Kumi Solutions installs solvent degreaser for Harwin plc connector cleaning

Not a company to be intimidated by new legislation, Harwin Plc. is an example of how doing the right thing environmentally – by investing in a Pero V0 Universal solvent degreasing machine – can have a very positive effect on the bottom-line.

Clean Savings for Harwin plc –

Emily Gower is R&D engineer at electrical and electronic interconnect solutions provider Harwin Plc., where she played a key role in the installation, and commissioning of the company’s new Pero V0 Universal solvent degreasing machine; an investment that she is keen to discuss, not just because of the impending change in solvent emissions regulations (SER) due to come into force in October of this year, but also because of the savings implications for Harwin plc and the quality benefits to its customers the world over.

“Engineers buy Harwin plc connectors for lots of reasons, perhaps the most important of which is reliability,” she enthuses. “So, if a product isn’t spotlessly clean, it wouldn’t exactly create the right impression and it probably couldn’t be relied upon to do the job. We’ve taken the SER changes as an opportunity to simultaneously improve our processes and to do something positive for the environment. The added bonus is that we’re saving considerable amounts of money, too.”

Before the investment in the new machine, Harwin plc cleaned its components using an old and rather less than efficient solvent degreaser machine, for which it paid the local council a four-figure annual pollution and environmental health levy. Although the machine did the job, it did not meet SER and the costs – both the indirect environmental costs and the direct costs to run it – were starting to stack up.

“Since installing the Pero, we’ve been able to reduce machine manning levels by one operator, We’ve also eliminated the aqueous washing on one of the plating lines, saving around 500-litres of water and 200-litres of cleaning solution every month. Due to the subsequent improvement in-process quality, plating re-work has dropped from around 7 re-works per month to 2 or less.“

Located in an almost clean-room environment, the Pero machine is treated with the respect that a chemical process deserves. Everything is neatly laid out. There’s no trace of fumes and the floor around the machine is spotless.

“We apply the 5 housekeeping S’s to everything we do”, says Gower. “Sort, straighten, scrub, systemise and standardise. It’s part of our Six-Sigma quality control procedure. The air inside the room has less than 3 parts per million of solvent fumes, so it exceeds the new legislation – currently 50 ppm – and makes for a pleasant working environment.”

Specific areas around the machine are marked off with yellow floor tape; one for the Pero’s component baskets – each able to carry up to 50Kg – and one for the SAFE_TAINER™ solvent containers, etc. The feel is more laboratory than the factory floor.

“We run a very tight ship,” says Gower, “and the Pero solvent degreasing machine is clean, reliable and easy to operate, but there’s always more we can do to integrate the degreasing process effectively into our business”

“These Include, compiling a guidebook tailored to the company’s specific ISO Procedures, and training each operator, step-by-step, in running the machine as efficiently as possible: everything from loading parts to the obligatory good housekeeping.”

“The plant manager selects the tasks for the day,” says Gower, “telling the operators what those tasks are. Of course, tasks and machine are flexible to allow for changes in the day and they’re also monitored, so there’s always complete traceability.”

An additional benefit of measuring and controlling the solvent degreaser process is that costing and scheduling become simpler. Alongside a PC adjacent to the machine is a small, wireless digital device, which measures the power consumption of the Pero and displays a cost, usually around 7p/kW hour. The system even measures the output of greenhouse gases.

“The old degreasing machine used around 6-7 tonnes of solvent per year,” says Gower. “The new machine has used less than 6-litres in the last 3-months!”

Harwin plc Chairman Damon De Laszlo is known for his opinions on how British and European industry needs to reduce overheads if it is to compete with the threat from overseas competition. One of his beliefs is that Western companies can thrive by committing to and investing in best practice and the latest manufacturing technology.

“Since we’ve been operating the Pero machine we’ve made dramatic savings,” says Gower. “From a previous spend on solvents of around £800 per month, we anticipate spending no more than £800 in total over a full year operation of the Pero machine which includes safe disposal of used solvent at the end of its life. That’s hard, financial proof that doing the right thing for the environment can also be a good business opportunity.”