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Cost-Cutting Scrap Handling Solutions

By taking a “Total Systems Approach” to the function of scrap handling, plant engineers and others can learn how to convert scrap handling into both a potential profit center and an opportunity to reduce manufacturing costs.

By Del Butler, Product Sales Manager, Magnetic Products, Inc.

Unprecedented economic conditions demand that manufacturers look for innovative ways to increase profits by cutting costs and improving processes. Generally viewed as a non-value-added function, removal of scrap metal is a vital, constant and costly task faced by plant managers worldwide.

By taking a “Total Systems Approach” to the function of scrap handling, plant engineers and others can learn how to convert scrap handling into both a potential profit center and an opportunity to reduce manufacturing costs.

Most plant managers view scrap as the enemy. It is unsightly, expensive and time-consuming to remove. Financial managers are none too pleased with scrap, which they view as wasted raw material and wasted money. The CFO is eager for the plant manager to develop and implement upstream processes that cut down on scrap.

Before discussing several ways that companies can improve scrap-related processes and cut costs, it is important to understand that cost-cutting initiatives not be executed in a vacuum. Operations, finance and manufacturing departments, supported by upper management, must join together and be committed to seeing scrap in a different light.

If we take a look at the typical factory today, it takes approximately four labor-intensive processes to get scrap from the machinery to the foundry. These include:  movement of the scrap from the machine tool to the transport vehicle; movement from the transport vehicle to the storage area; movement from the storage area to the outside transport; and movement from the outside transport to the foundry.

There are opportunities to cut down the number of processes. One, incorporation of a scrap chopper reduces the size of large scrap, a problem of particular importance to the stamping industry. Smaller pieces of scrap create less volume and denser scrap can be sold at a higher premium.

Two, integration of material handling systems within the plant can quickly move scrap to a central location and reduce the number of individual vehicles and employees needed to move small loads of scrap. Some very sophisticated systems totally eliminate labor by moving scrap through overhead pipes to a large storage unit.

Three, installation of a larger capacity and more easily accessible scrap receptacle, such as one located on the roof of a facility, allows an outside vendor to park his/her vehicle underneath a bin where the scrap drops directly into the trailer. The truck can be quickly loaded and driven to the foundry or scrap recycling center

One of the newest trends in material handling is a move from pneumatic shaker conveyors to electric shaker conveyors, which run on standard 110 V current. Replacing pneumatic shakers with electric shakers, allows the plant to decrease or eliminate costly compressed air.

Furthermore, electric shakers are maintenance free and totally green. When considering any sort of capital investment it is best to consider designs and solutions that can be used in more than one location or that solve more than one problem.

While some of the costs associated with scrap are obvious, bear in mind that scrap also impacts the environment, plant housekeeping, energy and labor requirements, and floor space (the more scrap, the more space needed to store it and hence, more space that must be heated, cooled and lit). Scrap also poses safety concerns, particularly as coolants become contaminated with accumulated swarf and metal shavings.

Dirty coolant grows bacteria, which leads to noxious odors, breathing issues and serious skin irritation. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the costs associated with allergic disease dirty coolant are extraordinarily high: [ … ] $3.4 billion on indirect costs, related primarily to lost work productivity.   Dirty coolant must also be replaced more frequently so it is advantageous to keep coolant as clean as possible.

While there are a number of ways to filter coolant, many of those involve the labor intensive, time-consuming and, frankly, distasteful, removal of swarf. Today, a number of filtration devices rely on magnetic or other types of technology to separate steel turnings, chips and/or swarf from the coolant flow, eliminating much of the need and cost associated with collecting, transporting and dumping waste materials.

Magnetic technology is green, and substantially reduces both the need to buy costly consumables and the associated downtime required to change paper filters.  Certain oil skimmers use strategically placed skimmers to capture oil on the surface of process fluids. While the self-regulating tilting skimmer glides over the surface to collect oil, a pump ensures that unwanted fluids do not return to the fluid.