“It is a burden to our product and customer.”
This is the way Caterpillar Undercarriage Xuzhou Ltd. (CUXL) Quality Manager Lake Lian describes an outdated machining coolant collecting system that has been costing one of our Undercarriage facilities in China more than $10,000 per year in waste disposal fees alone. With an increased focus on sustainability and social responsibility, CUXL employees were looking for opportunities to reduce waste, improve environmental processes and cut costs. They found one in the track link machining process.
During the CUXL track link machining process it is common for a cutting coolant to be mixed with steel chips. That coolant is a chemical that needs to be disposed of safely. Currently, the CUXL facility spends about $1,500 per month to dispose of the waste liquid. Employees there say it’s a burden we’ve had to bear to produce our product and safely dispose of the waste products produced in the process. However, Lian’s group knew there had to be a better way.
Chemical Engineer Yang Wenfeng and Facility Engineering Supervisor Mark Ma put their heads together and came up with a plan to reduce these costs and promote sustainability at the same time. They started by analyzing waste coolant from machining. Then Wenfeng and Ma designed and built an underground coolant collecting system and coolant recycling system. Logistical Supervisor Hans Yuan and Chemical Technician Tao Zhou also supported the project through transporting waste liquid and chemical analyzing. The team modeled the system after one in AsiaTrak (Tianjin) Ltd., another facility in China, to speed things up. The system was up and running by the end of 2013, and is already paying off.
The collected coolant is now filtered, pumped back to the cycling system and recycled for the next machining process. Lian, along with the facility manager for CUXL and other employees are excited to finally have a solution to a problem that has plagued CUXL for months.
“It reduces original coolant consumption,” facility manager Link Lin said. “Most importantly, we reduce waste disposal quantity significantly and support sustainable development greatly.”
The coolant collecting and recycling system is projected to save CUXL nearly 600L of coolant each year and reduce hazardous waste disposal by 20 tonnes annually. What’s more, the facility could save more than $11,000 in the first year alone, with savings climbing even higher as product volume increases.
For more information about Sustainability initiatives at Caterpillar, see our 2013 Sustainability Report.