- Keep sustainability and green chemistry in mind while managing projects.
- Maintenance, team commitment, material selection, and a solid business case are key to a successful green strategy.
- Ignorance of waste-treatment systems can add significant cost to plant operations.
“Green” has become more than a buzzword. Most industrialized nations are embracing the green culture on some level, leading smart industrial managers think in terms of sustainability and “green” chemistry.
Sustainability means our efforts and processes should be sustainable in the long term. An easier way to look at sustainability is meeting the needs of the present, without adversely affecting the future, as STLE-member Jim D’Arcy of GM once said.
Green chemistry incorporates several ideas:
- design chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances
- include a reasonable level of biodegradability
- reduce hazards to the environment
- global cost-competitiveness—not only geographically and geopolitically but also in terms of a total systems perspective
Creating a global business case for green lubricants
Proper fluid and waste stream management offers an opportunity to maximize profitability, and enhance the company’s green image both internally and in the community. In this case, a global business case also helps achieve green goals. Incorporating eco-minded processes can improve cost efficiency and even serve as a source of indirect revenue:
• purchase fewer new lubricants
• reduce the cost of waste treatment
• sell certain wastes as boiler fuel
• eliminate fines
Key components to a successful green lubricants strategy
The following tenets are essential for a sustainability program:
- Implement and maintain a proactive maintenance program.
- Fixing leaks comes first. This directly reduces new lubricant costs as we decrease waste—plus reducing pollution load and minimizing employee exposure protects the environment.
- Proactively seeking out root causes of equipment failures and fixing them reduces downtime, replacement parts costs, overtime, and more.
- Proper maintenance avoids costs associated with manufacturing and shipping new parts. All this leads to living more efficiently and, therefore, more sustainably.
- Secure a top-down commitment. Every manager and employee must buy into the concepts of reducing waste and pollutants, conserving resources and recycling materials at every stage of the product life cycle. These pices improve the environment at each stage.
- Track performance in all aspects of the operation. Ask yourself questions like those below:
- Do we have a proactive oil analysis program that provides relevant data about our fluids?
- Can we extend lube change intervals by modest recycling or refurbishing the fluid at tank side via a simple process?
- Can we use a more biodegradable or less toxic fluid to decrease our waste-treatment budget and improve employee health and safety?
- Whether new, used, refurbished or recycled, only use lubricants or metalworking fluids that meet the specifications for their application.
- Reduce inventory costs by consolidating lubricants. Recycle or refurbish lubricants to extend their usable life.
- Don’t risk a multimillion-dollar piece of equipment using fluids that don’t meet specification.
- Justify the costs through a proper risk assessment.
- Make a global business case for recycling. By tracking the costs at every stage of the product life cycle, we have a viable tool for measuring the impact of any changes on the whole business.
Managing spent fluids
At some point, you have to send your spent fluids to the waste-treatment plant. This, too, should be part of your global business case and part of your thinking regarding sustainability and use of green chemistries.
Consider how you manage the chemistries of the fluids and additives you use. Ideally, this could be an area where you minimize negative impact on the waste-treatment system operation and costs.
Chemical treatment is one of the more common and cost-effective waste-treatment systems. In chemical treatment of waste, we basically reverse everything we have done to make the fluids we are using stable—this is a key concept.
Often, plant operations people are not aware how their waste disposal processes affect the operation of the waste-treatment plant. Consider the case when multiple waste streams from a wide variety of operations are dumped into the treatment system. This can inadvertently cause the waste treatment plant manager major problems and add significant cost to overall plant operations.
Thus, our use of green chemistries in chemicals, fluids, and additives can reduce costs, as well as the load on the waste-treatment plant. The more stable the fluid during its use, the longer it lasts and the less frequently we send it to the waste plant.
On the other hand, if the fluid is so stable (not green) that extreme measures are required for treatment, the money we saved in the operations goes to the waste-treatment plant, possibly for an overall net loss. This reiterates the importance of global thinking in our operations.
Smart managers think in terms of sustainability and so-called green chemistry. Saving money and improving productivity, safety and profitability all are part of sustainability thinking, helping to improve the environment at each stage in the product life cycle.
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One Response to “Green Lubricants: Making a Global Case”
That’s interesting that you could potentially sell the used lubricant as boiler fuel. I would have thought that it would be too full of metal to do that, but I suppose it could be filtered. I’ll have to ask about doing that if I decide to get some lubricant and some machines that use it for my shop.