Lafayette Sani-Wash Operating With Utmost Efficiency in Mind

IN 1982, Bob Young spent $2,000 on a pressure washer to clean the tank trailers in which he hauled corn syrup. Five years later, he established Lafayette Sani-Wash in Lafayette, Indiana. Today, he operates a three-bay foodgrade cleaning facility with state-of-the-art equipment, most of which he designed and constructed himself.

“You just have to be right in this business,” he says. “With foodgrade products, there is just no room for error.”

Although Young no longer runs a trucking company, he has a clear vision of the sanitary requirements requisite for foodgrade product carriers. Joining him in offering specialized service through the family-owned business are his wife, Jean; daughter, Pam Huffer; son, Tim Young; and son-in-law, Ron Huffer. Son, Brad Young, soon to retire from the US Air Force, will join the company this spring.

They oversee a business that operates from noon Sunday through midnight Friday, and from 8 am until 4 pm on Saturdays. Running that many hours means it is not unusual for 72 trailers to be cleaned daily. The average is about 40 per day. Services include hot and cold rinses, detergent, foodgrade caustic, Kosher and Grade A milk certification, steaming, drying, and passivation.

All cleaning jobs are entered into the company's computer system designed by Business System Solutions. Before beginning the cleaning, employees check the computer program for a list of products that the facility will clean and those that it will not. The software also contains customer profiles for specific cleaning instructions.

Young's daughter handles all the computer and administrative duties in the office that is housed in the 8,800-square-foot building that includes the three bays, space for two boilers, and a shop. On another section of the facility's five acres is a 5,000-square-foot building leased to Liquid Transport for use as a terminal and maintenance facility.

“Two years ago, I bought two acres just up the street for additional parking,” says Young. “Last year, Foodliner moved their terminal onto the site.”

To keep up with the demand for service, Young has honed the operation with a goal for top efficiency. Part of the strategy was to install Adamson and Bell & Gossett tube and shell heat exchangers for the cleaning systems. Hot condensate is captured and a Sarco pump returns it to the boiler for added heat efficiency.

“Everything goes through the heat exchanger,” Young says. “You have the option of turning the heat on or off. By using the heat exchanger, you can keep the heat at 180°F to 185°F constantly. This makes a big difference when washing oils, chocolates, or heavy corn syrup.”

In one bay, two vats with 150-gallon capacities contain soap solution while a 400-gallon vat holds hot water. A control panel that is manually controlled regulates cycle duration, allowing adjustment if more time is needed in a detergent or caustic cycle. Heat is maintained at 180°F. The Young-designed system delivers hot water at 100 gallons per minute at 200 psi, using a 30-horsepower 10-inch Dean pump.

Number Two Bay

In the second bay is a Sani-Matic stainless steel system with manual controls. Three 300-gallon vats are used for prerinsing, washing, and cold water rinsing. It delivers 185°F hot water at 75 gallons per minute at 150 psi.

Another Sani-Matic unit that is controlled by an Allen Bradley computer system is in the third bay, which is dedicated to cleaning tank trailers that haul sweeteners. Vats for prerinse, wash, and cold water have 200 gallons capacity each. The specialized cleaning system provides a three-minute prerinse at 200°F, then a wash mode recirculating the water until it comes out of the tank at 185°F. The wash cycle is activated for another 15 minutes at 185°F, followed by a cold water cool down. Running the prerinse at 200F saves several minutes in the hold-for-temperature cycle, says Young.

In all three bays, Sellers Model 360 spinners are used exclusively. Hour meters are wired into the spinner circuits to monitor time in use. Every thousand hours, the spinners are broken down for preventive maintenance.

A Puritan Company water softener system cuts soap usage in half. If it were not used on the trailers that haul sweeteners where only hot water is used, a dull film would form from the high heat, says Young. It also enhances the life of the boiler by easing corrosion.

Two Kewanee boilers, one 70-horsepower and the other 100-horsepower, insure the cleaning schedule won't have to be shut down due to a boiler failure. Young believes in good preventive maintenance for the boilers to insure long life, which is evident by the fact that both boilers are still running after 14 years of uninterrupted service.

Radiant heaters, along with floor heat that uses waste hot water, were installed to heat the bays in cold weather. The floor heat brought mixed results. While it was comfortable for the workers, the wet and warm floors caused the building to fill with steam.

“We installed a fan in the boiler room to circulate the heat from the floor and use the radiant heaters for backup,” says Young. “We have achieved a comfortable work area so that everyone can work in shirt sleeves all winter. This makes for a more efficient and happy worker.”

The appearance of the bays is enhanced by an epoxy floor coating from International Coatings of Chicago.

Auxiliary Services

In addition to seeking efficiencies in interior tank cleaning, Young hasn't skimped on the systems used in auxiliary services. He built a stainless steel system for exterior cleaning that includes one vat with a heating coil that uses steam to keep the wash water at 110°F. Three General pumps are used in the system. For exterior cleaning of tank trailers, he uses an acid mixture. A caustic mixture is used on tractor exteriors. It is applied and then rinsed off with hot water at 110°F at 800 psi.

Young consulted with George Lyon, formerly of Texo Corporation and Dubois Corporation, to develop a passivation system with a 30-gallon holding tank, three Sellers spinners, and a one-inch air diaphragm pump. The pump is rated at 49 gallons per minute. Line surge is prevented because of back pressure on the pump.

Young has built this system for other companies, and built and installed an interior cleaning system for two other carriers, one in Lafayette and another in Central Illinois.

Just as Young's drive for efficiency is evident in the cleaning systems, so is the design of the wastewater system. For example, the solids that settle to the bottom in the wastewater process are separated and blended with ground corn cobs from a nearby manufacturer. Young found an old cement mixer and uses the mixer for the process. The result makes the waste fit for disposal at a landfill.

In the bays, wastewater is collected through floor drains and flows into a 1,000-gallon underground oil trap, and into another 1,500-gallon trap. The separated oil is pumped into an overhead 1,000-gallon tank, the water drained off, and the solid disposed of. Remaining wastewater is released into the sewer.

Sugar water captured from the dedicated sweetener bay flows into a 6,000-gallon tank where it is hauled off by a farmer who adds it to hog and cattle feed.

Regular Inspections

The wastewater system and the cleaning procedures are inspected regularly by various government agencies and customers, says Young. The Indiana Board of Health reviews the computer readouts for wash time, duration, and water temperature. Insurance company inspectors inspect the boilers annually.

While Young's efforts at efficiency pay off, he insists that the operation would not be as successful without the support of long-time employee, Jim Brown. Brown has a talent for mechanical repair and a bent for cleanliness. Young says the pristine appearance of the facility is a direct result of Brown's influence on and guidance of the other employees.

Young adds that he has little trouble with employee turnover. “I can't remember when we hired someone new,” he adds.

His son and son-in-law work the cleaning bays — along with Brown's son, Jeremy; two full-time employees, Mark McDole and Robert Tignor; and one part-time employee, Jeff Waelz. Nearby Purdue University has been a source for employees. One student remained with Young throughout his time at the college, and a second one is now at work in the bays.

“Both students have farm backgrounds and are valued employees,” says Young.

Employee safety is a major concern for Young. “I'm constantly talking to these guys about it,” he says. Monitors supplied by Mine Safety & Apparatus are used to check the air in the tanks before all entries to be sure they are safe. Nitrogen blankets are applied often in the tank trailers hauling orange juice and vegetable oils, which adds to the hazard involved for confined entry, Young says.

While safety of his workers is a top priority, Young also takes a special interest in the drivers who bring the vehicles to the facility for cleaning. Showers are available. A lunch counter has hot dogs at least one day a week and a vending machine for cold beverages is available. Free coffee is provided, and if Young is in a cooking mood, he's likely to have a crockpot filled with stew or chili.

About two-thirds of Young's business comes from companies that have terminals in the area. The rest come from other areas of the US.

“This diversified mix of customers is what has made us successful,” says Young.

Unlike some other areas of the country, the foodgrade industry appears to be growing in that part of Indiana. Having achieved the Grade A milk certification in August 2000, and with the equipment well-maintained and operated, Sani-Wash is prepared to meet the market demand.

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