for them.

We know, don’t we, that coolants can fall foul to bacteria attack which causes breakdown with all the accompanying hazards such as rotten smell, corrosion attack, poor performance, shortened sump life and so on.

Of course to prevent breakdown of this nature steps can be taken to implement a sensible coolant management program. Simple coolant checks for dilution, bacteria counts, ph reading, regular sump maintenance, tramp oil removal etc will have a positive impact.

There Lies The Problem. Who Will Do It?

Well whoever it is it’s going to cost- and it’s going to cost plenty particularly in a large machine shop. Even in a moderate production facility with upwards of thirty machine tools, checking each machine every day just for dilution is going to take time and top-up adjustments even longer.

Throw in bacteria dip slide checks, ph monitoring, emptying and refilling sumps to remove accumulated swarf and sludge, even topping up machines on a regular basis and it begins to eat rapidly into someone's budget and resources.

It has not escaped many major coolant suppliers that there is gold to be mined here. The larger the production facility the more aggravation poor coolant care will cause. The coolant supplier by offering paid for coolant care services many day to day issues can be avoided.

However manual 'on site labour' is an expensive commodity so how about some help here? Often equipment is part of the deal, from sump vacuum cleaners to tramp oil removers to coolant mixing systems to coolant disposal units, all can be had - at a price.

So where do we, as coolant management equipment suppliers, fit into this jigsaw? It depends on what your final objective is.

Coolant Management Systems

Our coolant management systems take care of just about everything that goes into a manual management system. Yes you can use people to do what our systems can do but do you wish to pay forever for a service you can pay for just once?

Think of it this way. Following the installation of a Vivex central coolant management system the whole responsibility for coolant mixing, dilution control, distribution to machine tools, tramp oil and particulate removal, topping up, even ph checks, everything, is now an automatic function of our system.

It does not make mistakes, it does not get tired, it takes no tea breaks, its 24/7 monitoring and care for your cutting and grinding fluids.

Once installed and commissioned the systems need little in the way of day to day maintenance, they are self-cleaning and use no consumable media. Nothing to pay for once commissioned apart from electricity.

It's a fact that clean coolants last longer. Daily automatic top ups at the correct dilution help with that as does the continual movement of coolant around the machine shop, there are no stagnant areas in our system. Inevitably pumps will need maintenance sooner or later but it’s not a daily necessity, many of our pumping units have run for years without issue.

Additionally more than a few management systems have not needed a coolant change in years. Manually monitored services will find it difficult to compete with that type of performance.

So why is it then that we have some companies that need a system, want a system but never go on to specify one?

Simple answer? Capital Expenditure. 

Manual monitoring with all the associated costs concerned with coolant care is often on a consumable budget and gets lost in the general overhead of a company accounts. Amazing isn't it? A management system that can pay back over and over gets side-lined while coolant issues and the price of correction is paid forever on another budget.

This scenario is, thankfully, being eroded. We have seen much more interest from companies who wish to invest in a system that will contribute massive savings to their bottom line. Install once, pay once and then get on with manufacturing without concerning themselves with day to day coolant issues.

As touched on at the beginning of this article coolant care is often low down the list of priorities but the impact that poor coolant care can have on profits is always there.

The solution is to establish the true cost associated with the use and care of a metalworking coolant.  

This is the only way to make a  justification to install a cutting fluid central system. We have written about The True Cost Of Ownership (TCO) where the journey and cost through a coolants life cycle is tracked. The outcome can be used to establish a viable proposal for the installation of a central coolant management system. It's not an easy undertaking either as much of the information needed will have to be teased out from other budgets as the connection between who pays and responsibility is often blurred. 

There will be obvious starting points. Mixing, topping-up, daily machine tool checks for correct dilution, bacteria, frequency of sump clean-outs, machine tool downtime, coolant disposal to name a few. Additionally the manual removal of tramp oil and other contaminants within the machine tool sump should also be documented. Labour is also a big contributor, the associated costs can stack up quite quickly when a good review at every stage of handling is committed to. 

Contamination of metalworking fluids have always been with us. No matter how the newest formulations are used and maintained sooner or later process fluid contamination takes it's toll. Contaminated coolants are not nice to work with and increasingly the Health & Safety Executive involve themselves in coolant related issues which ought not to have occurred given proper working practices.

By removing contamination and automatically delivering clean coolant the coolant management system will replace the need for manual coolant care. A centralised coolant management system will take over every aspect of coolant control and delivery providing clean coolant to every machine connected without the need for human intervention.

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