Wash rack productivity

June 1, 2010
Speakers discuss how to get the most out of wash rack operations
View NTTC 2010 Tank Cleaning Seminar photos

Running a profitable tank wash rack means squeezing every ounce of productivity and efficiency out of the operations. Anything less results in lost revenue that can never be recaptured.

Several members of the industry offered tips on maximizing wash rack productivity and efficiency during the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Cleaning & Environmental Council Seminar that took place April 5-6 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Travis O'Banion, National Tank Services (NTS)/Trimac Transportation Inc, emphasized that it takes good management leadership to improve wash rack productivity. It also requires a thorough analysis of current processes and procedures throughout the operation.

“Productivity will not improve at a wash rack if leadership is lacking,” he said. “You have to put the right people in leadership positions, and you have to provide training to help them become good leaders.”

He listed three key leadership characteristics to consider when selecting people for wash rack management positions:

  • Willingness to accept accountability. A manager must be given clear and attainable goals and understand the consequences for success of failure.

  • Willingness to take aggressive action. The manager must have to desire to continually plan and executive changes to improve the operation.

  • Great attitude. This means a willingness to take full responsibility for the work environment. This means focusing on solutions, not problems.

Once the right manager is selected, he needs the right training. “At NTS, we address productivity analysis in manager training,” O'Banion said. “We have developed key performance indicators that look at cost-per-clean factoring in energy consumption, chemicals used, and standardized wash times.”

Developing key performance indicators takes work. Numerous factors must be considered, and must be based on good data. Wash rack managers must avoid the temptation to use “shoot-from-the-hip” calculations.

“It's important to remember that boosting productivity is a balancing act,” O'Banion said. “You have to ask a lot of questions: Are we measuring and meeting our productivity objectives? Do we have the right equipment and right processes to do the job, or are we expecting workers to do the job with the wrong tools? How do you know when you have reached maximum productivity?”

Technology offers a means of collecting the data needed to answer some of those questions, according to Pete Nativo, Transport Service Co. “We recently installed TMT Fleet Maintenance software for use in tank wash management and tracking,” he said. “We believe we will be able to gather better wash numbers.”

Boosting efficiency

Improving wash rack efficiency goes hand-in-hand with boosting productivity. Bill Miller, M T Clean LLC, reviewed some of the steps he has taken to maximize energy efficiency and conservation in his tank cleaning operation.

He said he believes air-operated valves are the best choice on the wash rack, and he prefers Durco and Gould pumps spec'd for 210 gallons per minute. M T Clean's control center for the pump motors was oversized in anticipation of future growth.

“We make sure that we size our cleaning solution vats properly to avoid over dilution of the wash chemicals,” Miller said. “We also keep the wash solutions as clean as possible.”

Spinner maintenance is vital to efficient wash rack operations, and M T Clean stocks plenty of spare parts for all of its cleaning systems. “We tear down each spinner every three months and replace any worn parts,” Miller said. “We haven't lost a spinner in 10 years.”

Boilers also need a good maintenance program. On the water side, it's important to control minerals by using softened water. Minerals in the water will result in scale in the boiler tubes, which reduces efficiency and increases fuel consumption. On the fire side, soot should be cleaned from the tubes on a regular basis.

Hose considerations

Numerous hoses are used in tank cleaning operations, and it is important to select the right hose for each application, according to Kip Hart, Hart Industries Inc. In addition, hoses and fittings must be maintained properly for long life and safe use.

Hart pointed out that the hoses attached to the spinners or spinner cones serve in one of the most hazardous applications in the entire tank truck industry. These hoses must endure working pressures that can exceed 200 psi and temperatures up to 190°F. Flexing and kinking that can occur as spinners are raised and lowered will reduce hose life and could result in catastrophic failure.

Hoses can be ordered with special covers that extend life by protecting against kinks. Proper hose hardware for cleaning applications includes a special Band-It Tri-Lokt clamping system, Crimped (staked dog locked) end fittings, and Autolok cam lock fittings.

Steam hoses need very close attention. “You can't cut corners or take chances with these hoses,” Hart says. “If a steam hose fails during cleaning operations it can result in worker injury or death. These hoses definitely need a regular inspection schedule, and they must be properly spec'd.”

Wash racks absolutely must avoid crows-foot or cam-lock fittings for steam hoses, according to Hart. The only safe hardware is a “Boss” style fitting with bolted clamps. In some cases, “staked” crimp fittings can be used, but wash rack operators should check first with the hose supplier or manufacturer.

Hart also recommended O-ring style ground joint fittings for steam hoses as a way to save energy and enhance safety. O-ring style unions reduce the potential for steam leaks, which helps reduce energy costs.

Hose inspections

All of the hoses and fittings in the wash rack operation must be inspected regularly and carefully for kinks, soft spots, and proper and secure hardware. Cam-lock fittings on spinner hoses should be checked for broken or missing cam arms, cracks or pits in the cam body, and worn or cracked gaskets.

Blower hoses should be checked regularly for large kinks, holes, and dry-rot. Cleaning return hoses endure a lot of abuse because they are on the wash rack floor. They need to be checked for damage from over bending, chemical exposure, heat, and getting run over. Air hose inspections should focus on external wear and chaffing, cracking, bulges, and fitting condition.

Wash rack hoses should be tested every 90 days, according to Hart. Additional testing should be considered after hose repairs, over pressurization, or if there are indications of over bending, exposure to higher temperatures than usual, or signs of aging.

Hoses showing signs of damage or age should be replaced promptly, but that doesn't mean they should end up in a dumpster. “Recycling can have a big impact on the cost efficiency of your operation,” Hart said. “A fitting or hose can be reused as long as usable life remains. Remember, 15% to 35% of the hose cost is in the fittings. Many fittings can be rebuilt, and you can even refurbish some hoses depending on the amount of damage or wear.”