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issue: February 2009 APPLIANCE Magazine

Case Study: Design
Green and Clean

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Whirlpool slashes maintenance time and still helps keep manufacturing green by sticking with water-based cleaning of KitchenAid mixer parts.

Two Alliance units together clean more than 500 gear case pieces per hour.

The two old parts cleaners were starting to show their age. Whirlpool’s problems were largely related to maintenance, excessive downtime, lack of oil removal, and system leaks. “The old cleaning systems were constructed of carbon steel, and were starting to rust out and leak,” explains Brian Nakoneczny, a senior machining engineer at Whirlpool Corp. “In addition, we are forced to shut down the machines every other week for maintenance, which takes two operators an entire eight-hour shift.”

The cleaners were used to remove water-soluble coolant, oil, and metal chips from zinc and aluminum die-cast upper gear cases and lower gear cases for the KitchenAid stand mixer.

Prior to cleaning, the parts are subject to contamination from several machining operations including drilling, reaming, milling, and tapping. After cleaning, the parts are polished either manually or robotically prior to final powder coat operation. Part cleanliness was critical for proper coating adhesion and final finish.

Even Greener

Working in conjunction with his business manager, operations manager, and maintenance, Nakoneczny came up with a list of the most important factors in replacing the older machines. The top concern was part cleanliness and dryness. Ease of maintenance and accessibility were important, as well as reduced downtime for cleaning.

The existing systems were water-based spray washers, which was a technology that the team agreed worked well. There were also strong environmental reasons for sticking with water-based cleaning. The use of solvents generally releases harmful volatile organic compounds. Increased government regulation on chlorinated solvents has helped spur stronger demand for environmentally safe cleaning processes and significant advances in water-based cleaning chemistries.

Finding the Right Alternative

Nakoneczny and his team contacted five manufacturers of water-based parts cleaner. After reviewing several quotations and comparisons, Alliance Manufacturing Inc. (Fond du Lac, WI, U.S.; www.alliancemfginc.com) was selected to supply the cleaning systems.

“Alliance was chosen due to cost, quality, delivery, and great referrals from other companies contacted,” Nakoneczny says.

Alliance sales engineer Brian Shepro reviewed the application and proposed two identical Aquamaster CB-1400E systems. These units are continuous-flow, in-line conveyor- style machines. Parts are placed on the conveyor and travel through process zones for cleaning and drying. These systems are modular and can be designed from single-stage wash to multiple process zones including wash, rinse, rust inhibit, and drying modules. The machines recommended to Whirlpool were constructed of Type 304 stainless steel. This would eliminate the old equipment issues with rusting and leaking tanks.

“When choosing a water-based system, several factors need to be considered,” Shepro explains. “The system design is largely driven by variables such as part size, production volume, contamination to be removed, handling methods, and dryness required. Whirlpool had some experience with water based cleaning, so the process and prove-out was fairly straightforward.”

Whirlpool’s production layout required two machines, with one machine capable of cleaning 240 gear cases per hour and a second machine cleaning 275 lower gear cases per hour. By incorporating a product lane divider, two parts can be fed to each machine simultaneously, which allowed the machines to be considerably shorter than the previous units.

No process or layout changes were needed. “The new washers are more compact in size. This gained us a little more valuable floor space,” Nakoneczny says.

Another reason for selecting the Aquamaster was the ease of accessibility for maintenance. The machines employ a patented, full access canopy design, allowing the operator unobstructed access to the process zones.

But Whirlpool needs to use this accessibility less often than on the previous cleaners. “There has been a significant productivity improvement due to the fact that we only have to take the machines down once a month for 4 hours as compared with twice a month for 8 hours to clean,” says Nakoneczny.

The new machines incorporate a belt-type oil skimmer for removing oils from the wash tank. This extends the bath life, which in turn will require less-frequent changes and provide water and chemistry savings. Had Whirlpool’s cleaning operation removed more oil, the system would have been outfitted with an oil coalescing system.

Thanks to Ken Manninen, vice president of Alliance Manufacturing Inc., for providing this information.


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