THE DECISION to locate Sani-Kleen Tank Wash in an industrial park atop a hill overlooking Mount Vernon, Missouri, brought a tank cleaning service to the area that previously had none. It was a good move, says Troy Mikell, manager of the new $500,000, three-bay facility.
The seven-acre property offers several advantages for customers, he adds. It is situated midway between Springfield and Joplin, Missouri, and is easily accessible from Interstate 44. No other commercial wash racks are nearby. The closest ones are in St Louis, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas.
"We're doing exceptionally well by emphasizing quality foodgrade cleaning," Mikell says. "We take a lot of extra steps such as checking and cleaning the rubber O-ring on the discharge outlet. We look for missing hoses and pump parts. That's just an example of the little things that we emphasize above the regular service."
Mikell predicts $300,000 in annual revenues for the first year of operation. The wash rack specializes in foodgrade cleaning, and kosher cleaning accounts for about 20% of the business. About 230 tanks a month are cleaned now, but volumes should increase to 400-500 by the middle of the summer. "We have the capacity to clean 500-600 a month, if we operate 24 hours a day," Mikell says.
Dairy production and juice, chocolate, and other food processing in the area, as well as food-related services, provide plenty of volume for the new wash rack.
Customer Service Customer service includes around-the-clock availability and regular hours from 6 am to 10 pm Mondaythrough Friday and 8 am to 5 pm on Saturdays. The wash operates two shifts on weekdays, 6 am until 2:30 pm and 2 pm until 10:30 pm. Mikell and one other employee work the first shift and two other men are assigned to the second. All of them are trained to work in the three bays.
"A lot of times we get called out," he says. "That's no problem. We decided to let our customers tell us what they need. If they need Sunday hours, we'll do that. Often carriers don't unload until two o'clock in the morning and the driver wants to wash out and get on to where he's going."
Having a yard tractor allows drivers to leave during the cleaning. "We're thinking of offering a pick-up and drop-off service within a 50-mile radius," he adds. Most advertising is word-of-mouth, but flyers are placed at local truck stops. Mikell plans for a billboard to go up on Interstate 44 later this year.
The first bay at the wash rack is dedicated to edibles, including kosher products. Edibles accepted include foodgrade oils, cranberry and grape juices, sucrose, corn syrup, or milk. No hazardous materials are cleaned.
Products such as chicken fat, animal feedgrade molasses, pet food flavoring, and inedible eggs are just some of the tanks' loads that are washed in the second bay reserved for inedible loads. Mikell estimates that edible and inedible volume is about equal.
In the edible-kosher bay is a Klenzade stainless steel vat system. Water is routed from a 125-gallon stainless-steel wash vat through stainless steel piping, recirculated in the wash cycle, and then discharged. Only fresh water, expelled from a 250-gallon stainless steel rinse vat, is used in the rinse cycle.
A Sellers spinner operates at 110 psi. "The biggest problem in cleaning a tank can be the last three or four feet of tank that a spinner won't hit. With these spinners we're getting 100 percent tank coverage and maximum reduction of bacteria," he says.
Three Prerinses Three prerinses warm the tanks slowly to about 110 degrees F. The wash cycle is at 190 degrees F, and then to a postrinse at 110 degrees F, and a final cool rinse at 60 degrees F to 65 degrees F. The slow heating and cooling process prevents tank collapse. "We want to avoid any shock to the vessel," Mikell says.
Water temperature is monitored by a Partlow MRC 7000 programmable chart recorder, and the readout is filed in the office to verify the kosher-required 180 degrees F for at least 10 minutes. A Kelton System Model 435 is used for inedible products cleaning in the second bay. The one-pass system uses 550-600 gallons of water per interior tank washout. The Kelton unit has a natural-gas burner with a 2.4-million-Btu firing rate equal to 48-boiler-horsepower. Chemicals are injected downstream of the high pressure outlet. Stainless steel holding tanks and injection pumps, along with a Kelton spraying system spinner, complete the system.
Exterior Washes The third bay is dedicated to exterior cleaning and for steam heating of loaded tank trailers. The heating process typically takes two to three hours. "The heating service means a lot to customers and they may come back later for a cleaning," he says.
Monarch Super Kabon, the sanitizing agent used in the foodgrade tank cleanings, also is applied during cleanup of the bay floors and walls.
A 50-hp boiler from Superior Boiler Works Inc supplies hot water and steam for the cleaning operation. The boiler's 235-sq-ft heating surface provides maximum steam at 150 psi. In addition, the bays are warmed by an overhead radiant heater.
"Once the concrete floor is heated, it stays warm. The warmer the building, the less trouble we have with steam condensing," he notes.
Softened water is provided for the boiler. Missouri Valley Environmental, Nixa, Missouri, supplies, mixes, and tests the water softener once a week. The softening solution, used because of the area's hard water, enhances the washing function and helps protect equipment from corrosion. The water goes through a makeup tank to heat to 170 degrees F before entering the boiler in order to protect it from sudden temperature changes.
Wastewater Pit Wastewater from the cleaning operation is discharged into a four-foot-deep pit and then flows out and through a grease trap to contain the oil before it enters the city sewer. Sludge settles to the bottom.
"A contractor pumps out the sludge about once a month so that it doesn't build up," Mikell says.
Wastewater is discharged into a 24-inch city sewer main. A city water tower, adjacent to the property, provides the fresh water supply. Mikell praises the forward thinking of city officials who provided utilities, including electricity, to the park as part of industrial development for Mount Vernon, a significant benefit for the 3,341-population town. The utility supply was a major reason for Sani-Kleen's choice of the site.
Safety Training Although Mikell is the only person allowed to enter tanks, all employees are required to complete safety training so that they are able to respond in an emergency. When the tank is entered, an attendant must be standing by on the floor and another person must be on site. Two respirators and a safety shower are at hand.
The training for employees includes the use of videos, manuals, and mock incidents. They learn the procedures necessary to enter a tank and how to respond in an emergency.
"Everybody has to go through safety training," he says. "We have a very strict confined space policy. A lot of people don't understand the risks associated with food products. There's the danger of carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other hazardous gases."
Other safety considerations require cleaning personnel to use fall-protection harnesses when working above ground.
As part of the employee management program, a reward program is being developed to recognize significant safe performance by workers, he says.
Driver Lounge In addition to the three cleaning bays, the 6,500-sq-ft building contains offices, reception area, and driver lounge. On the second floor, an office suite with private entrance is available for commercial lease.
"We anticipate leasing the upstairs office, but we may expand our own business into it eventually," he says.
The steel-frame, two-story building with a metal pitched roof sits on a 12-inch, reinforced concrete foundation. Bay floors are pitched 10-12 inches toward the drains. Bay floors are bare concrete. Tile covers the floors in the office and lounge areas. Metal insulated doors provide protection from bad weather.
Parking areas are covered in limestone base rock excavated from a local quarry. "After it packs down, we are going to pave it. We have plenty of space to add more parking if we need it," he says.
Operations are directed from an office and reception area at the front of the building. Office equipment includes a computer with a QuickBooks Pro software program that handles account balances, checkbook, payroll, purchasing, supplies, and profit and loss statement.
Driver amenities include restrooms for men and women, complete with hot and cold showers. The lounge has a television, refrigerator, telephone, two conference tables, microwave, hot dog machine, and snacks and soft drinks available from coin-operated machines.
Mikell treats the drivers to donuts in the morning when they can drink coffee and enjoy the pleasant Missouri countryside view through the lounge's large glass window.