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Articles - Cut Cleaning Costs and Boost Profits


by Gary Minkin, MART President

Since its founding in 1971, MART has studied parts cleaning procedures in thousands of shops that rebuild. Some were one and two man operations while others were large diesel and off-road, rail, aircraft and electric motor shops, and production rebuilders. There were many new manufacturing operations as well. The ongoing goal of our research and study has been to improve parts cleaning processes and reduce the cost of cleaning.

MART consistently finds that parts cleaning is the largest single expense in a rebuilding operation. Cleaning accounts for 25% to 50% of all production costs. Automotive and component shops are on the lower side of this range, and off-road and locomotive shops, the steel mills and electric motor rebuilders on the higher side. The cleaning expenses in new manufacturing operations vary dramatically, from less than 5% to 40% of the total product cost.

A huge hidden cleaning expense that is often overlooked is the failure of parts under warranty because of poor cleaning practices. Too often these losses, while significant, are not included in the cleaning burden.

MART has found it remarkable that, rather than keeping accurate records of their cleaning burden, some rebuild shops will simply expense their cleaning-related activities. These shops tend to have the highest parts cleaning costs because the expenses never come under review.

The cleaning burden is not easy to track because it includes …
  • Cleaning labor and overhead burden
  • Lost productivity because of production labor that performs parts cleaning tasks
  • Material handling labor and equipment
  • The purchase, operation, maintenance, repair and depreciation of all the cleaning and support equipment
  • Chemicals and cleaning media and supplies
  • Waste processing and disposal expenses
  • Cleaning up the considerable mess that dirty parts leave behind; and
  • Cost of warranty claims from premature failure of rebuilt units due to poor cleaning practices.

The profit improvement that MART can contribute to reduce the rebuilding cost is significant because the cleaning burden is so high to begin with. At a minimum, regardless of the cleaning methods and processes currently in use in a rebuild shop, MART Power Washing will cut the overall cleaning burden by one-half. In some cases, the savings can be 70% and greater.

Quantifying the Savings that are possible with a MART


  • Reduce your Cleaning Steps: Clearly, fewer cleaning steps provides many savings opportunities with (1) less equipment and supplies to purchase, service and maintain, (2) less cleaning and utility labor and lower material handling expenses, and (3) space savings within the shop.
  • Lower your Operating Expenses: Of all the Washing machines on the market, MART has the lowest operating cost. Contributing factors are: (1) Less chemical usage, (2) Heat energy savings with more efficient steam discharge management and engineered Heat Exchanger systems that yield 78% overall heat transfer efficiency, (3) Self Cleaning Plumbing and Nozzles to eliminate nozzle filters and nozzle maintenance, (4) Simplest maintenance schedule in the industry, (5) Most rugged construction and components, and highest reliability of all washing machines on the market, and (6) A useful (economic) life expectancy of 30+ years.
  • Increase your Productivity: In one step and with material handling that is reduced to one in-and-out operation, a MART Power Washer can (1) provide faster wash cycles and cleaner parts, (2) remove carbon, scale, paint, sludge and road soils, cosmoline, graphite stain, chips and fines, and other difficult soils, (3) automatically rinse the clean parts with fresh hot water, inside the cabinet, without additional handling, and (4) automatically apply a rust inhibitor for short term parts storage. Further, the MART wash chamber can be filled to the brim and still clean all the parts to double or even triple the cleaning volume and, finally, the wash cycle is always reduced to a fraction of the time needed to clean similar loads in conventional Jet Spray machines and other cleaning processes.

Prewash for Profit

Precleaned cores dismantle faster, inspection is possible at teardown, and the entire shop stays cleaner and more productive. Even the aisleways, tools and workbenches, and rebuilding fixtures are cleaner, and the rebuilders themselves are cleaner and more productive. Studies also show that a clean shop environment produces higher quality work.

Here is how the MART Prewash Process works. When a core comes into the plant, the tin and covers are immediately removed to expose, to the greatest extent possible, the innermost surfaces and, quite often, the most difficult soils.

The core, with the tin removed and before dismantling, is washed in the Power Washer for six minutes. Almost all of the sludge and road soils, and loose paint and scale, are removed from the outer and innermost surfaces. Note that, while the precleaning process will plug up the nozzles in a conventional Jet Spray Washer, MART Power Washer nozzles and plumbing are designed to prevent plugging.

The cost of the prewash cycle can be as low as $1.00.

Increase your Profit on Washed Components

There are many methods available to clean individual components before machining. These include Jet Spray Washers, Ovens, Hot Soak Tanks, Shot and Beadblast Machines, molten salt, hand steamers and high-pressure wands, and solvent and brushes. Even a can of gasoline and a brush qualifies for those that have the time.

Any of these methods requires at least two and sometimes three steps to achieve an acceptable level of cleaning. With the baking process, for example, the shot blaster and tumbler do the work while the oven gets the credit. The cost for the three steps in the bake process involves all the labor and burden, plus the equipment, maintenance and supplies, the material handling for all the steps, and waste disposal. In most cases, a MART Power Washer achieves the desired result in one step. The Power Wash process can reduce the cost to clean components to as low as 30% of the bake process.

Note that the same MART Power Washer used for the Prewash Cycle will also wash individual components before the machining operations. A MART Applications Specialist helps each customer select the correct Power Washer model and options to ensure that, in the time allotted for washing, the Power Washer will remove carbon, scale, paint, sludge and road soils from the component parts. The wash load may be a single large housing or case, or a basket of randomly loaded, nested parts with many blind surfaces. When the components are oriented so that they will drain, all surfaces will come clean to the standard required.

The cost to run the component parts wash cycle averages from $2 to $6 per load.

Low Cost Final Wash for Reassembly

The last step after machining is a Power Wash to remove machining oils, graphite stain, and grindings, fines and chips before reassembly. This work can be done in the same Power Washer that is used for the Prewash and Component wash cycles.

The cycle time is two minutes on average, the cleaning standards are met, and the cost is about $1 per load.

Calculating your Total Savings

MART can assist you to determine your parts cleaning burden. First, you can complete the Parts Cleaning Cost Analysis that is provided by MART for an excellent overview of your present cleaning expenses and the savings that are possible with MART Power Washing. Next, MART can provide you an Operating Cost Estimate that will accurately state the cost to operate a Power Washer that will meet your requirements under your specific operating conditions.

Other Comments Relating to Parts Cleaning Profits

Is there a best time to purchase your Power Washer? The answer is YES … When it's needed. It makes little difference whether your business is booming, or steady or slow. In the first case cleaning is a bottleneck, and in the latter case the cleaning side of the operation is overstaffed and overly expensive. Neither event is productive or profitable for the business. MART Power Washing resolves both dilemmas by increasing productivity and output, while reducing the cleaning burden.

Note that, even when your company decides that a MART will increase productivity and profits, the benefits cannot begin until the Power Washer is installed and operating. A strategy that is growing in popularity with the larger industrial and public companies is to make capital equipment lease investments directly from offsets in their operating budget. This is done by calculating the reduction in operating expense after the MART is installed. If the lease payments can be made from the savings and there are additional reductions in operating expenses, then leasing is a sensible option. The company has up to five years to plan for and exercise the purchase at the end of the lease term for 10% of its original cost.

One final thought with respect to installing a new MART System

How important is it to upgrade your parts cleaning operation? Consider … When a shop adds a new production machine, it has impacted one specific aspect of its operation. When it installs a MART Power Washer it impacts the operation as a whole. Because of the size of the cleaning burden, any change in cleaning – even a small one – will have a dramatic overall effect on productivity and profits. This is why the addition of a MART Power Washer to the rebuilding process can mean the difference between profit and loss, even during a downturn economy. And when business is booming, the MART can double the profits that drop to the bottom line.


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